All posts tagged hybrid

How Servicing a Hybrid Is Different Than a Traditional Vehicle

Hybrid automobiles have experienced a dramatic rise in popularity over the past decade. Although today’s hybrid vehicles look virtually identical to traditional cars, they have a more sophisticated drivetrain. Here are some of the main differences when it comes to serving a hybrid car.

Longer-Lasting Brake Pads

The majority of modern hybrids feature regenerative braking technology. When activating the brakes, the electric motor engages into what is called reverse mode, which uses the kinetic energy of a hybrid vehicle’s braking system to recharge the car’s batteries. This means that significantly less wear and tear is placed upon the brake pads, and you will have an additional source of electricity to charge your battery.

Hybrid cars also have a backup system of friction brakes just in case the regenerative brakes don’t provide enough stopping power. Hybrid owners will not need to replace their brake pads nearly as often. However, the braking system still should be inspected at least twice a year by a licensed professional who knows how to work with hybrid braking systems.

Battery Replacement

Unlike a traditional automobile, a hybrid vehicle implements the use of a small electric engine and a battery pack. While the electric motor requires very little attention, the battery pack may fail after about 100,000 miles. Luckily, replacement batteries can now be purchased at a specialty automotive parts store. The battery is engineered with a complex wiring system, so the best approach is to allow an Arnold Motor Supply professional or one in your area to perform the installation. Keep in mind that some hybrid batteries also have an air filter that must be replaced, though in the long run these vehicles will require decidedly less maintenance.

Extended Oil Change Intervals

Hybrid engines are designed to perform efficiently. Because of the electric motor’s assistance, the gas engine does not have to work as hard. Although the engine will definitely require an oil change, the interval will be much longer than normal. In fact, you can safely drive 10,000 miles between each oil change. If the oil needs to be changed, the vehicle’s oil life monitor will give you a prompt service warning.

Requires a Skilled Mechanic

Hybrid engines are a bit more complex than the typical gas engine. Unless you are a highly trained automotive technician, you may not be able to perform all of the recommended maintenance. To protect the various components from excess heat, hybrids are designed with multiple cooling systems. While regular vehicles use an alternator, a hybrid is equipped with a special AC-DC converter. Not only are some of the tasks complicated, but they are also quite dangerous. Mechanics must use an extra degree of caution when working around electrical parts.

As you can see, a hybrid vehicle has a lot of differences underneath the surface. The good news is that a hybrid is not much noticeably more expensive to maintain in the long run.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle Shopping Considerations

Hybrid vehicles continue to grow in importance, offering consumers the best of two possible worlds: vehicle electrification and extended range. By making use of electric motors and a gasoline engine, a hybrid electric vehicle ensures that you can take that long trip without having to plug-in someplace and wait hours for a recharge.

The Toyota Prius is synonymous with "hybrid," but there are other models for you to consider. Read on for tips on how to buy a hybrid electric vehicle, representing one of the most fuel efficient and cleanest car segments sold today.

General Definitions

What is a hybrid vehicle? Well, for starters, it is officially called a hybrid electric vehicle, one of several types of vehicles that offer at least some kind of vehicle electrification.

All hybrids make use of two fuel systems. Today, those systems are a gas-powered internal combustion engine and electric motors. The gas engine is paired with a transmission to turn the wheels. The electric motor may make use of a generator and regenerative braking to produce electricity that is sent to and stored in a battery system. Such systems original used nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, but in recent years most manufacturers have switched to lithium-ion (li-ion) or lithium-polymer (li-poly) batteries that are lighter weight and more efficient.

Plug-in or Not

Traditional hybrid vehicles receive electricity onboard, with no need to plug-in to an outlet to draw current. Today, your hybrid vehicle options have expanded as there are models that can be plugged in. Models, including the Chevrolet Volt, the Ford C-MAX Energi and the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, do plug in and offer an advantage of running on electric-only power longer than traditional hybrids. If your trips are mostly local, you’ll put some serious space between gas station visits, lowering your fuel costs and reducing the amount of emissions dumped into the air.

Another advantage of a plug-in vehicle is that there are tax deduction benefits offered, something that traditional hybrids no longer have. Your tax benefit is determined by the federal government and depends largely on the vehicle you select as well as your tax bracket. Buy a Chevrolet Volt and you may be eligible for a $7,500 tax credit; with the PHEV Prius, your tax benefit is up to $2,500. State and local benefits may also be available.

Cost Premium

When buying a hybrid, you’ll pay more for this vehicle then you would for a comparably equipped gasoline model. The difference is typically from $3,000, but you may notice cars that are priced at least $5,000 higher. What you need to do here is compare equipment levels. For instance, the Ford Fusion Hybrid comes in about $8,000 more than the base Fusion model. On closer inspection the difference is about $2,500 as the Fusion Hybrid offers a trim level comparable to the Fusion SEL.

With a cost premium in play, you’ll want to determine how long it will take for you to recoup the extra cost. One way to figure that out is to compare the fuel economy between like models. The example of the Ford Fusion is a good one — the 2012 edition gets 23 mpg city, 33 mpg highway for a combined 26 mpg. The Fusion Hybrid gets 41 mpg city, 36 mpg for a combined 39 mpg. If you drive 15,000 miles per year, then your gas cost at $3.50 per gallon would be calculated as follows:

15,000 miles divided by 26 mpg equals 577 gallons. Multiply 577 by $3.50 per gallon and your annual fuel costs are $2,020.

