The Many Benefits of Owning a Hybrid

Most people have specific reasons for owning a hybrid vehicle. Whether it is to follow a trend, go green, or find some relief at the gas pump, hybrid owners enjoy a multitude of benefits once they get through the initial investment. The cost of a hybrid vehicle today is much more competitively priced with regular vehicles. While they may be a little more, the prices have certainly come down over the past few years. With this being said, the cost of the vehicle itself is justified by most hybrid owners. There have also been others automotive manufacturers following in the footsteps of the Toyota Prius, adding choice to the hybrid vehicle market. Most manufacturers have at least one model available in a hybrid and the technology has come a long way. Consumer Reports state, however, that the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid still account for over 50% of hybrid vehicle sold in this country. Some of the higher end luxury manufacturers have introduced hybrid models which are still high in price but come with advanced technology and unique features.

Financial savings is one of the most popular reasons a driver purchases a hybrid vehicle. Because they are so much more fuel efficient, with some getting up to 50mpg in fuel economy, annual fuel costs add up to hundreds of dollars in savings. Over a few years, this can make back money from the initial investment that could have been slightly more money than regular vehicles of the same model or family. When gas prices spiked dramatically several years ago, even more savings were seen at the gas pump and many hybrid owners were thrilled that their investment had paid off sooner than planned. Hybrid owners can also save money on car insurance. A lot of insurance companies offer instant discounts and lowered premiums simply for owning a hybrid vehicle. Some of these insurance companies have added hybrid vehicle divisions to work specifically with owners who drive green.

The “Go Green” trend made hybrid vehicles popular as well and many people wanted a hybrid vehicle because it was exciting to be a part of such a movement as well as to support the environment. The number of hybrid vehicles available has seen the greatest rise in the last couple years due to the increase in popularity and demand. One of the unique reasons that hybrids are better for the environment than regular cars is actually because a hybrid car with two energy sources is actually better for the environment than traditional cars with only one source – gasoline. Hybrid vehicles are also better for the environment because they let out fewer emissions. When gas is burned to produce energy for vehicles, carbon monoxide is created and in turn released into the environment (and the air we breathe). With hybrid cars, though, much less of this dangerous carbon monoxide is released into the atmosphere, therefore reducing emissions and air pollution supporting the go green trend.

A hybrid vehicle works with two sources of energy. Hybrid electric vehicles combine both traditional gasoline engines and electric motors. They are called hybrids because they use both a small internal combustion engineand an electric motor to obtain maximum performance with minimum emissions as mentioned above. They can also give you better fuel economy, increased power, or even additional power to run tools or electric devices from. Some of the advanced technologies that hybrids now come with include regenerative braking, electric motor drive assistance, and automatic start or shutoff. With regenerative braking, the electric motor applies the resistance to the drivetrain system which then causes the wheels to slow. In contrast, the energy from the wheels turn the motor and converts energy which would normally be wasted during braking or coasting. The energy is converted into electricity which is then stored in the battery until it is needed by the electric motor. Some vehicles are called “parallel hybrids.” They use both the electric motor and the ICE for propulsion. They can run at the same time or one can be used as the primary source of power. The other source of power can kick in when extra is needed, for example when accelerating, driving up steep hills, or when passing other vehicles. The word parallel comes from the fact that they can run simultaneously.

