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The Year of the Hybrid by Peter Johnson

Every once in a while a life-changing product is introduced yet it's potential is lost on the public and it's viewed as a novelty or fad. It took 10 years for anyone to become interested in the invention of the photocopier. Perhaps the only people that can see the full potential of an invention are the people who designed it. When the telephone was introduced a mayor of one American City stated, "I can see the time when every city will have one." Looking back it's easy to see how some people aren't forward thinkers.

Just a few years ago many industry pundits viewed hybrids as an over-priced fad. At the time America's appetite for large SUV's was only getting stronger leaving no love hybrids. Though no one could argue that hybrids were better for the environment and far more fuel efficient, consumers were interested in fully loaded Ford Explorers. With oil at $40 a barrel, nobody was interested in paying thousands more for a vehicle that got better fuel mileage. It's taken some time (the Prius is almost 10 years old) but the hybrid movement has finally caught on with mainstream consumers. How times have changed over the last 5 years. Sales of the Ford Explorer were down 42% in April while sales of the Ford Escape Hybrid were up 68%. With gas flirting at $3.00 a gallon consumers are more interested in hybrids then ever before. So interested that automakers are having a difficult time keep up with demand.

As gas prices continue to move upward and onward, hybrids save their owners more money. According to the EPA, a V6 Ford Escape driven 15,000 miles a year will use $2085 worth of unleaded regular (at $2.91 a gallon). The Escape Hybrid will use $1415 worth of fuel, an annual saving of $670. Assuming gas prices stay the same, it'll only take about 3 years to recoup the cost. And if gas prices go up (which is very likely), you'll save even more money. But the deal is even sweeter with a variety of tax incentives for those who purchase a hybrid vehicle. And many cities allow hybrids to use the carpool lanes. This can be priceless (the good kind) if you live in a busy urban area, or priceless (the bad kind) if you don't.
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