Hybrid automobiles differ in the details

Christiaan Patterson

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Whether it’s for the environmentally conscious or those wishing to save gas money, most owners of hybrid cars are excited and confident of their purchase.

One such owner bought the Prius as a representation of his principles and awareness of doing his part for the environment.

“I’m a proud owner of a Prius,” Jason Prystowski, an emergency medicine physician, said. “I could have gone with a Ferrari but a Prius gets better gas mileage and chicks dig it.”

Before purchasing the hybrid in June of 2009, Prystowski owned a Subaru Baja which was perfect at the time while he lived on the Navajo Indian Reservation. A Prius would not have sufficed on the muddy and sometimes snowy terrain.

Hybrid vehicles are only the beginning in a world dealing with a rapidly growing population and diminishing resources. So far, the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are the main competitors of hybrid on the market.

With one million sales in the United States alone early this April, Toyota announced its plan for future development of hybrids. The Prius now owns half the market of these types of cars, according to Toyota.

However, Honda’s offering, which was first introduced in 2009 as a 2010 model fell short of its 70,000 sale projection and has only sold about 21,000 units.

“The Prius is never going to die out. We’ve been selling like crazy (since 2008),” said Blaine Landresse, who works in the sales and leasing department for Sierra Toyota. “Now, like in 2008, rising gas prices contribute to more sales of these cars.”

Honda’s low sale numbers are due in part by the company not pushing for more advertising to the public. Both cars are almost identical in features and even appearance, aside from additional eco-friendly details in Toyota’s product.

“People buying (Insights) want to save money and looks are important,” Joseph Derie, sales representative for Honda, said. “Honda offers a longer warranty than Toyota and the Insight isn’t a new idea. It’s just an improved concept from the previous Honda Hybrid from back in 1999.”

Honda offers a 150,000 mile or 15 year warranty on the battery instead of Toyota’s 100,000 mile warranty. A benefit of advanced technology is the price of replacing a battery today as oppose to five years ago.

Back then, a new battery would have cost its owner $6 thousand. Now, the price is about half that amount at about $3,000.

Prius and Insight have been advertised as clean vehicles and environmentally friendly with very low CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants. According to Segway.com, the Prius will emit 0.52 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere compared with 19.32 metric tons of CO2 that a Cadilac Escalade emits over the course of 12,000 miles per year.

According to driveclean.ca.gov, the environmental performance of both the Prius and Insight were given a score 10/10 on its contributions to global warming compared to an average car at 5/10. This rating means that the automobile contributes next to nothing to the effects of global warming.  A typical newer sedan averages about 5/10.  The Prius’ smog emissions score were 9/10 compared to a new average car of 5/10. Basically, these cars emit fewer pollutants that fill the air with harmful greenhouse gases.

“(Prius) gets higher mpg in the city because it runs off battery under 20 mph and uses no gas,” said Oscar Graciano, sales representative at Sierra Toyota. “It’s all monitored by a computer which tells the motor to stop using gas at stop lights and run on only the battery.”

How do these vehicles compare with others? For starters, the Prius averages 51 mpg in town and 48 on the highway. Other features of a Prius, which help make a  cleaner car, are solar panels on the roof which help cool the interior on newer models, coupled with a concave profile of the roof and hood for increased aerodynamics. Fewer belts in the motor decrease drag, improving  fuel efficiency. It also recycles its own energy by using the brakes to help recharge the battery.

The Insight gets 40 in the city and 43 mpg’s on the highway and has limited features similar to its competitive counterpart such as a rechargeable battery by both motor and braking system and multiple airbags for safety. Unlike the Prius, Insight’s exterior was not designed for better aero dynamics and it uses regular motor oil which is cheaper to maintain than the synthetic inside a Prius.

Prystowski views the Prius as a great investment since he does a lot of outdoor activities and there is plenty of space for all the gear. In addition, Prystowski emphasizes his principle of being earth friendly and doing what one can such as walking or biking when a car is not necessary.

“I love my Prius. It’s not for everyone but it’s for me.” Prystowski said.