On a recent trip to the mountains to enjoy a combination of new snow and rare sunny weather, a friend of mine commented after his return about the numerous sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, which seem to litter the roads.
“If only they weren’t such gas guzzling, polluting hogs, I’d buy one in a moment. They have a ton of room plus their size lets them plow through the snow packed roads and just seems safer.” Whether they are actually safer has been a matter of contention in recent news reports, and while many people might not share his opinions, SUVs are known for their tendencies to suck a lot of gas while adding to the pollution levels already clouding our beautiful skies. Not to mention the fact that some contentious minded individuals have been known to demonstrate their dislike for the large trucks through vehicle vandalism such as plastering tastelessly worded bumper stickers on them.
Vehicle manufacturers have heeded the call from people who share my friend’s wish however. In August 2004, Ford Motor Co. introduced its new hybrid SUV, the Escape. Before the popular motor company had their new SUVs on lots, they had thousands of phone calls from well-educated, well-to-do people interested in purchasing a hybrid SUV. Lexus and Toyota have followed by introducing their own hybrid SUVs. Other motor companies might soon follow their leads as well. Only time will tell as with all new technologies and products.
A hybrid vehicle offers a supplementation to the standard gas engine with a battery-powered electric motor. They increase fuel efficiency while reducing fuel consumption and pollution by approximately thirty percent. Energy wasted during braking and coasting is actually converted to electricity and stored in the battery until it is used later by the electric motor for climbing hills, accelerating, and other driving conditions where using the combustion engine is most inefficient. Furthermore, by configuring hybrid engines in a certain way, companies are not sacrificing performance or driving range in the process, a concern voiced by many avid drivers. Combine that with the roominess and comfort of these larger vehicles, and you’re set to begin your most luxurious winter of recent past.
But what about price you might be thinking. Well, most hybrid vehicles, SUVs included, cost about $3000 more than non-hybrid vehicles. That might seem like a large chunk of money before you factor in the amount of money you will save in gas costs and the even larger amount of good that you will be doing for our environment. Cutting pollution by thirty percent is a lot. In the long run, it’s saving our atmosphere for our children and future generations.
In case you’re wondering if these hybrid SUVs or any hybrid automobiles must be plugged into an external source in order to recharge, they don’t. The energy converted and saved during braking and coasting in addition to conventional gasoline are all that the hybrid vehicles need for power.
Still not convinced that buying a hybrid SUV is the next best vehicle for you when you consider buying a car. How about this fact? The federal government currently offers a tax incentive when you purchase any of the hybrid vehicles currently on the market.
Of course, hybrids aren’t the only up and coming means of transportation offered either now or in the near future. GM is now working on its vehicle, the Hy-Wire, which has hydrogen fuel cell technology instead of an internal combustion engine. While this vehicle and the fuel cell technology it embodies might be years from emerging on the general market, it is in the works and is a healthy alternative to modern traditional vehicles.
If I still haven’t convinced you to buy a hybrid SUV or something smaller if you’re so inclined, take a test drive in one. I think you might be pleasantly surprised by the ease of handling found in many of them and the continued performance. At the very least, you’ll kill some time while waiting for the snow to stop falling before your next trip to snowshoe your favorite trail.
Happy Snowshoeing and Healthy Driving!