There are tax benefits and other financial benefits enjoyed by hybrid owners as well. Some buyers of hybrid vehicle may automatically qualify for income tax credits, depending on their state. When doing your taxes, it is always a good idea to discuss this with your accountant or tax professional to see if you quality for a tax break due to purchasing a hybrid vehicle that previous tax year. In some states, this hybrid tax credit is quite substantial. In Arizona, there are multiple tax credits and incentives for owning a hybrid. For example, a tax credit up to $75 is available to individuals for the installation of a PEV charging outlet in a house unit that they have built. To qualify for this tax credit, the outlet must meet certain codes and standards. To receive this, it is not even necessary to own a hybrid. Also in Arizona is the parking incentive for alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). This states that drivers of AFVs may park without penalty in parking areas that are designated for carpool operators provided the vehicle is using alternative fuel. So what qualifies as alternative fuel? According to the United States Department of Energy, alternative fuels include natural gas, propane, hydrogen, electricity, or a blend of hydrogen with propane or natural gas. Likewise, there is a reduced alternative fuel vehicle license tax which states that the initial tax on an AFV is lower than the initial license tax on a regular vehicle. Many states have also begun to introduce programs for hybrid owners where they can get free HOV passes and special parking passes as mentioned above. The free HOV passes can save small amounts of money but are still something to be enjoyed by hybrid owners and reduces the worry of driving in an HOV lane without getting pulled over. There are several other notifications, exemptions, and minimum requirements that hybrid drivers should be aware of to save money in regards to tax credits or incentives.

Many people believe that the maintenance of a hybrid vehicle is much more expensive and frequent than a conventional vehicle. This is not necessarily true according to many hybrid mechanics. More important than anything is to have trained mechanics do the work. There is not more work for a hybrid vehicle but is certainly is crucial that you hire someone who understands the complex and complicated systems of a hybrid. Maintenance of hybrid and plug-in vehicles are very similar to regular vehicle maintenance. Manufacturers can provide recommendations and suggestions for service interval schedules in your manual. Because hybrid electric vehicles have small internal combustion engines, maintenance is required to ensure performance and safety. The electrical system (including the battery) may be the only system which requires different service. Because of regenerative braking, those brakes actually tend to last longer than conventional vehicles meaning they won’t need quite as much attention either.

Hybrid batteries are the center of the biggest debate on the function and value of hybrid vehicles. Today, hybrid batteries are designed to last between 100,000 and 150,000 miles, typically the lifetime of the vehicle or at least for the length of time most drivers will have the same vehicle. However, the advanced batteries in hybrids have a limited number of charging cycles and can decrease in performance, power, or charge over time. Some drivers also see a decrease in fuel economy when their battery suffers. If the battery needs to be replaced outside of the warranty package, the cost could be significant – several thousands of dollars. This is what the debate centers around – are replacement batteries eco-friendly? What happens to the old battery? How much energy does it take to produce extra hybrid batteries? Although battery prices are expected to decline over the next several years thanks to advanced technology and production volume increases, battery replacement may not always be the best choice in hybrids.

Battery conditioning is another service unique to hybrid vehicles. Some repair shops also charge thousands of dollars, but there are some repair shops (one in Arizona) that will give the same results for a savings of up to 70%. This service of conditioning the battery pack used to mean battery pack testing without any replacement of parts. There is no hardware or battery module components replaced in battery conditioning. It typically regenerates the battery back to between 95%-98% life and many environmentalists support this because it doesn’t require additional battery packs or old battery packs harming the environment. Once the battery pack has been removed from the vehicle, specialized equipment is connected and testing begins for both power capability and the battery modules. Data is collected for analysis and diagnostics. About 8 out of 10 batteries could actually benefit from battery pack conditioning rather than battery replacement, something dealerships do not tell owners.

Making the decision to own a hybrid usually leads to many benefits that you can begin enjoying from the time you drive away from the dealership. Maximum power and performance, eco-friendly features, fewer emissions, and financial savings from tax incentives and fuel economy advantages make driving a hybrid a great choice. Gas prices are still high these days and commuting to and from work can get expensive. The average commute for the 128.3 million American commuters is estimated to be around a half an hour each way. Your commute may not seem quite so bad when you can reach up to 50 mpg in fuel economy. Finding the right auto repair shop to experts to maintain and repair your hybrid vehicle is an essential part of owning one, optimizing performance, power, and lifetime. Now seems to be the time to buy a hybrid because of lower sticker prices, more choices, improved technology and durability, and all of the other benefits discussed above.

The Jolly Green Revolution – A Take on Present Day ‘Green’ Consumption Phenomena

The “Green” phenomenon if I may call it that, seems to have sprouted recently. In reality, it’s been an ongoing cycle, rather a wheel with spokes that represent different avenues of ‘green’ resources connected to the hub that powers the ongoing process. It’s just that those seemingly varied categories have come together and formed one-big ‘mulch-ball’ if you will, that’s rolling and impacting every aspect of our earthly existence.

