by David Cohen

In April, Toyota announced that sales of their Prius hybrid car family had surpassed five million!  A cause for celebration considering their hybrid sales only began in 2007. Today, Americans are looking for more fuel-efficient vehicles because of the concern about the environment, ever-rising gasoline prices, depleting natural oil resources or just for the style points.

What  should you know if you decide to buy a gasoline-electric hybrid?

Fuel Economy: 
The reality is that the fuel economy numbers posted on a vehicle's window sticker aren’t the acutual mileage figures. These numbers come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission testing procedures. You need to know that your individual driving habits, weather conditions, terrain, and the maintenance condition of the vehicle will affect the mileage that you will get overall. 

A Consumer Reports study noted that the Prius  got 44 mpg in reality, not the posted city and highway rating of 55 mpg.

Cost & Resale: 
On the front end, Hybrid vehicles are priced higher than gasoline powered cars. Years after the phase-out of the hybrid tax credit, this is real, out of pocket costs felt by buyers.

On the back end, Hybrids store electric energy in large battery packs. These packs are warranted for eight to ten years, depending on the manufacturer. Today, the prices are about $3,000 each, but it is uncertain what the replacement costs will be down the road. As a result, their resale value isn’t strong  

Today’s hybrids wouldn't be possible without electronic engine controls that modulate the smooth working of these two systems together and manage power delivery to maximize fuel efficiency. 

When it’s time to service your car you will have to take your hybrid car to the local dealer for service, where the technicians have received specialized training, rather than a neighborhood garage.  

People also concern of the danger of electric shock when working on a disabled or crashed gas-electric hybrid vehicle. Manufacturers assure us that safeguards are in place and that computers on board the vehicles have a series of safety checks that are designed to avoid problems. In addition to this the hybrid battery packs are toxic but the automakers insist that the hydride batteries are recyclable. I know  for sure that hybrids are far cleaner in emission properties than conventional gasoline vehicles.

Bottom Line:
If you want to maximize on gas use, you need to find a smaller lightweight vehicle with four-cylinder engines, rather than V6s or V8s. So my choice is the Toyota Corolla which recieved good fuel economy ratings and cost a lot less the the Toyata Prius. Several auto analysts figure that the popularity of hybrids will lower their prices in the future but time will tell.



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