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Hybrid car technology uses a petroleum based fuel tank and an electric battery to get the best mileage. The fuel propels the vehicle and charges the battery. When the battery is fully charged it can propel the car by itself; but runs out of juice quickly at high speeds of travel. When the battery is exhausted the fuel tank takes over to propel the car and simultaneously recharges the battery.
Carbon emissions are significantly lower for hybrids than other cars because of the higher mileage that can be attained. The key performance feature of hybrids is the mileage. If you're interested in cutting carbon emissions that should be enough because you're not going to get a lot of horsepower in any hybrid car worth it's mpg rating; however you will get a lot of neat features that increase the joy of your driving experience.
For more information, read some facts about hybrid cars from Bright Hub's Mechanical Engineering channel.
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The Toyota Prius 10, the third generation Prius, starts at $22,000 and is an excellent hybrid choice. It gets 51 mpg city/48 highway and includes hybrid synergy drive that discerns the optimum source of energy, fuel or electric, to produce the same quality output no matter what speed you are driving. It includes Bluetooth wireless features to enable hands free talking and your mp3 music. My favorite feature of the Prius is the "plasmacluster ionizer" an air purifier which subsequently circulates clean air within the car.
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I know the Toyota Prius seems like the most popular but I rate the Honda Insight as just as good. The MSRP for the Insight is $19,800 to $23,100 and gets 40 city/43 highway. The Insight design is quite similar to the Prius including an mp3 player plug in and bluetooth wireless. The Insight also includes "Eco Assist" which enables drivers to customize their car to suit their driving routine which maximizes fuel efficiency.
Motor Trend gave both the Insight and Prius 4 out of 5 stars for safety. I almost rated the Insight excellent but my first choice is the Prius primarily because of the air purification feature.
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Honda Civic HybridRating
The Honda Civic hybrid has very similar features to other hybrids. It gets 40 mpg city/45 mpg highway and has a USB audio interface on the radio which is a cool feature that lets you plug in your mp3 player, iPhone, or even a USB flash drive directly into the radio.
The Civic lists for $23, 650. I only rated it as good because it's design is a bit staid; not as appealing as the Insight or Prius.
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Benefits of Driving Hybrids
All of the hybrids also qualify as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (At-PZEV) which are vehicles that meet or exceed the SULEV and PZEZ emission requirements. Driving a hybrid is not only good for the environment it's good for you because it will save you money at the pump.
There are also cars that run on clean diesel that can help you save money and the environment.