Car Buyers' Guide: It pays to buy a hybrid
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Taxi industry has embraced hybrids
Many people like the idea of slotting a hybrid into the garage, but for most it’s a bigger step than just buying a new car.
Even if you don’t know how it works exactly, you know what’s under the bonnet with a conventional vehicle. A hybrid is a bit different ...
That’s not an issue for taxi drivers.That industry has embraced hybrids because they use less fuel, which means drivers can make more money.
Many drivers, particularly those in cities, can reap the same sorts of benefits.
A main advantage of the hybrid system is they make excellent use of the power available, which over time helps save money on fuel bills. For example, when the engine is not needed, it shuts down. During light acceleration or cruising, when the car is usually travelling under 50km/h, the battery power will run on the electrical system rather than using fuel to drive the car.
Most city driving is stop and start. And the same can be said for busy holiday weekends when Aucklanders’ cars are either stationary or slowly crawling along roads leaving the city.
But, if you’re driving a hybrid, it’s during these times that you’re able to use this energy by storing it in the electric system. Hybrid vehicles gain battery charge during the initial stage of braking or through deceleration, which is then stored for use in its battery. The electric system in a hybrid calculates what is required and when it’s required within milliseconds, and all without the driver’s aid. If you turn on the hybrid information display in the latest Toyota Prius, you’ll see that this car does a lot. It continuously changes from charge to discharge, from engine assistance to engine off, and more. And, it all happens effortlessly in the background, unnoticeable when driving.
If you’ve previously considered buying a hybrid you might have found there was limited choice. Key main players used to be Toyota and Honda, which employed similar technologies and were aimed at a particular type of vehicle. But, now is a great time to reconsider as there is a new breed of hybrids that are luxury and leather-clad. Sometimes they’re even hard to distinguish from petrol and diesel vehicles.
The Lexus 450h, a large SUV hybrid, is a good example of a vehicle that differs from the stereotype. It has begun to bridge the gap between the practicality and eco-friendly features of a hybrid, without compromising on the luxury you’d expect from a Lexus.
The latest hybrids have improved batteries thanks to technology developments. Batteries used to be expensive but they’ve come down in price and their reliability has increased. If you buy a new hybrid, the batteries often come with a good guarantee, so we would recommend anyone considering a hybrid should try and buy new.
The problem with buying second-hand is that you cannot judge a battery’s condition five years down the track. It’s likely the car’s battery capacity will have declined over time and, if the car has been imported, we often have no knowledge of its previous use or history. This comes on top of the complicated charging and computerised systems which help maintain the battery of a hybrid vehicle, making buying second-hand a gamble.
Thanks to the increasing number of hybrid options now available, you no longer need to compromise on style or type to enjoy the benefits of cheaper motoring.
Remember that your road user charges are also incorporated into the petrol cost so, over time, if you’re using half the fuel you normally would, the savings can be significant. Hybrids make use of all the energy your car produces without waste.
If fuel efficiency is important when purchasing a car, the options don’t get much better than this.