New automotive technologies help offer hybrid features at lower cost

MARQUETTE — The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute released the results of a study last week that found an increased interest in hybrid vehicles from drivers who did not own a hybrid. The Institute reports that of the 1,000 drivers of traditional vehicles polled, 31% planned to make their next vehicle a hybrid. A third of drivers in the study said that they were not considering hybrids at all, but those who would reconsider that decision cited initial lower costs as a factor that could change their minds.

New technological developments are helping to make hybrid vehicles more affordable while simultaneously expanding the definition of a hybrid.

“The word ‘hybrid’ is actually an umbrella of technologies which, the goal is really to get the car more fuel efficient,” Frei Chevrolet owner Jim Grundstrom said. “So, it is the fuel delivery system. It is the ability to run on electricity. It is the ability to run on electricity and gasoline, minimizing gasoline, those kinds of things. Hybrid, to me, is not necessarily a specific car or a specific brand, but it’s the whole thought process of what it is we are trying to accomplish, and that is to get the car to be more fuel efficient going down the road.”

Newer hybrid systems, such as the start-stop technology included in some General Motors vehicles, are allowing for reduction of battery sizes, which ultimately helps to shrink sticker prices.

“Rather than a giant battery underneath the back seat, which historically a lot of hybrids had or have, we have now a small battery, which allows you to buy a car that is actually less expensive, with a battery that gets you to come up to a stop sign, and when you put your foot on the brake and the car stops moving, the gas engine actually stops running, but the battery in the trunk keeps the car running as though the gas engine’s on,” Grundstrom said.

Similar technological advancements have given customers various other options as well, including the almost fully-electric Chevrolet Volt or high-efficiency clean diesel cars.