Are Hybrid Vehicles the Answer to Rising Energy Prices?

There are a number of hybrid cars on the market today. Some of the more popular models are the Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the Ford Escape Hybrid. As a result of those who are environmentally minded, many more hybrid vehicles are coming to market, in addition to cars. Now hybrid trucks and hybrid SUVs are also becoming very popular.

There are some viable alternatives to the gasoline or diesel engine, available to the average consumer, when looking for a new vehicle. The hybrid car has become much more popular recently. A hybrid car is one that operates on more than one fuel system. The most common hybrid vehicle combines fossil fuel with electric energy. These cars primarily run on gasoline, but are assisted by electric current that is supplied by a rechargeable nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), battery pack. With this combination of fuel systems, there are two positive outcomes; fuel efficiency is improved, and engine exhaust emissions are cut down.

If you are buying a used car, be a little leery of hybrids. The battery packs in a hybrid car have to be replaced after 80,000 to 150,000 miles. In some states they are warrantied for 150,000 miles, or up to eight years. Depending on the age of the car, it may cost you more to replace this battery pack than the car is worth.

When comparing the price of a hybrid vehicle versus a non-hybrid, it’s wise to get quotes on like models for your comparison. What I mean is this. If you are looking at a Civic Hybrid, compare its price to the regular Civic. You can then calculate the difference in price. The difference is what you are paying extra for the hybrid. By doing this, it will help you see if you can actually save money in the long run by spending a little more up front.

How much better is the gas mileage with a hybrid car? It all depends on the type of driving you do. Overall, hybrid cars save at least 15% on the amount of fuel used. In some driving environments, you may not save anything. For example, trying to accelerate while going up hills will decrease your efficiency, as it can with any vehicle.

Here are some driving styles that can affect how a hybrid car works: When at a full stop, the gas engine usually shuts off. This eliminates idling, and reduces emissions. However, in traffic with a lot of stop and go situations, this can also save a fair amount of fuel. If you are in stop and go traffic all day, the gas engine may have to switch on to keep the battery fully charged.

When accelerating from a stop, if you do it like your grandmother, the electric motor usually propels the hybrid car through the current supplied by the battery pack. This is where you can save the most with a hybrid. Unfortunately, that’s not how I drive most of the time.

When you use heavy acceleration, this draws power from both the electric motor and the gas motor. If you do a lot of this style of driving, you probably won’t save much, if anything, with the hybrid car.

During highway driving, the car is typically powered by the gas engine alone. Whenever the gas engine is running, it is charging the battery pack, but you don’t receive any added fuel efficiency because of the hybrid design. If most of your driving is on the highway, you may not save much gas at all with the hybrid. The only advantage of a hybrid car in this instance is a slight improvement in gas mileage, due primarily to the smaller engine. Several of the hybrids also are equipped with a variable transmission. This will allow the engine to operate more efficiently, by using an optimal RPM at all times.

When you break gently, coast, or decelerate, the hybrid electric motor works in reverse. It is now converting kinetic energy into electric energy as a generator. The process used to charge the battery is known as regenerative braking. This process charges the battery pack, which eliminates any need to ever plug the car in for charging. By the way, a hybrid car can’t be plugged in to charge the battery. That isn’t part of its design.

When you back up in a hybrid car, the electric motor does all the work, as the gasoline engine is disengaged. Since most people don’t back up that much, the savings of fuel in this mode is very minimal.

If a hybrid car is driven properly, one can see a fuel savings of at least 15% or more. In that case, the hybrid vehicle may be the answer to rising energy prices.

Does Your Hybrid Vehicle Qualify for Full Tax Credits?

Not all 2007 tax credits for hybrid vehicles are the same, even if the taxpayer bought the same car. How is that possible?

The 2005 Energy Act providing tax credits for new hybrid vehicle owners include qualifications that the owners must meet. Some of the qualifications such as the following are clear cut.

1. The vehicle must be bought on or before 12/31/10 and driven or used after 12/31/05.

2. The tax credit may be claimed only by the original owner of the new hybrid. A preowned or used hybrid vehicle does not qualify for the credit.

3. In order to take advantage of their credit, some first time owners of hybrid vehicles might have to recapture their tax credit if they resell their hybrid car or truck.

4, The vehicle must be driven mainly in the United States.

5. If a hybrid vehicle is leased, the leasing company has the right to claim the tax credit, as the credit is only available to the original purchaser of the hybrid vehicle.

So far the hybrid owner only needs to take basic precautions. But the Energy Act goes farther and places other qualifications to consider such as the date of purchase and number of hybrids sold per car manufacturer.

The number of hybrids is limited by 60,000 hybrids per car manufacturers that may be claimed for taxes. Two hybrids that have met the 60,000 mark in June 2006 are Toyota and Lexus hybrids. Buyers who purchased their Toyota hybrid or Lexus hybrid before October 1 will have 100 percent of their tax credit. While buyers who purchased their hybrids on or after October 1 will have a tax credit that is reduced by 50 percent.

