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A Student's Guide to Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles

The word hybrid means something that is mixed together from two things. Usually it refers to plants or animals that are bred from different genetically dissimilar parents. An example would be a mule, which is a hybrid of a horse and a donkey. A new type of vehicle that is on our roads are hybrid cars.

Picture of Honda Insight and Toyota Prius One car is the Honda Insight, which can get up to 68 miles per gallon on the freeway. The car uses a small 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder engine with an ultra-thin electric motor.

Its primary power comes from the gasoline engine, but it uses the electric motor when it is accelerating or climbing hills. The electric motor does not need an external power supply for recharging. Its batteries are recharged by regenerative braking. This means that energy from forward momentum is captured during braking. This energy is then used to recharge the batteries.

Honda is also making its Civic sedan available as a hybrid that gets 51 mpg on the highway compared to the gasoline-only model that gets 39 mpg on the highway.

Another hybrid on the road is the Toyota Prius. This four-person car gets 52 mpg.

It uses advanced technology to combine a small gas engine with an electric motor. At very slow speeds, the car runs on its electric motor. Driving around the city and at higher and freeway speeds, it shifts to both the gasoline motor and the electric motor, while also recharging the battery.

Other automobile companies will be releasing other types of hybrid vehicles soon. In 2003 model year, Ford will begin selling a hybrid-electric Escape Sport Utility Vehicle. This vehicle will use an electric motor around town and a gasoline engine while on the freeway. The vehicle's gas engine will shut off when it is stopped, like in a traffic jam.

Picture of Ford Escape The regular gasoline-powered Escape gets 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The Hybrid Escape will get 40 mpg, but that better mileage may cost $3,000 above the gasoline model's $18,000 price tag. Incentives from government agencies may help decrease that extra cost.

Other auto companies are also working on hybrid SUVs. DaimlerChrysler is working on a hybrid Dodge Durango that will achieve a combined average of 18.6 mpg. The regular gasoline model gets only 15.5 mpg.

General Motors and Toyota are working together to develop a small hybrid SUV. Honda is planning a hybrid version of its CR-V, which could be released in late 2003.

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Page updated: May 26, 2005
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