With the Fusion Hybrid you’ll divide 15,000 by 39 and get 385 gallons. Multiply 385 by $3.50 and your annual fuel costs are $1,348. That means you’ll save $672 per year. If your hybrid has a $5,000 price premium than it will take you nearly 7 and one-half years to recoup your cost. Clearly, buy a hybrid if you expect to keep it at least that long and you think that gas prices will only go higher.

What Size

Most hybrid models come in smaller sizes, but there are some vehicles such as the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and the big Lexus LS 600h L sedan that are also sold. Familiarize yourself with the various models offered and consider only those that meet your needs.

Some hybrid models lose as much as 20 percent of trunk storage capacity as the battery pack juts into the trunk. Other hybrids take away rear seating space for the same reason.

Most hybrids are paired with a single-speed transmission, although some have regular automatic or continuously variable transmissions. You will want to test drive the models that interest you, taking it out on the open road and driving it extensively around town. Learn if the power offered is sufficient for your needs — hybrids get horsepower from both energy sources, therefore you won’t lack the get up and go to get moving with such vehicles.

HEV Considerations

Every hybrid vehicle comes with a hybrid warranty, covering the electrical parts including motors, generators and battery packs. By law, the minimum warranty for the battery system alone is 8 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some states, such as California and New Jersey, mandate a 10-year or 150,000 mile warranty. In any case, familiarize yourself with the maintenance procedures for a hybrid and follow these carefully, to ensure that you enjoy the maximum benefit of owning one.

Resources

FuelEconomy.gov: Federal Tax Credits for Plug-In Hybrids — http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxphevb.shtml

U.S. Department of Energy: Alternative Fuels Data Center — http://www.afdc.energy.gov/

Chris Joseph is a freelance writer and media consultant currently working with AutoFair.

Intelligent Hybrid: 2013 Lexus GS 450h

Lexus

Lexus is a luxury brand that is in transition, and those changes are in response to two factors beyond its control: customer perceptions and geological forces. With the former, Lexus has responded by changing its design language from restrained to bold. With the latter, Lexus and parent Toyota are now well on the way to recovery from a series of earthquakes and a tsunami that undermined its ability to produce and ship cars. Evidence of these changes can be seen in the 2013 Lexus GS 450h sedan, the hybrid version of the GS and a car that may just convince you that Lexus is back and in a significant way.

New Design Language

The refinements Lexus has made to its design language will be evident beginning with each of its 2013 models. The Lexus LX570, a large sport utility vehicle, initiated the updates when it was introduced just ahead of the GS series in February 2012. These changes include an hourglass sport grille that is flanked by arrowhead-styled daytime running lights to provide a more aggressive face. Additional modifications over the first generation edition built from 2007 to 2011 include 9-spoke 17-inch chrome wheels, LED treatments on the tail lamps and updates to the wheel wells, bumper edges and windows.

Under the hood, the same 3.5-liter 24-valve gas engine that powered the first generation hybrid has returned. This engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission and produces 286 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Torque is another of its strong suits too as this five-passenger sedan offers 254 foot-pounds at 4,600 rpm.

The GS 450h also derives power from its nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery system. The current iteration is lighter and more efficient, and allows this large sedan to get 29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway. Those numbers put the GS 450h at the top of the range among executive cars and places some serious distance between gas station stops. Indeed, when taking those long interstate trips, drivers will find that they’ll be able to go nearly 600 miles between fill ups. That is certainly welcome in these days of elevated gas prices. Performance is noteworthy too: this hybrid goes from 0 to 60 in just 5.6 seconds.

Sumptious Interior

Inside, Lexus luxury is evident everywhere. A padded instrument panel, stitched leather seating, wood trim and chrome highlights provide the look and feel you’d expect in this sedan. A 10-way power driver’s seat is plush and bolstered, offering height adjustment and lumbar support as well as heating and ventilation. Other special treatments in evidence include a bamboo and leather heated steering wheel, aluminum alloy scuff plates and ambient lighting.

All GS 450h models come equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen driver’s information center. An electronically-enhanced instrument panel, an LCD climate control display and remote touch interface are among the technological features offered. Its standard 5.1 surround sound audio system features 12 speakers, an automatic sound levelizer, voice recognition and text to speech SMS. You can also upgrade to a 17-speaker Mark Levinson package that includes distortion adjustment and DVD/audio capability.

By choosing its luxury package, the GS 450h offers an optimally appointed sedan that retails for under $70,000. That package includes the Mark Levinson audio package; semi-aniline leather; a contoured 18-way power driver seat; passenger seat memory; wood embellishments; rear air-conditioning and audio controls; and rear manual side sun shades.

Sedan Notables

Safety features include driver and front passenger knee airbags; front and front seat-mounted side airbags; and a side curtain airbag unit with rollover notification. This sedan comes with four-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, traction control and stability control. Optional safety features include a blind spot monitor, a head up display, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, park assist, a night vision system and a pre-collision warning system.

The 2013 Lexus GS 450h dispenses with the notion that hybrid power and a weighty sedan are mutually exclusive. Weighing in at nearly 4,200 pounds, the GS 450h provides the security some drivers prefer when taking to the open road. It also delivers in fuel economy and luxury appointments, offering a level of all-around driving satisfaction that is still quite rare today.

Author Information

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and owner of the online Auto Trends Magazine. Please visit his site for industry news including Lexus and other luxury brands.

Photos: Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A, Inc. (Lexus)