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Hybrid Cars: The Answer to High Gas Prices?

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This entry was posted on 6/17/2006 1:43 AM and is filed under Technology,Science,Automotive.

High oil and gas prices are here to stay. This has many people wondering what they can do to save money at the pump.

Hybrid cars have touted themselves as a great way to save money. Many owners of hybrids believed this upon purchase and soon found out that the gas mileage estimates were very overrated. Data from independent product-testing organization Consumer Reports indicates that hybrid cars get less than 60 percent of EPA estimates while navigating city streets. In Consumer Reports' real-world driving test, the Civic Hybrid averaged 26 mpg in the city, while the Toyota Prius averaged 35 mpg, much less than their respective EPA estimates of 47 and 60 mpg. Hybrid cars performed much closer to EPA estimates in Consumer Reports' highway tests.

This discrepancy could be due in part to the way the EPA conducts its tests. The EPA tests actually gauge fuel emissions to estimate fuel efficiency. Hybrid cars use computers to control the flow of gasoline and have more efficient catalytic converters, which reduce the amount of emissions. This may contribute to the disparity between EPA estimates and actual vehicle mileage achieved.

Hybrid car buyers pay a premium of a couple of thousand extra dollars over what others are paying for a comparable car. By most calculations, this extra expense will not be recouped in gas savings by the owner. The hybrid cars currently on the market cost from $3500 to $6000 more per car than comparable cars with conventional gas engines. This means that the amount of money you save, or don’t save, by buying a hybrid is very much dependent on gasoline prices. It’s no wonder that the average hybrid buyer has a substantially higher income than the average regular car buyer-- $100,000 versus $85,000.

Hybrid buyers may be saving on gas, but they are sporting a much more expensive battery. The cost of hybrid batteries ranges from $1,000 to $3,000, although we have gotten reports of some hybrid owners being quoted $4,800 to $8,000! This could be due to the current high demand for hybrid cars. And, although the hybrid battery may be covered under the car’s warranty, once the warranty expires, you could find yourself in for more of a ‘charge’ than you expected.

Hybrid cars may not be all they’re cracked up to be. Their gas mileages are overestimated and maintenance costs can be high. It also costs quite a bit more just to purchase one and these extra costs won’t be made up for with fuel savings.

Amy Hansen invites you to visit her blog about high gas prices for information and money saving tips.

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