Note : This was written before the Covid-19 virus cast its spell on the world. Few people are driving, gas prices have plummeted, and we’re all stuck at home except for essential services. My goodness, how quickly everything has changed. Either way, just keep that in mind when reading this article.
Stay healthy. Be strong. Be kind. We will endure. We will get through this.
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Should you buy a car during this Covid19 pandemic?
If you need a car then you should buy a car but that doesn’t mean you should buy a hybrid car or a new car. My advice, from someone who bought a brand new Honda CRV last August, about 7 months before the pandemic — buy a used car and don’t spend the extra money to buy a hybrid. Gas prices are falling in many parts of the world, especially the USA. Sure, prices will go up again but in all honesty, hybrid vehicles cost more money (on average) so I recommend you buy the minimum car you need and no more. Save your money. This pandemic has many lessons to teach us and saving money is only one them.
VIDEO | The Price of Gas in Minnesota
Hybrid Cars Pros and Cons
With many people looking for an alternative to traditional gas vehicle they’ve begun wonder : What are Hybrid cars pros and cons? Is this the right type of vehicle for me?
Replacing an old gas guzzler with a hybrid car seems like a good idea. With rising fuel prices and all the environmental concerns, it does appear to make financial and ecological sense in the long run. Though, it seems many people don’t know what a hybrid is. With hybrid cars being more expensive than conventional cars, we need to look at the pros and cons of owning a hybrid.
Even in the United States, where fuel prices are relatively low, the statistics show a rise in fuel costs to be a continuing worldwide trend. During May 2019, the average fuel price in the United States was about 30% lower than in Japan, and less than half the price compared to Europe. The fuel price for regular fuel in United States was $1.03 in 1998, rising to $2.72 in 2018.
If this trend continues, saving fuel is going to be worth considering. The electric car creates this opportunity and Tesla is going all-out with battery power and electric motors. While they get fantastic performance and a range of 600-miles, electric cars are still a bit of a novelty. At least, for most of us. Traditional car manufacturers are taking a more cautious approach. They use a hybrid drive train which uses a combination of electric and gas power, resulting in substantial fuel savings, with the reassurance of a trusty gas engine to do most of the work.
What is a hybrid car?
Technically, any form of transportation that uses two or more separate systems to propel the vehicle is a hybrid vehicle. These systems can either work together or separately to propel the car. Hybrid cars combine a conventional internal combustion engine with at least one electric motor. The purpose being to save fuel, either by reducing the load on the engine or by shutting it down and using only electric power. To achieve this, they use different types of drive-trains: series drive-trains, parallel drive-trains, and combination series/parallel drive-trains.
With a series drivetrain configuration, only the electric motor powers the drive wheels. The electric motor receives its power directly from a gas-powered generator or a battery pack. This allows the engine to power the electric motor directly (increasing its output) or charge the batteries. A series drivetrain hybrid vehicle is more suitable for stop-and-go traffic.
A parallel hybrid system allows the gas engine and electric motor to work simultaneously or use only one power source. A controller in the transmission determines when to use the electric motor or both, and when to switch to the gasoline engine only. During deceleration, the electric motor recharges the battery pack.
Plug-in hybrids have larger batteries that can be recharged using an electric outlet. This allows them to drive for extended distances on electricity before switching to gasoline or diesel. These cars are generally more environmentally friendly. They offer increased fuel savings by supplementing the gas-powered generator with grid electricity. The gas engine kicks in only on longer trips when the battery reaches the end of its range.
Mild hybrids reduce engine load to improve fuel economy. A mild hybrid combines an electric motor, a 48-volt battery, and a 12-volt/48-volt converter with an internal combustion engine. The electric motor acts as a starter to rev-up the engine smoothly. It also works as a generator, collecting energy recuperated when braking, which it stores in the 48-volt battery. This provides electric power to improve acceleration and reduce fuel consumption when doing so.
Hybrid car pros
- Hybrid cars save fuel by regenerative braking that uses the energy generated to slow down the car during deceleration. Instead of using the normal brakes of the car to gradually slow it down, the electric motor is driven by the wheels, acting as a generator, to charge the batteries. When accelerating, the electric motor uses that stored energy and assists the gas engine. The driver can select the speed at which the car decelerates.
- Fuel savings derived from regenerative braking is most effective when using the vehicle for stop and go city traffic. It is only when the car accelerates after braking that this saving is achieved. Plug-in hybrid cars store more energy in a bigger battery pack and also utilize regenerative braking to top up the batteries.
- Another advantage of regenerative braking is that the car’s brakes should last longer. You only use the brakes when it is necessary to stop faster or in emergency stops. During normal slow stops or deceleration, the electric motor converts the energy and the brakes are not used.
- Many full hybrid cars have a display that indicates how much energy you save while driving. It tends to teach you how to drive efficiently and achieve even better savings. Modern plug-in hybrid models take a different approach to meet the discerning needs of drivers. They offer a range of drive modes to choose from. You can glide along in all electric mode, saving fuel, and emissions. Or, select a power mode that combines the power of the electric motor and the combustion engine to deliver high-performance driving. Or, you may maximize efficiency with a full Hybrid mode that uses the electric motor and the internal combustion engine to best effect.
