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Hybrid Cars and Global Warming

Nissan Hybrid CarEveryone on this planet has an effect on the environment, but the largest impact any one person tends to have on the environment, especially to greenhouse gas emissions, is through the use of an automobile. It is because of this that individuals have in their power the ability to make a significant contribution to the fight against global warming. Consumers using hybrid cars are becoming a growing force in the attempt to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

What Are Hybrid Cars

Hybrid cars are cars that use two different sources of power, not cars that use hybrid fuels such as Gasoline Alcohol mixtures. The most popular hybrid cars, and the ones that are produced by most car manufacturers, are gas electric hybrid cars. A Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) uses two sources of power, a conventional gas internal combustion engine and an electric motor to power the car. Hybrids are generally classed as either full hybrids or mild hybrids.

Full hybrid systems allow both the gasoline engine and electric motor to provide power to the wheels. This means that the electric motor can take over from the gasoline when the car is stopped at lights or in traffic gridlock, and with the newer models can even drive the car at lower speeds. The hybrid systems available from Toyota, Lexus and Ford employ this technology.

Mild hybrids use the electric motor to enhance the conventional gas motor to give better performance and to cut down on gas consumption. Some of the modern mild hybrids will also allow the electric motor to take over from the gas motor while the vehicle is stopped. Many of the hybrids from General Motors use this technology for their hybrids.

Advantages of Hybrid Vehicles

There are many advantages to hybrid vehicles, not least of which is better fuel economy. With gasoline prices now reaching historic highs the extra mileage from hybrids make them a very desirable product. According to the American Dept of Energy, a conventional gasoline car gives about 25 to 30 miles per gallon. The Toyota Prius claims a combined mileage of 46 mpg, while the Honda Civic claims a mileage of 42 mpg.

Because Hybrids cut down on gasoline usage, the U.S. government under The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) gives generous tax credits for the purchase of fuel efficient Hybrid Cars. Most states have also added inducements to purchase such cars, such as free parking.

As they use less gas than the conventional gas engine, hybrid cars emit less greenhouse gases, helping the fight against global warming. Statistics vary, but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, hybrids emit 30 to 50 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cars.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid cars are not all good news, however. The major disadvantage is the price difference with conventional cars. Because they have in effect two different engines, then they tend to cost more. The continuing rise in gas prices may now be diluting this disadvantage.

Another disadvantage is maintenance costs over the period of the life of such a car. Double the number of engines tends to double the trouble. Also hybrid cars tend to use the latest technology to maximize engine efficiency. Repairing such technology can cost a lot more than the older technology in conventional autos.

A University of California, Riverside, study suggested hybrid cars running at low speeds fail to generate enough tire and aerodynamic noise to be heard, especially by sight-impaired people. In Canada, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians has also said hybrid vehicles pose a safety threat to blind pedestrians.

Future of Hybrid Cars

As the debate on global warming continues and the price of fossil fuels rise in direct proportion to the fall in its availability, the popularity of hybrid cars can only increase. Consumers are becoming more environmental aware, hybrid cars are becoming more conventional looking, governments are becoming more willing to give incentives to both consumer and manufacturers, so the future of hybrid cars is looking bright.