Hybrid Vehicles Gaining in Popularity
A few years ago, there was a huge rush to buy hybrids. They offered decreased fuel costs due their hybrid gas/electric technologies, which made them very attractive to a certain segment of the car buying population. However, they suffered some bruised images due to some highly touted issues they had, especially the Toyota Prius. But that’s beginning to change for the better.
A Quick Refresher on Hybrid Vehicle Technology
Hybrid vehicles save gas and decrease harmful emissions in two ways. The first is that their engines are usually smaller, either 4-cylinders or extremely efficient 6-cylinders. The second is that once they achieve a steady speed, the engine turns off and an electric motor takes over. The vehicle’s batteries are charged by an alternator while the engine is running, and by a process called regenerative braking.
Regenerative braking works by turning the electric motor into a generator to create electricity, which charges the batteries. When the driver applies the brakes, a switching system causes the motor to act as a generator. As the motor turns, a stator with wire windings moves across the magnet field of a stationary magnet, causing an electrical current, and thus charging the batteries.
Polls Show Hybrid Popularity on the Rise
According to some polling groups, such as Harris Interactive, the popularity of hybrid technology in vehicles such as the Prius from Toyota, is rising again. This is across all demographic groups, but is especially true in the younger (18-35) demographic, where 32% of those polled showed great interest. As a whole, 23% of those polled say they are more interested in hybrid technology vehicles than in pure electric or pure gas vehicles.
These number further break down quite surprisingly. More men than women say they are giving vehicles with hybrid technology an increased amount of attention recently, with 26% of men and 20% of women responding favorably for hybrids. Additionally, when asked 26% of those polled said they are likely to by a hybrid vehicle and 9% say they’re more likely to buy an all-electric vehicle. When asked their reasoning behind these buying decisions, the responses were fairly predictable:
- 55% cite save monetary savings through reduced fuel costs.
- 18% say they want to reduce the dependency the United States has on foreign oil.
- 26% cite increased environmental concerns driving their purchase decisions.
Surprisingly, it was the younger consumers that more frequently responded they were more interested in saving money, while the more mature responders (67 and older) stated they were more concerned about the environment and reducing foreign oil dependency.
Initial Purchase Cost Slightly Higher for Most Hybrids
Looking at the websites for those companies producing hybrid vehicles, hybrid technology vehicles will cost you about 5-10% more initially. As an example, Toyota’s website shows the gasoline-powered Highlander with a base purchase price of $28,240, while the base Highlander Hybrid will cost slightly more than $38,000. The gas-powered Camry is listed at $22,055, while the Camry hybrid sells for $25,990.
Most consumers polled say they would expect to recoup that price difference within the first year by having to fill up the hybrid’s fuel tank less often than a fully gas-powered model. Whether or not they will depends on their choice of vehicle. Some hybrids start paying dividends immediately, while others take several years to see savings. See our previous post on the potential for hybrid savings.
According to Mike Chadsey, VP of Automotive Solutions Consultants at Harris Interactive says that the survey results show that automakers are making inroads into convincing the American car buying public to start looking more seriously at hybrid technologies by increasing their confidence levels in the technology as a whole. This is especially true with the younger generation of American drivers, he says.
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