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Why I drive a hybrid car

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POSTED: February 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Five years ago one person in Appling County owned a hybrid car. That was a man who had been mayor, a munificent ambassador who went around with pockets full of tie pens that read "Baxley."
When he wanted to sell his hybrid, nobody would buy it. He wasn't tired of owning the car. No, he wished to purchase the new hatchback model coming out, so he could throw his fishing rods in the back.
A used hybrid for sale? We had been saving money for one.
Mr. Baxley sold us his shiny white Prius (only 19,000 miles) for the list price, just over $12 grand. He even threw in the wooden-bead, back-massage seatcover.
Hybrids have gasoline engines, just like most cars. What sets them apart is an electric motor, powered by a huge battery. If you stop at a red light, the gas engine shuts off and triggers the electric one. Anytime you're driving the car less than maybe ten miles an hour, or going backwards, you're using electric. Otherwise, if you're on the highway, getting somewhere, you're burning gasoline.
One cool thing about the hybrid is a little computer screen on the dashboard that tells you how much gasoline you're using, minute-to-minute. A neon-green block goes up and down in a grid, from 0 to 100. If you're coasting, you're getting 100 mpg and the grid is all green. If you're passing a Corvette uphill, your green line is somewhere down near 10.
You can get into a game with yourself, trying to keep that green block up as high as possible. You learn to slow down and coast into stop signs. You learn to press the gas only as hard as the job requires. You try to go downhill.
Every teenager should be required to learn to drive in a hybrid.
Another figure at the bottom of the screen lets you know your average miles per gallon. That's the absolutely cool part. The average is usually around 45. Sometimes 50. I'm talking 50 miles per gallon.
My husband hand-lettered a sign that said, "50 mpg. What about you?" and leaned it in the back glass, but I covered the last part.
If you own a hybrid, you don't have to stick your credit card in a gas pump very often. In fact, we've nearly run out of gas more often than I care to remember, because the gauge creeps down so slowly it lulls you into forgetfulness.
Of course our car also causes global warming. (Or global climate chaos.) But it's a step in the right direction, and now our county has two of them.

Ray sometimes gives up her car for a bicycle on the roads of rural south Georgia.
 

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