Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hybrid Cars, The Next Generation...

The hybrid car, so much has been said about it. Not until now has there been a complete shift and focus on the hybrid's emergence. With gas prices at an all time high, the economic pressure to save dollars is now forcing Americans to look at alternative money saving measures.

More and more people are opting for carpooling and the use of the public transportation system rather than driving their personal vehicles to and from work. Families are consolidating trips for everyday household errands and are even delaying or canceling family vacations. These changes have come about because of the price of gasoline in America.

Others are even trying alternative methods of fuel combustion, like the Water2Fuel craze. Anything to squeeze a few more miles out of their beloved automobiles in an effort to save money on high fuel costs.

The problem is, Americans do not "like" being forced to change their driving habits. The majority of Americans realize that the reliance on foreign oil is not a good thing and that America needs to find a way to produce its own sustainable fuel source. And then there are the concerns about the burning of fossil fuels and the damage it's causing to the earth's eco system. Price and pollution, what is the answer? Could it be the hybrid car?

Hybrid cars, such as Toyota's Prius and Honda's Insight, rely on both gasoline power and electric power. The electric portion of the powerplant is driven by very large batteries that are recharged as the car is driven. The result is less dependence on fuel with better gas mileage. Honda's Insight is reported to average 60 miles per gallon city with fewer emissions. The difference is simple - while driving in the city the electric motor is doing most of the work, thus using less gasoline. Highway driving needs more power and is where the gasoline engine does its work.

The hybrid does have its share of drawbacks. What new technology doesn't? They are smaller vehicles made up of lighter-weight materials and parts. And you will sacrifice horsepower for fuel economy (forget about towing a boat or trailer with a hybrid, at least for now). Additionally, the hybrid market is in its infancy. In 2008, the hybrid market was estimated to make up about 2% of the total automobile market. This is because many automakers have been slow to enter the hybrid market.

And there are those that believe the hybrid car is not as effective a technology solution to alternative fuel, such as ethanol, made from corn, switch grass, or even hydrogen and saltwater.

Where will the power that fuels America's vehicles come from? Nobody seems to know right now. We do know this: Steam power was replaced by electric power, and electric power was replaced by gasoline power. Gasoline power will eventually be replaced with something, hopefully before it's too late to change its effect on global warming. While hybrid cars represent an "alternative" or a means to find a replacement, they do represent a viable solution.