by Caitlin O’Donnell

Although hybrids have increased in popularity in the last twenty years, many people hesitate to purchase one. A vehicle is a significant investment and it greatly impacts the owner’s daily life. Like most things, hybrid cars are not for everyone. It is more about the individual’s preferences and how they use the vehicle.

How do hybrids work?

  • Standard hybrids:
    • Standard hybrids run on an electric motor, a small gas engine and a small battery. Drivers don’t have to charge them. They can fill it with gas just like a traditional vehicle, but the electric motor and battery will give it extra mileage before the next fill-up. The electric motor supplies enough power to keep the car going at low speeds instead of using gas. Hybrids also have regenerative brakes, which harness energy to power the battery.
  • Plug-in EVs:
    • Plug-in electric vehicles are relatively new. They are somewhere between a standard hybrid and an electric car. Their batteries run the electric motor and the internal combustion engine runs on gas. Drivers do not need to buy a charging station for a plug-in electric vehicle. They recharge much faster than electric cars, which often require the owner to set up an at-home charging station. If a charging station is unavailable, plug-in electric vehicles can recharge through regenerative braking. Plug-in electric vehicles can also run on gas alone if needed.

Aren’t they too expensive for the average person?

When Toyota introduced the Prius in the early 2000s, it was impossible to find a hybrid standard-model vehicle. Top-of-the-line features and the new hybrid technology put them out of the average person’s price range. Today, there are tons of options for those in the market for a hybrid. There are hybrid models for everything from sedans to trucks to SUVs. Prices begin at around $23,000 and go up to the$100,000-range for more luxurious models. Depending on the type of vehicle a buyer is looking for, it’s feasible to purchase a hybrid for less than some gas-only cars.

According to Consumer Report, even though some hybrids are more expensive than gas-only vehicles upfront, the owner usually saves enough money worth of gas to make up for it within a few years. Plug-in electric vehicles may also be eligible for tax credits and other monetary incentives in certain areas.

But don’t hybrids cost a fortune to fix?

While maintenance costs vary depending on the car’s make and model, hybrid vehicles are usually more expensive to fix. However, Consumer Report found that hybrid owners tended to pay half as much in repair costs because hybrid vehicles require fewer repairs overall. Hybrids also require less routine maintenance. According to JD Power, hybrid vehicles last between 100,000and 200,000 miles if the car is manufactured correctly and maintained well. That is approximately the same lifespan as a regular car.

How much do they decrease your carbon footprint?

Hybrids produce 60% fewer carbon emissions than traditional gas engines, according to Consumer Report. But, they still effuse emissions. Fully electric cars do not emit carbon emissions themselves. However, the electricity used to charge the battery could still come from a source that produces emissions. Drivers also impact their hybrid’s carbon emissions. Those who drive aggressively or frequently rely on gas will have higher emissions.

 The Verdict:

Whether or not a hybrid is suitable for someone depends on what they value in a car and how they will use it. Different hybrids have different battery lives. It may be inconvenient to charge the car if the owner travels often or doesn’t have many charging stations in their area. It also takes significantly more time to charge a car than to fill its gas tank. However, powering the vehicle with gas increases the driver’s carbon footprint. There are many kinds of hybrids available in a wide price range. Hybrids are an excellent choice for eco-conscious drivers who don’t have to travel long distances, don’t mind waiting forthe car to charge and are able to pay more for repairs.