Electric & Hybrid Cars
When walking, a bicycle, or public transportation just won't suffice, the next best thing is an efficient and eco-friendly hybrid or all-electric vehicle.
The concept behind hybrid vehicles is simple: increase energy efficiency by adding rechargeable batteries and an electric motor to complement a gas engine. This results in up to a 50% increase in gas mileage, in addition to reduced emissions.
As the price of hybrid vehicles goes down – the 50-mpg Toyota Prius C is now available for less than $19,000 – and fuel prices go up, consumers are turning to these alternative-energy automobiles. Some hybrid vehicles are now available as hybrid plug-ins – cars that utilize larger batteries in order to travel up to 40 miles on all-electric power before switching to gas or diesel fuel. While hybrid vehicles can be twice as efficient as conventionally fueled cars, plug-in hybrids double the efficiency of standard hybrids.
Since hybrid vehicles are the most popular type of alternative-energy vehicle, there are a wealth of options available today. Vehicles under $20,000 include the Honda Insight, Honda CR-Z Hybrid and Toyota Prius C, while a $30,000 budget can buy the Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Chevrolet Malibu Eco, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the Toyota Prius. For the ultimate in luxury, check out the BMW ActiveHybrid 7, Infiniti M35h Hybrid, Lexus GS 450h, Mercedes S400 BlueHybrid, Lexus LS 600h L, and the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid.
Electric cars, which are also called electric vehicles (EV's), differ from hybrids in that they are completely powered by stored battery power – no gasoline or diesel required. EV's can be recharged with common household electricity: just plug in and "fuel up" in a few hours' time.
Traditionally, electric cars have not been as popular as hybrid or traditional vehicles. There are several reasons for this, but the most common complaints are that EV's have a short range: typically 100 miles versus 300 for gas-powered; they require long recharges, are more expensive, and use costly batteries.
As technology improves, the vehicles' range is improving and the price is dropping. Electric cars also carry heavy incentives for U.S. taxpayers, including an up-to-$7,500 tax credit. EV's are efficient, converting 75% of chemical energy from their batteries to power the wheels; internal combustion engines (gasoline or diesel-powered) convert just 20%. These vehicles also provide a quiet and super smooth ride, have good acceleration, and require less maintenance than traditional vehicles. Furthermore, they reduce energy dependence, allowing consumers to utilize domestically produced electricity instead of imported petrol. They're environmentally friendly since they emit no emissions and can be charged with electricity derived from hydro, wind or solar power.
By 2015, it is estimated that there will be at least 30 all-electric vehicle models commercially available in the United States. As of 2012, most highway capable vehicles available or soon-to-be available are the Ford Focus Electric, the Honda Fit, the Mitsubishi i, and the Nissan LEAF. SUV owners can soon switch to Toyota's RAV4 EV, while luxury enthusiasts will enjoy the BMW Megacity, and Tesla Model S.