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Will your next car be a hybrid?

It is a rare news day in which no attention is paid to our major climate problems and the significant contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming. Along with rising fuel costs making driving and commuting more expensive than ever, many are demanding fuel efficient vehicles and the market is beginning to respond to those demands. The hybrid car is one of those responses to greatly reduced fuel economy and emissions that is growing in popularity.

Hybrid cars, like the Kia Optima, combine the conventional combustion engine with a battery-operated electric motor to gain up to 40 mpg in fuel economy. This car can be driven in all-electric mode at lower speeds for zero emissions or in gas-electric combined mode at higher highway speeds. Full hybrid systems use a starter motor generator to charge the hybrid battery and the kinetic energy is recovered by converting and storing it in the batteries rather than wasting it as thermal energy when braking.

Efficiency is increased in the hybrid vehicle with aerodynamic design, high-efficiency powertrain, low rolling resistance tires and a lower ride height, offering a low drag coefficient. The use of idle fuel and emissions are eliminated when the car is stopped and the electrical load is low when the engine is switched off. All of this combines to achieve unprecedented fuel efficiency in a car with greatly reduced emissions.

Although the purchase price of hybrids may still be higher than the cost of gasoline-powered cars, fuel cost savings offer lower cost of ownership over a period of five years or less. This makes the hybrid car a worthwhile investment in economical operation and a gift to the environment.

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