If you're serious about reducing your carbon footprint in all aspects of your life, you've likely taken a close, hard look at the car you drive. But, how much better is a hybrid vehicle, really? Are hybrid cars worth it? We have some arguments for and against hybrid vehicles to take a look at before considering a purchase.
What Is a Hybrid Car?
A hybrid vehicle is one that uses two sources of energy. Most hybrids today are either gas/battery hybrids or electricity/battery hybrids that plug in. We're going to focus on gasoline/battery hybrids in this piece.
Back in 1999, Honda released its two-seater, two-door Insight as the first modern hybrid vehicle—exactly 100 years after the Lohner-Porsches Mixte was released in 1899, according to CarsDirect. Toyota released its Prius the following year in 2000—which is still the most popular modern hybrid on the market today. All major carmakers have their own hybrid offering on the market, now including SUVs and trucks.
Don't Drive a Hybrid to Save Money, Drive a Hybrid to Save the Environment
Like solar panels, a hybrid is probably more expensive than the traditional alternatives you might have your eye on. But, you're likely considering a hybrid vehicle to reduce your family's carbon footprint. Burning one gallon of gasoline can produce twenty pounds of greenhouse gases, and the average (non-hybrid) car produces six to nine tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE).
Hybrids do vary in their miles-per-gallon rating, depending on make and model. Hybrid trucks are expected by the manufacturer to get in the low twenties, while most sedans average in the mid-fifties and SUVs average in the mid-thirties. If you are replacing a car that uses gasoline more than average, you'll always see less fuel used and less carbon dioxide produced with a hybrid. Less gas consumed means you'll also be decreasing direct emissions from your tailpipe, which will help to reduce air pollution.
AirNow reports that, across the United States, about 75 percent of all carbon monoxide emissions come from exhaust—and that number actually jumps to 95 percent in cities. Any way we can individually reduce air pollution is for the benefit of us all!
Some Hybrid Vehicle Negatives
For those still wondering, "Are hybrid cars worth it?" the truth is, a hybrid vehicle is not for everyone. Before you make a decision, you should consider these potential disadvantages, too.
Hauling and Features
Older hybrid SUVs don't haul well. If you have a boat, horse trailer, RV, or another piece of towed equipment, you may need a newer model. Most 2020 sedan and hatchback hybrids can't even get hitches installed. Additionally, not all luxury features—such as heated or ventilated seats—are available on hybrids since this would use more gas. Sunroofs, fog lights, and rain-sensing windshields are all options you'd have to search for as well.
Depending on the model, a hybrid vehicle is often several thousands more than its exact counterpart that only uses gasoline. You will save money at the gas pump, but you may not save money overall unless you own the vehicle for a number of years. However, you would be insuring yourself against any significant fluctuations in the price of gasoline since you'd be using less of it.
If you tell anyone that you're looking into buying a hybrid vehicle, your well-meaning conversation partner will likely mention that replacing the battery will be really expensive. You can kindly and confidently tell them that it's pretty standard for hybrid batteries to have an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty. Sometimes, it may even be as high as 150,000 or even unlimited. Do inquire on this point when you purchase your car, but also feel confident that the carmakers have ironed out this issue in the early phases of manufacturing.
How to Drive a Hybrid
If you are an aggressive driver, you're going to need some training on how to drive a hybrid. The thing is, your hybrid itself will train you how to drive it. The car will have an indicator to show how slowly you're stopping, how quickly you're accelerating and how evenly you're driving. It will tell you when you're using too much AC and if you've had the defrost on too long.
Hybrid driving is similar to driving like your sweet grandma. The habits use much less gasoline and take advantage of the hybrid technology. Even if you are driving a car that uses gasoline only, you can use these eco-driving "grandma" habits to use less gas by hypermiling.
My Own Hybrid Experience
We bought a hybrid in 2017. Before that, I was driving an older, small car that was sold to us with promises of getting 36 mpg on the highway, but it never did—ever. I kept logs of my miles per gallon with that car and very rarely would it get over 30. With my hybrid, there are times that I've driven a few miles to my kid's school without using any gas, and my car reports a happy 200 mpg! I regularly get 80 mpg on a 20-mile trip, though the DOE estimates gas mileage for my car is 52 mpg. In the cold, snowy conditions, it can go down significantly to around 30 mpg. My all-time average is about 62 mpg, and I'm very happy with that.
Do you think a hybrid vehicle will work for your family? Check out more of our green living tips on the Thinking Sustainably board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
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Why It's Good
The average car produces six to nine tons of greenhouse gases a year. Driving a hybrid vehicle will lower your gasoline consumption as well as reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.