It’s the ‘Jolly-Green Re-Cycle Cycle’! It seems like that ‘Jolly Green’ is affecting everyone in some way. We’re ‘going green’ either because we truly believe that it is the best way to preserve our natural resources and that it’s the best way to stay healthy, wealthy and wise. Or because, in ‘going green’ we would be rewarded in cash, credit or kind. And what a competition this phenomenon has stirred up in the commercial world!

Today, there’s a ‘green’ alternative for everything. For electronics, there are those ‘energy star’ appliances. Motorized lawn mowers have the reel-push manual counterparts competing to woo the consumer. To conserve energy we have energy-saver light bulbs as well as solar powered ones. The automobile industry which is struggling to keep it’s head above water is putting up a fight to compete in the contest to bring out the best-ever, energy-saving bio-fuel or electric car. Kudos to those automobile companies that are coming out with an impressive number of ‘green’ choices by way of rides.

Needless to say, we the ‘jolly green’ zombies will ‘dress to impress’. Yes, we will just ‘need’ to buy that new toy (oh, excuse me, electric car), to impress the management of our firm (specially if we’re getting the pay-off for the car) or just to make our next-door neighbor envious of our possessions. Enough said about the automobile industry – for goodness’ sake, what would we do without our cars? Going back to the ‘dress to impress’ part, there’s clothing that’s organic (USDA certified) cotton or silk to appeal to our sense of comfort and health and appealing to the broad notion that synthetic ingredients used to produce artificial fabric fibers are not suitable for sensitive skin types. This might apply to clothing we wear or bedspreads and bedsheets used in our bedrooms. Talking about sensitive skin, there are resources all over the Internet for ‘baby organic’ clothing and bedding, organic baby food and baby bath products to protect the health of our precious little ones!

For interior decor we can choose from an immense collection of handicrafts which are made, not by power-consuming machines but by artisans and human hands, from natural resources like bamboo, jute fibers, clay pottery, organic cotton, boiled silk fibers, and the list goes on. Even buildings are now being built ‘green’ and this involves environmental design keeping in mind energy and water efficiency and minimal consumption of natural resources.

Visit the garden section in any hardware or departmental store and you’ll find alternative plant food and fertilizers beside the chemical-loaded ones, organic soils, compost and kits and bins to start your own, even re-cycled planters as opposed to synthetically produced ones. For any of these and other products to be considered ‘green’ there are basic guidelines that are used to finally grade them as energy efficient, environmentally beneficial, naturally derived, re-cycle-able and ecologically safe.

Touching the core of human existence, food sources are categorized as natural, organic, farm-grown, as opposed to ‘genetically-altered’ vegetables, ‘hormone-injected’ meat, processed meats, refined grains and flours. The recent norm is ‘home-grown-organic’ which is supposedly even safer than farm-grown organic. And to propagate this belief, local neighborhoods and townships encourage ‘buy from your neighbor’ programs that help folks who grow their own vegetables to profit and benefit from their labor by selling and buying from each other. Is the ‘Go-Green’ phenomenon here to stay? From ‘curly’ lights and hybrid cars to ‘organic’ decor, clothing and food, even businesses are leading the way to ‘go green’. Yes..we are in the midst of a green revolution, for the better..or for the worse of the world’s massive population whether it be in terms of ethical, hygienic, or even religious implications.

Jot Down Your RC Car’s Numbers

Think of the most important tool you need for your RC car both on and off track. If you answered the motor, tires or battery then you didn’t get it right. Perhaps, the mentioned objects have their own designated purpose and task for a remote controlled car but for the hobbyist itself, a pen and paper are two of the greatest tools ever.

Really, the pen and paper are the useful when dealing with RC cars. There is no joke here since listing down the numbers of your RC car is the subject; nothing else can do it better. Have you ever thought of experimenting before? If you have, surely you have also thought of writing down everything you discover, right? This is actually the same point why securing a written record of your RC car and its performance is very important.