- Some hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, use a type of thermos device to save the heat generated by the engine. It keeps the engine warm for a long period, saving fuel and extending engine life. It also makes the heater system more effective during cold start-ups.
- A Hybrid car is more environmentally friendly than the normal gas-only cars. Hybrid cars reduce fuel consumption, which in turn reduces exhaust gas emissions. However, it was recently discovered that the battery manufacturing process basically cancels out any environmental benefits. The problem lies with the toxic and energy-intensive processes needed to mine the rare metals used to manufacture the battery packs. As with so many modern marvels, the disposal, storage, and recycling of batteries is a huge problem. A growing concern is the pollution caused by battery waste sites.
- Hybrid vehicles are quieter because the electric motor is used to accelerate from a standstill and in many cases, the gas engine is not even running. Plug-in hybrids offer a pure electric mode that does not use the gas engine. It offers a unique experience, especially during acceleration.
- The following pro is not a direct benefit to the owner. Indirectly, the world (that’s everyone) will benefit from reduced fossil fuel dependence due to fuel savings achieved by hybrid and electric vehicles. Our reliance of fossil fuels will be lower and may even lower fuel prices in future.
- A hybrid car has the advantage that it typically does not require emission tests in places where they are required.
- Another advantage of an approved hybrid car is that a driver alone (Single-occupant vehicle) may use the high-occupancy vehicle lane.
- There are still some tax credit incentives available for approved hybrid cars in some states.
- The older type of full hybrid car that only uses regenerative power to charge the batteries has a disadvantage when used on a highway. Limited or no savings are possible on open highways at high speed because of the limited range achieved by regenerative braking. The fastest-growing hybrid (the plug-in hybrid) uses bigger batteries to extend the electric only range. It relies not only on regenerative power to charge the batteries, but you can also charge it manually when not in use. Either by plugging the vehicle into a power outlet at a public recharging station, or overnight in the garage. The electric only range of the plug-in hybrid is generally up to 160 miles.
- High Price. Hybrids usually cost thousands more than the conventional gas engine version of the same model. Understandably so, there is a lot more that you must pay for. After all, this is a conventional vehicle with an electric motor, control circuits, batteries and changes to the transmission added on. Battery prices are a major contributor to higher prices but prices are coming down. Some major advances made in recent years promise even lower prices.
- Maintenance costs of hybrid cars can be high because there is still a tendency to simply replace major components rather than the failing part. It is a growing and concerning trend with all modern cars which all adds to the high costs of owning them. The tradeoff is, of course, the high labor costs that make in-depth troubleshooting and repair procedures expensive is reduced.
- The high cost of battery replacement. The bigger the battery pack, the more expensive it is. Replacing a full battery set can be a major expense. Fortunately, the batteries are expected to last at least 125,000 miles.
- The payback derived from gas savings can take years to recoup the higher purchase price. It is bound to improve with rising fuel prices and with the increase in hybrid sales which will improve the economies of scale. However, you will recoup that initial expense, and then gain financially from the fuel cost savings.
How future proof is the hybrid car?
It may surprise you that I’m asking if the hybrid car is future proof, after all, many consider it to be the future. Though hybrid is a compromise, and compromises are mostly a temporary solution to an existing problem. When we find a better solution, they disappear.
Consider that the gas engine is reliable, they usually last for over 160,000 miles and fuel is still abundant, for a while anyway. The hybrid is a compromise between a gas engine and an electric motor to save some fuel, but it has its downfalls. It has a high capital outlay because of its complexities which is difficult to recoup in fuel savings. In the final analysis, I end up paying more upfront in order to save fuel, and the environment, but I do not gain financially.
In the meantime, there is a huge drive to replace fossil fuels soon with alternatives like Hydrogen or all electric vehicles. This drive may be more prominent in Europe where fuel is expensive, but it is a growing trend everywhere. Isn’t the all-electric car going to replace the hybrid car soon? Already, there is a growing list of electric vehicles; sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs and trucks. At auto shows, manufacturers proudly display many electric vehicles.
According to Experian surveys, the average American family owns two cars, while 35% of American households own three cars or more. If the only drawback of the current EV is that it is better suited to daily commuting because it needs a daily recharge. Then families owning two cars can use both, electric and gasoline. With a range of up to 600 miles a day, you can do all you daily commuting in the EV and recharge it at night. The gas engine vehicle is then perfect for those long-distance trips or getting to where there is no recharging stations or electricity.
It will result in huge fuel savings because most of our transport expenses go to our daily commute and not long-distance driving. The Hybrid also saves its fuel in traffic by recharging the batteries through regenerative braking; limiting their savings to the daily commute. I think the hybrid combines our commute and vacation vehicles into one, but it offers limited savings. It does not feel like the ultimate solution; it feels like a temporary solution.
I think the gas engine will do for a while longer, but that is me. Those who keep their cars for a year or two, and commute to work in a sedan anyway, may consider the hybrid car as an exciting alternative. If you’re going to replace it soon, then new developments in the distant future do not matter.