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Problems With Hybrids

by Theresa Maddox

Hybrid cars are a fairly new technology in the United States and have been praised for their low emissions, better fuel economy and small, efficient design. However, a hybrid car is a substantial investment and it is important to understand the potential problems and drawbacks involved in owning one. There are many disadvantages to consider before purchasing a hybrid car.

Complex Design

Every hybrid vehicle comes with two motors --- one electric and one gas-powered. At low speeds, the electric motor powers the car using less energy and giving off fewer emissions than a conventional gas motor. Once the car accelerates over 40 mph, the gas motor kicks in to provide more power and acceleration to the car. The presence of two motors doubles the likelihood of needing repair, and the complexity of their design makes routine maintenance more inconvenient and expensive. Most mechanics and service shops simply don't have the necessary equipment to work on hybrids and diagnose problems, so hybrid owners will have to shell out extra cash to have their cars serviced directly by the manufacturer.

Higher Initial Cost

Hybrid cars come with a hefty price tag. According to Cars.com, the MSRP for brand-new model hybrids in 2008 ranged from $21,000 to $104,000. Additionally, the difference in annual fuel bills between a hybrid car and a comparable conventional car may not necessarily be enough to fully recoup the higher initial cost of purchasing a hybrid.

Battery Issues

The hybrid battery has been criticized for several of its disadvantages. Hybrid batteries are very heavy, adding to the weight of the car, and may need recharging as often as every two weeks. Some hybrids use nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, which use very high voltages and could explode in the event of a collision, possibly killing or seriously injuring the driver. Some hybrid batteries have also been said to perform poorly in colder temperatures.

Too Quiet

According to www.greenfootsteps.com, there have been several complaints about hybrid cars operating too quietly. While many consumers might consider this an attractive advantage, it raises a serious safety issue. Visually impaired pedestrians have a much higher risk of being hit, as there have been studies that show that blind people who rely almost solely on their hearing are completely unaware of a hybrid car approaching.

Recalls

Hybrid cars are still a fairly new technology, and with new technology comes technical difficulties and glitches. Since the introduction of the hybrid car in the United States, Toyota has had to recall roughly 148,000 Priuses and Lexus hybrids due to problems with anti-lock brakes systems. Although Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer for North America, says Toyota has addressed all safety issues quickly and efficiently, sales for Toyota have steadily waned in the wake of these recalls.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Theresa Maddox writes for various websites, covering personal care, beauty and health topics. She received a National Merit Finalist package in 2001 and holds a Bachelor of Science in merchandising from the University of Kentucky.

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Photo Credits

  • Detailansicht Hybrid Motor image by 3rdTwin from Fotolia.com