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A Hybrid car is a road vehicle with both a fuel powered internal combustion engine AND an electric motor/generator. This has big advantages over the conventional type of cars with only a petrol/diesel engine. The reason for this is the fact that internal combustion engines work best in a particular power range, and road conditions don't fit with those ideal conditions. Although electric cars have always been an interesting prospect, there have been problems with the energy storage. However, a hybrid car has a combination of the advantages of electric power and the advantages of the fuel powered engine.
Typically at slow speeds and in traffic, the electric motor is the main mode of propulsion. This doesn't waste energy idling. At higher speeds the engine starts up and runs in its efficient range of power. In some designs, at the top end of speed, somehow the electric motor combines with output of the fuel engine. Curiously this means that the size of the engine can be smaller, and so more fuel-efficient.
The biggest saving is in traffic, because of the avoidance of wasting fuel idling. Another feature of hybrid cars is the use of the engine as part of a generator-set. This idea has been around a long time and has been used in trains, but only recently has it been scaled down for use in cars.
A hybrid car has a battery. It's a large rechargeable energy-storage battery, like the Li-ion batteries in laptops only much bigger. This is expensive, but the cost is easily covered after a while by the improved fuel-efficiency.
Now here's an interesting article about Hybrid Cars, provided in 2012 by those helpful people at Click4Gap, the insurance company that can cover your car for what it's worth, not just the book-price that normal car insurance companies underpay you if you need to claim.
In the last decade hybrid cars have gone from being a technology that was curious and easy to ridicule to a status symbol, thanks in part to the rise in fuel prices and numerous celebrity hybrid car owners.
In a time where the global economy is suffering and the price of fuel promises to continue soaring, the additional cost for a hybrid appears far cheaper than that of its fuel-only counterpart. Since introducing its first hybrid to the global market in 2000, Toyota has sold nearly 1.5 million hybrid vehicles. Honda has reached over a quarter of a million hybrid sales since 2001. Ford and Lexus are nearing 200,000 global sales each of their various hybrid cars. Clearly the market for these cars is expanding.
One of the early drivers for the shift in mentality about hybrids is the appeal that celebrities generated. Some celebrities, like Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Will Ferrell, and Leonardo DiCaprio, purchased hybrids in the early days of the vehicles to make a statement about what people can do for the environment. Back in 2006 there were fewer hybrids on the market, so the majority of celebrities helped to make the Prius the top seller as they were photographed with the sleek little car. As the number of hybrid models increased, so did the number of celebrities wanting to show they too were part of the new trend towards going green. When he turned 18, Justin Bieber was given a $100,000 sporty hybrid, the Fisker Karma, one of the most advanced, most luxurious electric cars available today. This has undoubtedly helped bring environmental consciousness to the young teen generation.
While celebrities made hybrid ownership trendy, the unpredictability of fuel prices coupled with the growing number of different types of hybrids has made the global consumer see the economic benefits of the hybrid. The Prius has perhaps the best record, getting roughly 50 mpg in town and 48 mpg on motorways. The Honda Civic gets about 40 mpg in town and 45 mpg on the motorway. The Mercury Milan and Ford Fusion average 38 mpg in town and on the motorway. As these cars have been around for longer, the statistics on them are more reliable, but new types of technology are emerging that will create all new types of vehicles. Honda has developed a zero-emission vehicle, the FCX Clarity, powered on hydrogen. Solar electrical cars, like the Solar Prius, include a solar panel roof. The two most intriguing new car companies are, Tesla, which has created an electric cars that are sleek, sporty, and completely electrical and the Fisker Karma, the first true electric luxury vehicle with extended range and the freedom to plug in or fill up. With the ability to toggle between the all-electric Stealth Mode or fuel assisted Sport Mode.
Given the higher cost of purchasing a hybrid, the typical consumer may ask how long it will take to break even. Since fuel prices remain unstable and the cost of both the vehicle and fuel vary from country to country, the results have a range that makes this a difficult question to answer. The lower cost hybrids usually take longer to break even, with the Prius taking roughly 7.5 years and the Civic Hybrid taking over a decade. However, the higher end luxury hybrids, like the Lincoln MKZ and Mercedes Benz, take roughly 5 years to recover the difference in cost. The real difference is seen in the amount of money saved monthly as hybrid owners spend less time at the pump. Also, many countries offer tax incentives to make the hybrid more appealing.
Many car and gap insurance companies provide a preferred discount for hybrid owners, but several factors must be accounted for in cost, such as driving record and location. Despite the discount, the average insurance policy is higher for a hybrid because they tend to have more expensive high tech electronics and are more expensive to buy than the average car. However, studies show that the cars are as sturdy and safe as a typical car. As a technology still at the edge of innovation, those considering buying a hybrid should check the history of the model before making a final decision".
I thought it was very nice of Click4Gap to provide that article. It's got a certain zeitgeist about it, and reflects the particular time in which it was written, when cost of fuel and the technology of batteries were a particular way.
The picture added to embellish this page is of a Toyota Prius. This was one of the first production hybrid cars. Well done to Toyota! The image is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:IPA_for_English#Key and it's the image http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Toyota_Prius_III_20090710_front.JPG , the author being S_400_HYBRID
Do you know what the plural of Prius is? It's Prii. Like cactus (cacti) and hippopotamus (hippopotami). The decision to go with "Prii" was decided by having a democratic vote. In my opinion, both the result and the method of choosing the result show style!