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03/12 Sunday 08:33AM

moving into the future with a hybrid car

image . Pauline Chan .

What is that?

Hybrid cars are cars that run on gasoline and one alternate source of energy. The common hybrid cars available now use a combination of gasoline engine and electrical energy from a rechargeable battery.

Why consider a hybrid?
Hybrid vehicles are a practical solution to the rising greenhouse gas levels and soaring oil prices. Auto makers like Honda and Toyota have taken initiatives to improve on the existing Hybrid technology by inventing cleaner engines that also give more mileage.  The advantage is that the gasoline engine can then be quite small since power is obtained from not one but two sources.

How it works?
The hybrid car uses electrical energy when starting up and at low-speed driving.  The gasoline engine takes over at higher speeds, and turns on and off when required as you drive. The computer will efficiently balance the switching over process between the gasoline engine and electric motor. This will ensure energy efficiency by keeping the gasoline use to a minimum while achieving the required speed smoothly.

When the car comes to a sustained stop, the gas engine shuts down, eliminating idling and reducing emissions, saving fuel. When the car is ready to accelerate, the electric motor kicks in till the time the gasoline engine can resume its job. Highway-driving will utilise the gasoline engine and it will operate like any normal car. When you back-up, it's all battery-powered as well. The battery is charged when you brake or coast in a process called regenerative charging. The electric motor in the car becomes a generator and charges the battery.

Pros of a hybrid car
There is a reduction in the use of gasoline so in the long run, it is more economical than full gasoline cars and it allows us to be less dependent on fossil fuel. The advantage is most significant in city-driving.  For example, the Toyota Prius is estimated to give an average of 55 mpg. It has a better mileage in city conditions rather than on the highway because the battery comes into use more frequently in city conditions.

The hybrid car is an environmentally friendly car. It runs cleaner. The electrical energy system helps to minimise environmental pollution by reducing tailpipe emissions.
It is a good buy for a city-dweller with a conscience since the electric motor is used.

New technologies are continually improving to allow hybrids the same kind of performance as normal cars, and achieve improved efficiency, better mileage and further reduction in emissions.


Cons of a hybrid car
Carsdirect.com listed several cons in owning a hybrid car. A hybrid is built to be different from a normal gasoline car.  Expectations for it to perform like a normal car may not be fulfilled. These cars are built for economy, not speed. If your daily driving consists of mostly highway high-speed commuting, then the hybrid may not save you much on fuel and emissions.  Hybrids have a weight issue so the overall weight has to be reduced from components and body to boost efficiency, resulting in the use of lightweight materials, hence, hybrids don't handle as well as normal cars. Hybrid cars do cost more than conventional gasoline cars and repairs tend to cost more due to the complexity of the dual system. Since the hybrids weigh more, one might have to change the tyres and brakes more often.

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