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By Stephanie Ortega, JOUR 3000

One commodity that all college students in America are guilty of abusing is gasoline. Usually by the age of 16, the majority of people in America drive a car, and usually they own a car by age 18. This is a problem because oil is a precious resource that is disappearing rapidly and that may even be responsible for the war in Iraq. Even President George W. Bush finally admitted, in his 2006 State of the Union address, that America needs to become less dependant on imported oil and more efficient with new technology.

“ In 2001, imported oil accounted for 55 percent of U.S. consumption; this figure is projected to rise to 70 percent by 2020” according to hybridcar.com. For this to change, Americans must conserve, which means driving at lower speeds and buying fuel efficient automobiles. Some of of the most efficient so far are the hybrid cars.

The first gasoline-electric hybrid car was pioneered by Honda, which introduced it about two years ago. It was followed quickly by the Toyota Prius. “My parents bought me a Toyota Prius,” said Angela Salazar, a Colorado University student. “It has been one of the most rewarding investment we have ever made. This fuel efficient car helps me save money that I can use for other resources, like school books!”

Hybrid cars are fuel-efficient cars that use an electric motor and a gasoline engine. According to “Honda Insight 2001,” hybrid cars do not need to be plugged in to charge the battery. They actually charge while you drive them. Each time the brakes are applied, says the “Hybrid Car Guide,” the electric motor acts as a generator and charges the batteries while the car is slowing down. The hybrid car uses the best of both the electric- powered cars and gas powered cars. AAA says that the gas mileage on an average car is about 25 miles per gallon while a hybrid car can get about 42 mpg, which is a significant difference. Actually, AAA found that most EPA stickers show inflated fuel economy figures, but this will be changing due to the “Fuel Efficiency Truth-in-Advertising Act of 2005.”

The hybrid car, then, is a great way for students to conserve their money on gasoline as well as be environmentally friendly.

The current administration in Washington isn’t doing much to encourage hybrid car purchases, but many state and local governments are giving hybrid car customers many perks to help promote the use of the electric car, and some of these can be very enticing for the average college student. For example, in some states a single person driving a hybrid car can drive in the carpool lane. Traffic on American roads being what it is, and likely to get worse with time, this small advantage can not only help save on fuel costs but also personal time. “If I had the benefit of driving in the HOV lane during traffic, it would save me so much time, especially when I’m in a rush” said University of Hawai‘i student Kimberly Cantor.

Another advantage of hybrid cars over gasoline cars is the potential tax savings that can accompany their purchase. Again, there is no federal tax deduction, but numerous state have written tax deductions their tax codes. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) called this the clean-fuel tax deduction. The amount saved could substantially reduce the cost of the car in the long run.

Hybrid cars also benefit, according to the “Hybrid Car Guide,” from fuel-efficient engineering. For example, when the car is stopped in traffic, the engine temporarily shuts off. It restarts when the car is put back into gear, so no fuel is used during long traffic lights.

Hybrid cars are also engineered with advanced aerodynamic qualities to reduce drag from atmospheric friction, made with lightweight materials such as aluminum, and have low low rolling-resistance tires that reduce road drag. All of these reduce the amount of energy/fuel used.

College students have enough to think about without having to worry about their car’s negative effect on the environment. But we are are the future, and we are can make a change in our own bad habits, starting with conserving our natural resources, and at the same time save some money, if we make responsible environmental choices. Investing in a hybrid car can make an impact on our wallet as well as our environment, so when the time comes to look for a new car, make your choice a hybrid car.



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