Hybrids More Economical in the Long Run

By Esperanza Juarez

With the slight drop of gas prices, the appeal of hybrid
automobiles has also decreased showing that consumers are more
concerned with their wallets than with a greener environment.

Yet, new studies disprove consumer misconceptions that a hybrid
vehicle’s sticker price is not worth it.

“[As an investment] hybrid vehicles are generally more fuel
efficient than similar standard non-hybrid vehicles,” said Michael
T. Shelton, mechanical engineering department chair and
professor.

A hybrid vehicle is able to operate efficiently with less
gasoline because of its engineering.

“A hybrid vehicle operates on more than one power source, [such
as a gasoline fueled engine or an electric motor and battery
system],” said Shelton. “Most standard vehicles develop power from
burning gasoline within and internal combustion engine.”

At first glance consumers may shy away from purchasing a hybrid
car because the vehicles are often pricier than traditional
automobiles. The most popular model on the market is the Toyota
Prius, which starts at $22,175.

However, a recent study by IntelliChoice.com suggests that
consumers should look at more than the sticker price when
determining what any vehicle will cost them over time.

According to the study, hybrid vehicles initially cost
“significantly more” to purchase and tend to have higher insurance
rates. However, they also “hold their value better over five years
compared to gas powered versions of the same model, [and] as
expected, fuel costs are dramatically lower on these models.”

“There are some people who also benefit from the social benefit
that they perceive is a result from driving a hybrid,” said Dr.
Lynda Rush, economics professor.

“It makes them feel good to know that they are doing something
good for the environment and that’s an added bonus to the lower gas
bills. I also think that the carpool stickers available for some
models including the Prius are also having an effect on the demand
for the hybrids,” said Rush.

In an attempt to offer an incentive for hybrid car owners, Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted a program in 2004 that would allow
the Department of Motor Vehicles to award 75,000 decals, which
allow solo drivers to drive in the state’s High Occupancy Vehicle
lanes, also known as the carpool lanes. The permits were to expire
on January 1, 2008.

Two years later Schwarzenegger signed a bill that would grant
another 10,000 decals to California drivers. The combined 85,000
permits were also given an extension and will now remain valid
until January of 2011.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 offers another allurement to
purchase hybrid vehicles. The program permits the IRS to offer a
tax credit to qualifying vehicle owners.

While the environmental benefits of driving hybrid vehicles are
undeniable for many consumers, the instant gratification and often
necessity to save money outweighs the concern for a cleaner
environment.

The “demand for hybrids has fallen as fuel prices have eased off
historic highs,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “CNW Marketing
Research says that a year ago about 30 percent of car shoppers
considered buying a hybrid. (…) Now, however, hybrid
consideration is at 12 percent.”

As part of their nightly news broadcast, Los Angeles-based CW
channel KTLA 5, conducted an informal poll asking viewers whether
they would “be willing to pay more at the gas pump if it meant
cleaner air for California.” Nearly 34 percent replied, “yes” while
66 percent of respondents said “no.”

In addition to the deterrent of spending more money, several
consumers have been put off to purchase a hybrid because of the
lack of selection on the market.

“I wanted to purchase [a hybrid] when I purchased my last
vehicle,” said Dr. Michael T. Shelton, mechanical engineering
department chair and professor. “Unfortunately, the only two hybrid
vehicles on the market at that time were both small cars, (…) so
I bought a minivan.”

There are presently 22 hybrid models on the market today and in
an attempt to boost enthusiasm about hybrid automobiles many
manufactures are offering additional options to personalize these
vehicles to fit the consumer’s needs.

Esperanza Juarez can be reached by e-mail at
arts@thepolypost.com or by phone at (909) 869-3744.

Hybrids More Economical in the Long Run

Hybrids More Economical in the Long Run

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