The Hybrid Buzz

With larger, business-task-friendly hybrids hitting the road, it's time to take a closer look at these fuel-efficient vehicles.

By Jill Amadio

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With larger, business-task-friendly hybrids hitting the road,it's time to take a closer look at these fuel-efficientvehicles.

Along with the Ford Escape and two full-sizepickups-Chevrolet's Silverado and GMC'sSierra-three hybrids-powered trucks will hit auto salesroomsin spring 2005: the Lexus RX400h, Toyota's Highlander and theDodge Ram.

The compact Escape is the first SUV to employ thegasoline/electric-powered engine, and sales are sizzling. Thetechnology uses a standard combustion gas engine teamed with anelectric motor to increase fuel mileage. While driving, theelectric motor is recharged by the gas engine, so you don'tneed to plug it in. A benefit for traveling businesspeople is thehybrid built-in generator's 110-volt outlet.

In 2006 and onward, the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs willadapt GM's Allison bus hybrid technology for greater power,performance and fuel economy. When Dodge introduces its Ram hybrid,the electric motor will be paired with a Cummins diesel engine, andentrepreneurs who travel with a portable generator can use theirRam power on job sites.

Several other manufacturers have hybrids on the drawing boardand close to development.

Hybrids are currently averaging from $1,500 to $2,000 more thanstandard models, and some dealers are slapping on even higherprices for the coveted vehicles. The bottom line, of course, isfuel economy. What are the savings? Depends on the weight of thevehicle and how much cargo and people you carry. On the Silveradoand Sierra, gas mileage is from 10 to 12 percent better thannon-hybrid models. The Escape achieves 36 mpg, compared to 18 mpgfor the non-hybrid version.

Jill Amadio is Entrepreneur's "Wheels"columnist.

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