That means that some buyers of a new Prius or Lexus hybrid vehicle will qualify for the full $3,150 tax credit. While other buyers of the same vehicle will receive only a $1,575 tax credit. Therefore, the amount that the taxpayer may claim is not only based on the amount the vehicles qualifies for but also is based on the date the hybrid was purchased.

It should be noted that the tax credit will not last forever, but will be phased out by 2010. This is hurried along by reducing the amount of tax claims until it is gone.

For example, after 60,000 vehicles are sold, the taxpayer may claim the full amount of credit for that first quarter. For the second and third quarter after 60,000 vehicles are sold, the taxpayer may claim half or 50 percent of the tax credit. During the fourth and fifth quarter, the taxpayer may claim 25 percent of tax claim. After the fifth quarter the 60,000 vehicles are sold, no tax credit may be claimed.

A further limitation in claiming a tax credit is based on the type of vehicle purchased. This involves the amount of reduced emissions and fuels saved by the said vehicle. Only the type of vehicle is considered. Price is not a factor. You would guess that the more expensive hybrids would bring a higher tax credit. But, this is not always the case. For example, a $40,000 Lexus RX 400h hybrid commands a maximum of only a $2,200 tax credit.

Another consideration in limiting tax credits is the Alternative Minimum Tax (ATM), which may disqualify some other taxpayers.

Other hybrid manufacturers such Honda, Ford, GM have not meet the 60,000 limit and still qualify for the full amount. You do not have the same considerations, at the present time, that others such as Toyota hybrid owners must contend with.

Hybrid Vehicles

Is there a market for Hybrid Vehicles in the United States? The problem is compelling. When gas prices shot up last year averaging about $3.76 a gallon, everyone was looking to save at the pumps. Car makers were selling lots of compact cars. America’s vehicles were getting smaller.

Then the opposite happened. Gas prices started to fall and Americans went back to buying Ford F150’s and powerful full size SUV’s. The car markers and dealerships had the problem of lots of compact vehicles and some Hybrid Vehicles on their lots and no buyers.

So what are the car makers to do? What about consumers? Do we have to guess at what the market will bring? Will there be another “cash for clunker program”?

Well the answer is we have to be savvy buyers. We are going to have to ask ourselves how big of a vehicle do we want? Do we buy compact, subcompact, SUV, hybrid, or even truck?

What we ultimately would like are larger vehicles that uses less fuel. Oh yes, but not at the expense of giving up on power or reliability.

Fortunately technology is addressing this issue and the answer is in Hybrid vehicles and cleaner burning diesel cars and trucks.

What is a hybrid vehicle? Well it is any vehicle that combines two or more sources of power that can directly or indirectly provide propulsion power to act in unison or independently of each other.Wow that’s a mouthful. Basically it can if it would like to, do two things at the same time.

Hybrid vehicles have very sophisticated electric motors and generators that are used to produce electrical power.The electric motor in the units use batteries which are used to draw energy to accelerate the car or truck. But acting as a generator, it can also slow the car down and return energy back to the batteries.

So it can give and take when it is asked to.

The unit has periodic engine shut off – when the car is stopped in traffic, the engine is temporarily shut off. It restarts automatically when put back into gear either by stepping on the accelerator or releasing the clutch.

Hybrid Vehicles utilize things like a sleeker body style. Thinner tires,lighter composites all to reduce the weight and drag to bring better fuel mileage and save energy.

There are really two kinds of gasoline hybrids. The parallel hybrid and the series hybrid.
In a parallel hybrid vehicle, a gasoline engine and an electric motor blend together to move the vehicle. Basically doing two things at the same time.

In a series hybrid the gasoline engine either directly powers an electric motor that powers the vehicle or charges batteries that will power the motor. Basically doing only one thing at a time.

The automobile industry as a whole has a new and vital role in implementing changes as to how it is going to continue to make vehicles. We can see sweeping changes happening each and every year as the EPA keeps forcing the industry to cut emissions. Consumers are always looking for better fuel economy and better performance. Buyers are now starting to “think green” when purchasing vehicles are and stressing for more ways to bring a lighter environmental impact on our fragile world.

The good news is that the automobile industries are developing newer technologies and addressing each and every avenue to bring consumers what the want.

As we continue to move on into the new decade we will start to see things like solar panels built into the top of cars keeping them cool as they are parked. Solar panels in the headlights and taillights will help recharge the hybrid batteries.

The future of the automobile industry as well as the economy will remain a mystery for now. However our technological advances in making superior energy efficient vehicles are mind boggling. As we keep coming up with new ideas and better ways to improve on itself. It is an exciting time to see the changes occurring and we can look forward to seeing marked improvements in all phases of fuel economy and conservation.

Keep “Thinking Green” my friends