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The growing trend of Hybrid vehicles

Posted on: Tuesday, June 10, 2008

With the car-driving public facing the challenges of skyrocketing gas prices, out of control carbon dioxide emissions and its associated grave environmental consequences, the shift of consumer opinion toward smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles is quickly gathering momentum. Hybrid vehicles are becoming more popular for a variety of reasons including their potential for reducing fuel costs and preventing tons of greenhouse gasses from being emitted into the atmosphere through lowered fuel consumption. "Going Green" has become a popular cause that has the auto industry climbing over itself to serve the desires of its consumers.

Hybrid sales increased 40% between 2006 and 2007, with the most common hybrid being the Toyota Prius. The Prius was one of the first hybrid cars to be successfully mass-produced and sold in America and quickly becoming the "it" green car to own. With an M.S.R.P. of $42,110 to $23,370, buyers of the new Toyota Prius will not have to take out a second mortgage to pay their car loans. To date, with over one million sold, the Prius seems to fit the bill for people looking for a smaller sedan with a top fuel efficiency rating of 48mpg city, 45mpg highway) and a low emissions rating (AT PZEV), an EPA rating that indicates that the vehicle's emissions are 90% cleaner than a standard new vehicle.

SUV sales have been on a steady decline since 2002 and to satisfy those who wanted to share in the effort to live a more environmentally responsible lifestyle, or at least appear so, models such as the Ford Escape Hybrid made their debut. With only modest gas mileage improvement and no mold-shattering styling changes contrasting their all-gas powered stable mates, the Escape hybrids have not sold as well as expected, with the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon doing even worse. Experts theorize that the SUV hybrids look too much like their gas powered siblings and lack the physical uniqueness of the Prius to call much attention to themselves.

Among the top in hybrid sales include a few entry level and luxury SUVs and mid-size sedans representing Toyota, Honda, Ford and Lexus brands. Hybrids are here to stay and there will be a continuous flow of concepts being rendered on the drawing boards of auto manufacturers in the future, with a predicted 20 hybrid models reaching showroom floors by the end of 2008. Look for full-size hybrid pickups, and uber-priced luxury sedans to join the first-born.

Innovations in hybrid technology have already improved performance with the introduction of the two-mode hybrid which uses a gasoline engine and two electric motors to allow full gasoline, full electric, or a combination of power sources to propel the vehicle. Electricity is not the only power source that can assist a gasoline engine to power a hybrid. Engineers in labs throughout the world are drafting designs for hydraulic, air, and steam hybrid vehicles. The most likely new design to secure a favored position in the driveway is the plug-in hybrid with a 40 mile all-electric driving range, such as the hot-looking Chevrolet Volt unveiled at the 2007 NAIAS Auto Show.

With performance vehicles, luxury sedans, and large pickup trucks joining the hybrid force, consumers will find a green vehicle they can drive in the style and comfort to which they are accustomed.

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