Owning a Hybrid Car
Now that you’ve decided to buy a hybrid car, what can you expect from the ownership experience? If you are coming from a gasoline vehicle, hybrid cars are easy to adapt to and do not require you to change your driving habits – you can simply sit back, enjoy the drive, and reduce fuel costs while doing your part for the environment.
Because they combine gasoline and electric components, hybrids have similar maintenance, service, and repair cycles to gasoline vehicles, so you shouldn’t experience any unpleasant surprises. The hybrid car you choose will likely have a lot of new technology features that will enhance the driving experience but come with some nuances of their own.
Let’s tackle the driving experience, service and maintenance, and new technology, in that order.
Enjoy the Drive
If you’re switching from a gasoline vehicle, driving a hybrid car will feel pretty much the same – only you’ll go a lot further between stops for fuel than you used to! The power control systems in hybrid cars will work out automatically when to drive on electric power, when to drive on gasoline power, and even when to use both. When you’re braking, the car will automatically and seamlessly use both regenerative braking, which charges the battery when you’re slowing down, as well as the conventional brakes, depending on how much stopping power you need.
While you can leave them to their own devices, many hybrid cars feature multiple drive modes so you can customize the driving experience to suit your specific tastes and driving conditions. For instance, some hybrid cars have an “EV” mode that lets you disable the gasoline engine so you can drive exclusively on battery power at lower speeds. Some have an “eco” mode which increases economy with smoother, less-aggressive acceleration, and that also shuts off the air conditioning when the gasoline engine is not running. Some might even have a “sport” mode for when you’re having some fun on winding roads.
Your hybrid car will also, in addition to park, reverse, neutral, and drive, have a “B” for “brake” position for the transmission. Activating this increases engine braking when you’re decelerating, helping to charge up the hybrid battery faster; however, under acceleration, the B setting will also increase fuel consumption, so use it sparingly.
Hybrid Cars: Service and Maintenance
Servicing and maintaining a hybrid car should be no more difficult than maintaining a gasoline vehicle. Your hybrid’s engine will still need regular fluid changes, and at longer intervals, you’ll need to think about spark plugs, transmission fluid, and other regular mechanical maintenance items. Your hybrid still has a heating and air conditioning system, so you will still need to replace the cabin air filter; also, regularly check and replace windshield wiper blades. These simple services can be performed by a trained technician at your local dealership, or you can do them yourself.
Because of their increased weight compared to gasoline vehicles, you should take special care with the tires on your hybrid. Check the tire pressures regularly as they can significantly affect fuel economy in addition to the way the car drives. You may have to replace tires more regularly than with conventional vehicles as well – though the regenerative braking function means that brake components on a hybrid will last a lot longer.
Living with New Technology
Many hybrid vehicles come with a lot of new tech, including driver assist systems such as active cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and various parking assist systems, known as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
Get to know these features well, as they can help you avoid a crash. If you are in a crash, you will need to ensure these features are properly re-calibrated, so they function correctly and keep you safe. Repairs should only be performed by body shops and technicians that have been certified by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
A Worry-Free Road Ahead?
Hybrid warranties are similar to gasoline car warranties – but, on top of the general protection for the vehicle, hybrid batteries often have a much longer coverage period. For example, the Toyota Prius has a 10-year, 150,000-mile warranty on the battery. This can help protect you against unforeseen issues and costs even if the hybrid you buy is a few years old.
While hybrid cars come with their own nuances during ownership, they have proven over the last 20-plus years to be very reliable, as well as rewarding to own and drive. Over time, the savings in fuel costs compared to gasoline cars really add up, and you’ll also be doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s a win-win.