Hybrids ain’t for hippies anymore

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    Over the past year, gas has consistently hovered around $3 a gallon. Natural disasters and social issues have hit Americans where it hurts them most: their wallets. Even President Bush, whose party is hardly known as the environmentalist type, recently said that Americans were “addicted” to oil.”Me? Addicted?! That’s just crazy-talk. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hop into my 14 mile-per-gallon, eight-passenger SUV for my family of four so we can drive two blocks to our neighborhood pool.”

    This ideology is how many Americans have thought in the past, until Hurricane Katrina changed their minds. Now the vehicle that used to cost $40 to fill up the tank will only give them half the gas for the same price, driving most Americans nearly to the point of tears every time they pull up to an Exxon.

    As we desperately search for a quick solution, one answer seems to look better and better by the day: hybrid vehicles.

    As college students continue to graduate in droves every year and continue to purchase new vehicles, they have the opportunity to help push America into a more environmentally-friendly direction.

    The first patent for hybrids was actually issued in 1905, when American engineer H. Piper tried to develop the hybrid as a way to speed up cars, not to conserve gas, according to MSN autos. This technology increased car speed from zero to 25 mph in a blistering 10 seconds —- three times faster than vehicles of that day.

    However, by the time the patent was issued, cars already had the ability to exceed that performance. Hybrid-type vehicles were first used in major cities as delivery vehicles, but by the early 1920s, they were all but a memory as they were passed up by gasoline-powered vehicles.

    Today, college students may be the best candidates to influence our nation into a greener direction. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24.4 percent of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree within the United States. With that number rising at a steady pace every year, new college graduates with good jobs and more disposable income than they have had before are looking for good cars.

    It is true that the average price for hybrids is more expensive than their gas-only counterparts, but with tax incentives that the government has put in place for hybrids and at today’s gas prices, the cost difference for many of these models are expected to be recouped within three years of ownership or sooner, depending on the amount they are driven, according to MSN autos.

    There are several types of hybrids to choose from. For a vehicle that uses the least amount of gas possible without sacrificing space, a Toyota Prius may be the best option. This four-door hatchback gets an estimated 60 miles per gallon in the city and 51 mpg on the highway. In need of an SUV? A Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid might be your best choice. Achieving an estimated 32 mpg on the highway, this vehicle is one of the lowest priced hybrids on the market.

    Also, as of this summer, both of the leading sedan makers, Honda and Toyota, have begun making optional hybrid models of the Accord and Camry, according to hybridcars.com.

    For those looking for more luxury, Lexus, Porsche, and Cadillac are throwing their hats in the pot as well. Lexus will debut their GS model this year, followed by the high-end LS hybrid next spring, while Porsche and Cadillac will unveil Cayenne and Escalade hybrids in the years to come, according to hybrids.com and USA Today.

    All of these choices prove that consumers may soon be able to be environmentally friendly, while not having to forgo their precious leather-trimmed interior and Mark Levinson audio system.

    Hybrids aren’t just good for you, they’re good for the environment and our nation. Not only will you spend less time at the pumps, allowing you to do more important things, but you will also be helping your environment by driving vehicles that release less smog into the atmosphere.

    Also, through these vehicles, America will become less dependent on foreign oil, much of which comes from politically unstable regions such as the Middle East. Who knows, maybe one day we will even see 40 mpg hybrid Hummers rolling around the streets.

    Glenton Richards is a senior radio-TV-film major from Carrollton.