It’s a rare news day when there isn’t some attention paid to our important climate issues and the significant contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming. Coupled with increasing fuel costs that make driving and commuting more costly than ever before, many are demanding fuel efficient vehicles and the market is beginning to answer those demands. The hybrid car is one such answer to fuel economy and greatly reduced emissions that is growing in popularity.
Hybrid cars, such as the Kia Optima, combine the conventional combustion engine with an electric, battery operated engine to gain as much as 40 mpg fuel economy. This car can be driven in full electric mode at lower speeds for zero emissions or at blended gas-electric mode at higher highway speeds. The full hybrid systems utilize a starter motor generator to charge the hybrid battery and kinetic energy is recovered by converting and storing it in the batteries rather than it being wasted as heat energy when braking.
Efficiency is increased in the hybrid vehicle with aerodynamic design, highly efficient powertrain, low rolling resistance tires, and a lower ride height, offering a low drag coefficient. Idle fuel use and emissions are eliminated when the car comes to a stop and the electrical load is low by shutting off the engine. All of this comes together for unprecedented fuel efficiency in a car with greatly reduced emissions.
Though the purchase price for hybrids may still be higher than the cost of gasoline engine cars, the savings in fuel costs offer a cost-to-own reduction over a five year period or less. This makes the hybrid car a worthwhile investment for economical operation as well a gift to the environment.