Hybid Cars (You Need to Get You One)

Disclaimer: I am not unbiased about Hybrid Cars. I have drunk deeply from the Hybrid-hype Kool Aid. I am a Hybrid evangelist. If Hybrid owners had a religion, I would be a Scientologist.

All that said, my message today is very simple: you need to get you one of ’em.

See, I know that loses me instant credibility among some of you, because you’d like me to be a little less passionate, and little more logical, about it. I know that.

Sorry, I just can’t. And I know that what I am about to say in these next few sentences will also lose me even more credibility with some of you. But I feel compelled to say it.

So, here it is:
…If you really want to fight the war on terror…
…If you really want to help the environment…
…If you really want to save some serious gas-money…

Get you a Hybrid car.

I can back up this evangelical zeal with a combination of facts and personal testimony (an attempt to appear to both the thinkers and feelers among you) and I’d like to share all of it with you now…
First, the claim about the war on terror. I said this: If you really want to fight the war on terror, get you a Hybrid car.

What do I mean by this?

Quite simply: if we all drove Hybrids, we would, quite literally, eliminate our need to import oil from the Middle East. You can quibble about a lot of the facets of the “War on Terror.” (The Iraq War, the saber-rattling toward Iran, the lack of preparedness here at home I could go on…for a long time…) But one thing is beyond debate– that governments, private citizens, and, yes, the terrorists of the Middle East get their money from oil. They get LOTS of money from oil. And they know that we are the ones addicted to oil.

In fact, all we’d have to do to eliminate imports from the Middle East completely is to raise fuel efficiency by 7.6 MPG. If we all drove Hybrids, we’d blow that figure off the charts. We’d probably be saving 20-30 MPG more on average, and drastically reduce our dependency on oil from all other nations. And if we did this, we’d not only be able to cut off oil imports from the Middle East, but there’d be no need to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge either.

Facts:
In 2001, 55 percent of our oil came from foreign countries.
By 2020, that number is projected to be 70 percent.

So long as these figures are so astronomically high, we are at risk as a nation. You’ve heard it said that we face many different security risks. This, friends, is a true security risk. China is also gobbling up oil right now. It’s unlikely to think that their need for oil will abate. So, what if ours did? What if we were able to get most of our oil from home, and leave the Chinese and the Indians to the whims of Middle Eastern markets?

We’d be much more secure, no question.

Why haven’t we all embraced this as a real way to fight the war on terror?!! Why haven’t our leaders boldly pushed for this?!!! Like “Rubber Drives” during World War II, buying a Hybrid Car today is one of the most patriotic things you can do for your country.

Secondly, the claim about the Environment. I said this: If you really care about the Environment, get you a Hybrid car.

I know lots of folks who drive high-MPG cars, or have alternative fuel vehicles. I know a songwriter friend who crossed the country in van that burns french fry oil. I know another friend with a deisel car that gets 50-MPG. When I talk to some of my friends who drive high-mileage cars about my Hybrid, they counter that their cars also get high gas mileage…sometimes even 40-50 MPG. (Like most Hybrid Cars…) That is very true. And those folks are doing a LOT to help the environment. They really are…

But….there is a but…

Let me put the “but” in plain term: if you were to burn ten gallons of gas in a Hybrid, and ten gallons in a regular car (even one getting 45 MPG) the Hybrid car is still FAR better for the environment.

This is where a lot of folks scratch their heads and say, “Huh?”

And it’s because they fail to realize how Hybrids actually work, and how they actually burn gas. Hybrids burn gas differently than the average car and, as such, are far better for the environment than even the best high-MPG regular car. In what follows, I will use our car, the Toyota Prius, as the example here, because it’s the model I know.

But first, a few more facts about gas engines:
— When a gas engine is idling, it’s burning gas (a brilliant statement of the obvious…)
— When a gas engine is idling, it’s burning gas less efficiently than it does when it’s running at higher speeds

It’s this second point that many folks don’t realize. The reason lawn mowers are so deadly to the environment is that they burn gas at relatively low speed all the time, and move pretty slowly even in their highest gear. It’s the same with cars.

When you’re sitting at the drive-thru at Whataburger, you’re burning more gas and polluting more air, than you would be driving 65 MPH on Central Expressway. (In fact, my Dad makes a cogent argument for eliminating all drive-thru windows as an environmental statement…) Most of our city pollution is caused not just by the number of cars out there, but also by the length of time they spend idling, or moving very slowly, in stop-and-go traffic and drive-thru windows.

A Hybrid car (Toyota Prius) does not use its gas engine when it’s idling. In fact, the gas engine shuts off completely and it switches to a small electric engine also under the hood. When the light turns green, and you begin to accelerate, the electric engine stays on for a while. If you accelerate slowly, it stays on until you’re at 10 or 15 MPH. Then, the gas engine begins to help out, and by the time you’re at 20 or so MPH, the gas engine has taken over almost for the most part. (If you need to accelerate quickly, the gas engine kicks in quicker…acceleration in a Hybrid always feels just alike a “normal” car….)

