A growing dependence on imported oil - A growing dependence...

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A growing dependence on imported oil, along with a heightened concern about the environment, has led to my increased interest in electric cars as an alternative to traditional gas-powered automobiles. True electric vehicles do not seem to achieve the requirements of the American car-buying public because of their high cost, which can be up to $30,000 or more for a compact car (Motavalli 2). Battery systems for electric vehicles are improving, but with their limited range of travel, they are still not feasible for most people. In addition, I believe that the average person making the decision to purchase environmentally friendly vehicles would demand that those vehicles be comfortable, attractive, convenient, and affordable to purchase and maintain. Newly available automotive technology, known as hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), appears to fill these requirements. Hybrid power systems were conceived as a way to compensate for the shortfall in battery technology (Office of Transportation Technologies, HEV program). Hybrid electric vehicles recharge as you drive, get approximately double the miles per gallon of gas than current vehicles (Toyota, technology) and can be refueled at any gas station. Each hybrid vehicle will produce thousands fewer pounds of pollutants than the vehicles currently on the road. According to Department of Energy estimates, a hybrid car driven 12,000 miles per year will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 4,700 pounds over its predecessor, says the National Resources Defense Council article on earth smart cars.(National Resources Defense Council, cars of today and tomorrow). There are currently only two hybrid electric vehicles on the U.S. market (Motavalli 3). The Honda Insight was the first hybrid electric vehicle to be available for public purchase in the United States. The Honda Insight is a two-seat sporty car that has earned the best EPA mileage rating in history, rated at 61 miles per gallon in the city and 68 miles per gallon on the highway (Honda 6). Because of its size, however, I do not believe the Insight is practical for the average person. When I sat in the driver's seat of the Honda Insight, it felt small and insubstantial, which led me to question the safety and durability
of this car. In addition, I believe that people who are looking for a sports car are not the same people who will make environmental and fuel efficiency a priority over looks and power. The Toyota Prius, on the other hand, is a five-passenger vehicle that equates in size to a Toyota Corolla. The Prius has been sold in Japan since 1997 (Motavalli 3), but has only recently been available in the United States. While the Toyota Prius has a slightly lower EPA mileage rating of 50 miles per gallon in the city and 40 miles per gallon on the highway than the Honda Insight, I believe it is more likely to be widely accepted because it is larger then the Insight and thus more appealing to the environmentally aware family person. Priced at just over $20,000, the Prius is comparable once again to the Toyota

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