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Hybrid Cars are Hot!
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Earth to Consumer: Get a Hybrid!
Although a slew of new "Made in the USA" hybrid vehicles — including an SUV version — will be on sale later this year, the first models to pique America's interest in super fuel-efficient cars came from Japan. The Toyota Prius and Honda's smaller, more stylish two-seater, Insight, have been scooting around U.S. cities for several years now, albeit in small numbers and with an embarrassing lack of fanfare from the makers. Which begs the question,

If hybrids are so great, why isn't everyone driving one?
We went to Los Angeles, which has more hybrids on the road than any other city in the U.S., and asked owners that very question. To them, choosing a car that averages 50 miles to the gallon was a no-brainer. To most everyone else, they were Birkenstock-wearing members of the Sierra Club. Meet some of the hybrid drivers by clicking on the video to the right.

Honda Insight dashboard detail

A Few Things You Should Know

YOU DO NOT need to plug them in. Hybrids are part gasoline engine and part electric motor. For more on how the car works and its gee-whiz technology, visit the How Stuff Works website.

Spare the Air? Absolutely. Those who've chosen the 2004 Prius, for example, have the reward of knowing they're emitting almost 90 percent less smog than the average new car. If you're wondering how your car measures up, go to the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide and compare.

Not all is green and lush in the hybrid camp. Eco purists complain that hybrid cars miss the point entirely as they still get 100 percent of their energy from gasoline. Also their increasing popularity has let automakers off the hook in continuing with even cleaner alternatives like all-electric cars. You can learn more about the downsides of the hybrid from drivers on The Union of Concerned Scientists website.

This same group of scientists also reports that the current bumper crop of gas-guzzlers churned out by U.S. automakers could average 60 miles to the gallon by the end of the next decade if they switched to hybrid technology.

The first U.S. hybrid drivers in the late 90s were classic early adopters — 85 percent male with average yearly salaries of $100,000. Now over 50 percent of new buyers are women.

Tax break? You get a break of around $2,000 when you buy a hybrid. However, you can bump that up to nearer $38,000 when you buy a Hummer... For more on the Hummer, check out the Sierra Club's 'homage' to the beefmeister at Hummerdinger.com

Hybrids are not as expensive as some believe. The base price for the Honda Insight is under $20,000.

Related Link
NOW: The Rise of the Hybrid Car

Play Video | Go Back to Part OneFloat to the top of the page on this cloud.

Eat My Voltage Hybrid car owners

Watch and Listen

What do you know about hybrid vehicles? We hit the streets of L.A. and asked people to share their impressions of hybrid cars and then visited some hybrid car owners to hear about some of the reactions the hybrid car has endured in our video. (2:23 minutes)
Hybrid Owner Websites
To get a rubber-hits-the-road feel for these cars, here are some of our favorite owner sites:
Jim Klausen and "Sparky"
This retired science teacher (featured in the video above) has answered hundreds of questions about hybrid cars in newsgroups.
Ernst Schmidbauer, Germany
Ernst compares his European Prius to its American counterpart. He also likes to remind people he can drive any speed he likes on the Autobahn.
John from Minnesota
Geek out with all sorts of mileage and performance specs on the Prius.
The self-styled expert promises "more than you want to know about my experiences with the 2000 Honda Insight gas/electric hybrid automobile!"
Honda Insight driver Blythe

"Stop calling it 'That Thing'. It does 90 miles per hour on the freeway no problem!"

Hybrid driver
Santa Monica, CA)
Umbra Fisk
In Border Talk
Grist Magazine's Umbra Fisk compares the environmental impact of a new hybrid and a "re-used" clunker.