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5 Common Myths About Hybrids

By Keith Turner

Fuel-sipping hybrids are hitting neighborhood driveways in record numbers, but there are still some questions and misconceptions about the gas-electric vehicles. Michael Coates of HybridCars.com offers some answers to common myths about hybrids:

Myth 1: Hybrid batteries are dangerous and costly to replace. The hybrid battery packs are designed to last for the lifetime of the vehicle, somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 miles, probably a whole lot longer. The warranty covers the batteries for between eight andhybrid cars10 years, depending on the carmaker.

Today’s hybrids use nickel metal hydride batteries that can be fully recycled. Toyota even puts a phone number on each battery, and they pay a $200 “bounty” for each battery to help ensure that it will be properly recycled.

There’s no definitive word on replacement costs, because they are almost never replaced. According to Toyota, since the Prius first went on sale in 2000, they have not replaced a single battery for wear and tear.

Myth 2: Plug-in Hybrids get 100 mpg. At this point, plug-in hybrids are gasoline-electric hybrids with added batteries allowing them to theoretically drive further on purely electric power; they are plugged in to an electrical outlet to recharge the batteries.

In some cases, they can achieve up to 100 miles on a gallon of gas because they run as an electric vehicle (EV) part of the time. Some automakers (GM with the Chevy Volt, Toyota with a plug-in Prius and Ford with a plug-in Escape, and others) have active programs to develop factory plug-in hybrids, though the types of vehicles and their charging systems will vary.

Myth 3: Hybrid vehicles get to ride in carpool lanes. The rules vary by state and even by region within states. Several allow the highest mileage hybrids (usually only the Prius and Civic Hybrid) in the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, recognizing their fuel-saving capabilities. However, in California, the number of HOV stickers handed out is limited and all stickers allocated to Prius owners have been handed out. That means new Prius buyers can’t get in to the HOV lane unless the law is changed.

Myth 4: Hybrid owners get a break on their taxes. Federal tax credits have been available for buyers of hybrids. The credits vary depending on the vehicle and are capped at a certain number for each model. So, for instance, Prius buyers can no longer get tax credits for purchasing new models, while many of the other models are still eligible. You can find the latest info at www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxcenter.shtml.

Myth 5: The actual financial savings of a hybrid is minimal. Saving money is probably the wrong reason to buy one. You buy it because you’ll be using less fuel and helping out in that way.

Cost differentials fluctuate wildly. Right now there’s a waiting list for Prius, so some dealers are charging premiums. That will accentuate the cost difference with a non-hybrid.

The existing rule of thumb is a hybrid costs roughly $3,000 more than its non-hybrid counterpart, but fuel savings at today’s rate will pay off that difference in approximately three to five years.

Do you typically drive a vehicle for more than five years? Then it’s probably worth getting a hybrid.

For more information about all hybrid vehicles, visit www.hybridcars.com.

Keith Turner is an automotive writer and the father of two teens. His reviews can be found at www.thefamilycar.com and www.greenfamilycar.com.

Updated August 2012

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