Public transport, walking, and biking are certainly the best
"getting around" options for consumers who are concerned about the
environment and America's growing oil imports. But most of us do
have a need for a car. And with the cost of gasoline continuing
to spiral upward, now more than ever is the time to consider the
new generation of hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs).
Hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) combine the internal combustion
engine of a conventional vehicle with the battery and electric motor
of an electric vehicle. The electricity in these vehicles comes
not from plugging them in at night, but rather, is generated by
the friction of braking, and is stored in on-board batteries. The
combination of an internal combustion engine with electric batteries
offers consumers the potential for significant energy and environmental
benefits, including greater fuel efficiency and significantly reduced
Hybrid-electric vehicles suffer from some common misconceptions.
Contrary to popular belief, these cars do not need to be plugged
in at night. And while HEVs are also thought to be less powerful
than internal combustion vehicles, most manufacturers match the
horsepower of the hybrid to its conventional counterpart, so there
should be no noticeable performance deficiencies. In addition to
the fuel economy and emissions benefits, HEVs are typically able
to travel between 300 and 700 miles on a single tank of gas.
While Honda and Toyota were the first HEV makers, many more manufacturers
have joined their ranks. Hybrid-electric vehicles are now available
from Honda, Toyota, Ford, Lexus, GM, and Mercury. Chevy, Nissan,
Saturn, Porsche, Dodge, and GMC also have product offerings that
will be hitting showroom floors in the coming years. In addition,
there are many after-market products emerging that make hybrid-electric
vehicles even more efficient (see sidebar).
Many federal, state, and local tax credits and incentives are
available for the purchase of HEVs. Many of these incentives decrease
and phase out between now and 2010, so now is the best time to consider
the purchase of a hybrid-electric vehicle.
Explore the links below to learn more about hybrid technology,
the vehicles available, the tax incentives that are on the books,
and tips for saving fuel.