Regardless RC cars, trucks, planes and buggies are customized or not; they all have individual standard measurement. Along the way, you will need to change some parts of your RC car to make it run faster and perform better. It can be the tires, the distance from the main body, the height and others. Elements such as the batteries, caster, running temperatures and many others are also important in the performance of your RC car.

If you still can’t see why writing down these things are extremely important in having RC cars as a hobby; try to imagine a time you test-drive your RC car down a rough path you are not familiar with (granting you haven’t written down the numbers of your RC car and performance for that particular time of the day), when a huge rock came rolling down the hill and missed your RC car by centimeters. Pretend the rear part has been altered from its original state. How do you solve this problem?

The point is, anything that can significantly affect your RC car’s performance is important in improving it. So, for the scenario given above (although we’re not saying that it will likely happen), if you have put your entire RC car’s numbers in to writing, it wouldn’t be such a big problem. All you have to do is turn to your record, and replace everything damaged according to what you have taken note of.

Scooters the Terminology

I thought a kids’ scooter was just that, a kids’ scooter; you went out choose your model and bingo, you have a great scooter, but according to my kids this is not the case. Once we have the chosen one we then have to customise it to get it the best it can be. I was pretty lost at first when my kids started talking about clamps, decks and pegs to go on the scooter, but now I can almost talk to them about the latest wheels or new deck tape. So for newbies to the scooter world or us mums out there who need to be in the know below is a breakdown of the more common scooter terms.

ABEC Bearings

Are you confused about what an ABEC rating means? ABEC is an acronym for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee of the AFBMA (Anti-Friction Bearing Manufacturers Association Inc). The ABEC grades of bearings, is a set of standards for the manufacturing tolerances of bearings. All quality manufacturers around the world manufacture to at least ABEC 1 standard. You will get ABEC ratings of 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. The higher the rating the better the bearings, that said as these bearing standards also apply to anything with bearings in them, like cars, unless you are able to scoot faster than a racing car anything above ABEC1 will not affect your speed. What will affect your speed is how you look after your wheels and bearings. Regularly oil or grease the bearings to maintain life and keep you scooting as fast as you can.

PU wheels and Urethane wheels.

PU stands for Polyurethane. Polyurethane is a high-grade thermoplastic elastomer, bridging the gap between rubber and traditional thermoplastic wheels. They are often used on scooters because they are stronger and smoother. Urethane wheels will give a very long service life as urethane has good abrasion resistance, with brilliant grip with the ground, but will glide when you push, so although they are solid you are still able to get some speed behind you. If you are seeking a high performance wheel a clear wheel will be best as it has had no dyes or pigments added that can affect the properties of urethane.

The Deck and Grip Tape

This is the part of the scooter that the rider stands on, called the deck, deck plate or foot plate. You can buy new decks from most brands of scooters. Grip tape is cut to fit the deck of the scooter to give better grip to the rider and comes in a wide variety of colours and patterns.

Collar Clamps and Pegs

Collar Clamps sit at the base of the scooter bars and give a scooter extra strength in this area which is especially important when performing tricks and stunts. Clamps come in different levels from a single to a quad clamp, depending on the extra strength required. Clamps come in various colours, brands and sizes. Some kids make a statement and stack several clamps on their scooter bar. Before purchasing new clamps make sure they will fit the scooter bar, as scooters bars and clamps come in different sizes. Scooter pegs are also referred to as stunt pegs they are positioned on the front or rear of the scooter by being threaded onto the wheels. They help the rider perform difficult or new stunts and tricks.

Electric Scooters

These are a range of scooters that are powered by a motor, with a thumb throttle to start it up. Most of the electric scooters for kids around today are eco-friendly and best of all quite. They can travel at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour and can last around 40 minutes of continuous use when fully charged. Some brands even offer folding handlebars for easy storage. They are great fun for kids and adults alike but will not let you perform the tricks or stunts of a push scooter.