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Green car guide: Hybrids

Clint Williams
by Clint Williams, Dimespring Contributor

Volatile gasoline prices and environmental concerns are nudging more and more people toward alternatives to the old-fashioned gas-guzzler. And never have there been more options for getting from Point A to Point B.

Electric cars are no longer the stuff of wistful science fiction. Hybrid cars are mainstream. Alternative fuel cars are available and even gasoline-powered engines are more efficient and eco-friendly. Driving a green car may reduce your monthly operating costs, but in most cases the higher purchase price means a payback period of years, not weeks or months.

Hybrids

• Hybrid cars couple a small gasoline engine with an electric motor that comes into play when accelerating from a dead stop and climbing hills. The gas engine cuts off when the car is stopped – at a traffic light, for instance – to keep from wasting gas when idling.

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Pros

Great gas mileage. The Toyota Prius, for example, gets 50 mpg in combine driving, according to the EPA. Hybrid versions of big gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks typically get 25% more miles per gallon than their conventional counterparts.
Fewer emissions. Hybrids produce nearly a third less nitrogen oxide than conventional cars, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Seamless transition. Most drivers will be unable to detect any difference in the driving experience. Driving a hybrid doesn’t require any behavioral changes.

Cons

Sticker price. The initial cost of a hybrid can be substantially more than a conventional automobile. The Honda Civic Hybrid is about $3,000 than a comparable regular Civic.
Less trunk space. A hybrid based on a conventional sedan may give up trunk space to make room for the battery.

Models to consider

Chevy Volt: Most hybrids are driven primarily by a gas-powered engine, with the electric motor providing an occasional boost. The Volt is powered by an electric motor and can travel up to 40 miles without burning any gasoline at all. The gas-powered motor acts as a generator that charges the battery, extending the car’s range.
Ford C-Max: This all-new, five-passenger hatchback promises to deliver better than 41 mpg when it goes on sale this fall.
Toyota Prius C: If the venerable Toyota Prius, the most commonly seen hybrid on America’s highways, and the economy sub-compact Toyota Yaris some how could mate, this would be their offspring. The Prius C is a $20,000 hybrid offering about 50 mpg with no frills.


MORE OPTIONS FROM THE GREEN CAR GUIDE:
Electric cars
Diesel cars
High mpg cars
Compressed natural gas cars

 

Clint Williams is an Arizona-based freelancer for DImespring. He has written for the Arizona Republic and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.