Like the first generation of any technology, the world's first hybrid vehicles tended to focus more on function than on form. Attributes such as luxury, power and style were sacrificed in the desire to increase mileage. From funky aerodynamics to cumbersome packaging, hybrid vehicles appealed only to the most ardent environmentalists. Lots of drivers had to choose between driving a car that looked great and a car that was great for the environment.
Now that the market has grown and the interest in hybrids has skyrocketed, manufacturers are responding with some innovative, yet elegant, options. Everyone from Porsche to Ford is throwing their hat in the ring, and drivers like you are benefiting from these new models.
But misconceptions still persist when it comes to the needs hybrids can meet — even the definitions of "hybrid vehicle" still differ greatly. That's why we put together a quick list of four popular myths about hybrids and the reasons they aren't true:
1. Hybrids don't offer substantial horsepower.
Assuming that gains in fuel economy represent a reduction in power is an easy mistake to make. In the past, it was even true to a great extent, but Lexus is working to invalidate this myth. Lexus offers the RX, a stylish SUV that manages to produce 268 hp from powerful electric motors. And there's no ceiling on performance when it comes to their LS model. It generates 438 hp, but comes with a price of more than $100,000. And for the pinnacle of hybrid muscle, look no further than the Tesla Roadster. It's 100% electric, but goes from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds, a stat that rivals most standard gasoline-powered sports cars. Best of all, the Tesla gets the estimated equivalent of 135 mpg.
2. Fuel economy is all you get with a hybrid.
Fuel economy may be the most easily recognized benefit of a hybrid, but manufacturers are making sure their vehicles are packed with other features as well. For instance, Chevrolet is now offering a hybrid version of the Tahoe. Drivers can enjoy the size and versatility of this large vehicle while lessening their impact on the environment. And Chevrolet has also developed an ethanol version of the Silverado pickup truck for people who want a vehicle that works hard but is easy on the planet. Now selecting a hybrid doesn't mean just choosing between different sedans — you can actually choose by both fuel economy and body style.
3. "Stylish hybrid" is an oxymoron.
A recent Toyota ad campaign highlighted the new drive to add more style to the hybrid market. In the commercial, the manufacturer showed their Prius in a wide variety of different styles and options, with a stream of drivers popping in and out of the vehicles. The point that Toyota, and several other companies, is making is simple — the days of one-size-fits-all hybrid styling are over. In addition to new looks for the Prius, Porsche and Audi have also announced some new hybrids they hope to debut in the near future. As the competition heats up in the hybrid market, the styles, colors, and features will multiply exponentially, making it even easier for you to pick a vehicle that meets all your needs.
4. Hybrids aren't affordable.
When they were first introduced, hybrids were "niche vehicles," and manufacturers could charge niche prices. Consumers were willing to pay more because availability was so limited. Fortunately, advances in hybrid technology and improvements in fuel economy have helped drive down the prices of "green" vehicles. The hybrid Toyota Camry starts at $25,000, which is roughly the same price as the gas-fueled Camry XLE. The Honda Civic hybrid sedan is priced within $2,000 of the standard gas-fueled Civic. And with additional manufacturers entering the market, more price reductions are possible.
The hybrid market has radically changed in the last five years, and the next five promise to be just as exciting. Whether it's more style you're looking for or better affordability, as the market grows, so will your options. The best place to start looking at what's available is the New Model Showcase. From cars that haven't even hit the streets yet to the latest models at dealerships near you, this is your doorway to new vehicles. We also encourage you to build and price your own hybrid. It's your chance to define the term "going green" according to your unique needs. And if you already have a few hybrids in mind, why not compare them side by side or find a vehicle near you? With a quick visit to the AutoTrader.com, you'll see just how easy it is to give a hybrid the green light.
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