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Understanding Hybrid Vehicles

"A hybrid vehicle is a vehicle with two or more energy storage systems, both of which must provide propulsion power", said Dave Hermance of Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing of North America. Although he also noted that there are many more definitions, this was the most basic and easiest to explain.

When consumers are car shopping, generally, they have to choose between performance or fuel economy. With the release of the newest additions to the hybrid family, buyers no longer have to choose between the two. With more vehicle models entering the sales floor that include the hybrid technology and the already powerful engines, companies provide a larger selection to benefit potential owners without compromising safety standards. Buyers can choose from models including the 268 hp Lexus RX400h, the 268 hp Toyota Highlander Hybrid or the newly released 339 hp Lexus GS450h and 187 hp Camry Hybrid.

Along with great performance drivers can benefit from reduced fuel consumption, lower operating costs, less CO2 emissions, improved air quality, and ultimately less oil consumption all around. Drivers can also feel good driving knowing that they are directly and indirectly helping the environment. With a combination of performance and economy, Lexus and Toyota can target both the traditional "gear head" and the more economically minded consumer.

With Hybrid Synergy Drive the vehicle is no longer driving on gasoline alone. The engine also relies on a secondary battery that is recharged during use. When the car demands a greater energy boost the engine pulls power from both the internal combustion engine (ICE) and the newly added battery. When the car is steadily moving the engine will minimize the fuel usage and divert more energy from the battery. As the driver brakes, a reverse energy flow recharges the secondary power reservoir. The shift lever includes a "B" mode, similar to the former "L" mode, that increases the engine braking for better driver control and reduced brake fade on long descents. The Toyota and Lexus hybrid battery usage is in the 50% - 70% and because of this limited use cycle the battery takes on less stress and therefore less damage. Toyota and Lexus report no service replacements, warranty or beyond, for decreased battery capacity. Imagine never having to deal with a dead battery or buying a new one. Just another reduced cost provided by Hybrid Synergy Drive.

Although fuel consumption can vary, all hybrid owners will experience more fuel savings. The Prius can run with the ICE off up to 48% of the time or up to 3.6 miles in pure-electric mode. The Prius is estimated to achieve 60-mpg city, saving an estimated 50% in fuel consumption. Compared to other passenger vehicles that is an estimated 352 gallons per year and a possible 10 less trips to the gas station. Even if the cost savings in gas or tax credit doesn't cover the added cost for buying a hybrid, drivers are privileged in experiencing other environmental savings.

For every 100 gallons saved the following statements apply:

  • $300 back in the pockets of the owners.
  • One ton of CO2 not emitted.
  • 4 barrels of crude is not consumed.

New goodies like the push start/stop button only add to the futuristic feel. With fully automated display, information about what the engine is doing as recent as the last 5 seconds, 1 minute, or the entire trip, driving can feel like a video game. Among other information, average gas consumption, current gas consumption, and energy monitor are all recorded and displayed on a multi-information display screen. The same screen is used for the navigation and telephone operation feature. I found myself trying to beat my own average fuel consumption. If creating a game out of saving fuel is what it takes to change the way we conserve, please, hand me a remote control and look for my name in the high scores.