The “knock” on electric engines had always been that they’re not really powerful enough. If you remember the early electric cars, they could only go 40 or 50 MPH, and they took forever go get up to that speed. They also had to be “plugged in” for long periods, and you couldn’t drive them very far.

Hybrid cars basically harness the best qualities of an electric engine (the ability to not pollute while idling, and be used for initial acceleration) and the best qualities of a gas engine (the power you need in a car, and the ability burn gas more cleanly at higher speeds). That combination is what makes a Hybrid car such a brilliant technology. And, you don’t have to plug it in…the battery recharges by harnessing the energy you spend breaking or coasting.

Still don’t get it? I realize that it really IS hard to get your mind around….especially if you fail to realize how integral the electric engine is for the Hybrid.

So, let’s do a quick comparison of two fairly high mileage cars: the Toyota Camry, and the Toyota Prius. Let’s assume you drive each of them 14,000 miles in one year.

Over that year:

The Toyota Camry –which cannot be considered a gas guzzler by any stretch of the imagination– will produce 11,100 pounds of dangerous CO2 gas.

The Toyota Prius –the trendsetting Hybrid from the same carmaker– will produce a mere 4,800 pounds of CO2!!!

This is a savings of 6,300 pounds of CO2!!!

So, this is why even Hybrid SUVs are better for the environment that regular SUVs. Even if you have a Hybrid SUV that only gets ten miles more per gallon (let’s say it only gets 29 instead of 19…) it would STILL be FAR better for the environment. Arguably then, any Hybrid car would be better for the environment than any regular car, even they theoretically got the exact same MPG, just because of this technology difference.

Are you starting to see the difference now? It’s not JUST about MPG, but it’s also about how gas gets burned, and how CO2 gas gets released into the air. It’s hard to argue that any other car is better for the environment than a Hybrid. The biggest Hybrid SUV is still just about as good as the most fuel efficient regular car….mind-boggling, huh?

Finally, and last but not least: If you really want to save some serious gas money, get you a Hybrid.

Of course, this argument could also be made of any other high-mileage car. (Which is why I made the environmental argument first.) But, let’s look at the facts, just for our car. Our Hybrid car probably cost about $2,000 more than a conventional car of about the same size. However, we got a $2,000 TAX CREDIT off our income taxes the next year. I understand that some of these kinds of credits are still around. But I also hear the Bush Administration is seeking to phase them out. (Sorry, but isn’t this being “soft on terror?”)

But, beyond that initial $2K we saved on our taxes, consider the gasoline savings issue…

Right now, here in Dallas, regular unleaded is about 3 bucks a gallon. (Let’s just round it to $3 bucks a gallon, for the sake of argument…) We have two cars: a Toyota Prius, and a Jeep Cherokee. Our Prius gets an average of 45 MPG (a little more when Dennise drives, and little less when I do…). Our Jeep gets an average of 12.5 MPG. (No matter who drives…) That means we get 450 miles in the ten gallon Prius tank. That means we get 125 miles for every ten gallons in the Jeep.

Basically, I look at it this way: Every time we fill up the Prius, if I had a second Jeep instead, it would take 26 more gallons to go the same distance.

Therefore, every time I fill up the Prius, it would cost me $78 dollars more if my second car was another Jeep instead.

Mind boggling again, huh?

It’s really true. It really is. We’ve heard a lot of grumblings out there that Hybrids don’t actually get the advertised MPG that’s on the sticker. OK, fine…does your conventional car get what it was advertised to?

Actually, we get pretty close to what we were promised. Our year model was rated at 45 MPG on the highway, and 52 in the city. (If that sounds strange, remember again how the Prius uses gas, and how it will use the electric engine more in the city, thus saving more gas…) As I said, we average about 45 MPG (in mostly city driving…) Sometimes, it’s more. Sometimes, it’s less. But it hovers around that pretty consistently.

So, we’re saving TONS of money on gas. Even today, it still costs us just $30 dollars to fill up the Prius’ ten gallon tank. And each tank gets us 450 miles, on average.

You can learn a lot more about Hybrid Cars at this great website. It’s got loads of facts to support everything I’ve said here. And it’s also got this cool calculator, that will allow you to figure out what you’d save, and how you’d help the environment, if you owned a Hybrid instead of whatever you’re driving now.

Please do your own research. Because I’ve already drunk the Kool Aid. I’m not unbiased. I have a very strong opinions about it all. My bottom line is unwavering and I know will strike some as too strident. But, it’s not just about the car your drive. It’s about what you can do to literally save the earth, fight global terror, and keep some cash in your pocket all at the same time.

It may sound strident, but it’s just the way I feel:
Get you a Hybrid.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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