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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Fuel Economy Part 3

Posted by Jason Haupt - Energy

The final type of car that we are going to talk about is the Electric/ Hybrid. For most people, this is the car for the "Environmentalist", or the "Tree Huggers". These are going to be very efficient and will be the most fuel efficient cars in certain situations. Both of these cars are most efficient and make the most sense if you drive in the city. Keeping this in mind, we will discuss each type separately.

Hybrids are the oldest of this group. They have been on the market since 1999 and are available from almost all of the manufacturers. These cars do come at a premium that is at least $5,560. If you were to compare similar Honda Accords, the standard Accord gets a combined 30 MPG and the Hybrid gets 47 MPG. This would save you about $700 per year. In 7 to 8 years, you would make up the difference. As I said before, these cars are most efficient in stop and go driving where the electric engine is able to be used to its highest potential. These cars have what is known as regenerative braking. This means that when you slow the car down the act of slowing down will recharge the battery. Hybrids are highly efficient in high traffic situations, because the gas engine will shut down when you are not moving and will not burn fuel while you are in traffic. A standard Hybrid is a fuel driven vehicle that has an electric power source that takes over in low demand situations. However, as the car requires more power, the fuel engine takes over and runs. So at highway speeds, the vehicle is powered by the fuel engine.

Electric cars can be split into two groups: plug in Hybrids and pure electric vehicles. One of the most common forms of electric cars on the market is known as "plug in Hybrids". These cars are primarily powered by a bank of batteries and have a fuel powered engine that runs an electric generator to power the cars. These cars offer the best of both worlds and reduce the amount of fuel that is used by having a specified range where the car will go before it requires the use of the gas generator. These cars offer the use of an electric motor as the primary mode of movement without the "range anxiety" that is associated with the purely electric vehicles. Purely electric cars are fairly new on the scene. In 1999 an all-electric car was released by Chevy but was quickly taken off the market for what were called safety concerns. These cars were not for sale, but were available for lease. It has been within the past few years that electric cars have become available with the release of cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi I, which are widely available. There are several other electric vehicles available but these two are the most common. Electric vehicles and the plug-in hybrids are highly efficient and offer the ability to cut the use of fossil fuels significantly. Most of these vehicles offer equivalent miles per gallon and they boast numbers of, in many cases, over 100 miles per gallon. This number is based on the amount of electricity that a gallon of gas can produce in watts. Then the number of miles per watts is used to produce this number. As I said earlier, these cars are most efficient when driving distances are short and/or involve a lot of start and stop driving. The general rule of thumb is if your commute is about half of the range of the car then it is going to be a good choice as you could charge when you get home each night. If there is a charging station where you park for work, then the commute could be most of the range of the vehicle. These cars are more expensive than a standard vehicle and they often have fewer bells and whistles than other cars. So determining whether this car is going to save you money is difficult to determine. The fact that they are more expensive can be offset by use of tax credits and rebates that are available through both the federal government and the state of Illinois. To help you determine if an electric car is right for you, go to www.driveelectricillinois.org and use their calculator to determine how long it will


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