The hybrid car points to a cleaner motoring future

The future of motoring is a cleaner one. Gone are the days of gas-guzzling vehicles - the car industry has had to shoulder some of the responsibility for the UK's carbon emissions, and this has given rise to the development of the hybrid car.

Motoring accounts for approximately 13 per cent of Britain's carbon emissions, a statistic that has caused the country's vehicle manufacturers to turn to innovative forms of technology so that the car can become more environmentally friendly without the driving experience being compromised.

Honda has been at the forefront of this development. Vehicles such as the CR-Z Hybrid are able to emit between 25 per cent and 35 per cent less carbon dioxide than standard petrol cars. While the driving experience is maintained, motorists driving a hybrid car can look forward to a whole range of other benefits.

Not only will they be doing their bit in the UK's efforts to move towards a low-carbon economy, but drivers can benefit from an exceptional fuel economy, a trait that means spending less money on fuel. A hybrid vehicle, as well as being good for the planet, is good for your wallet.

Imagine if more of us took responsibility for the cars we drive. While our own impact on the environment is relatively humble, the effects are far more marked if we all make changes. According to the Energy Saving Trust, for example, the UK's carbon emissions could be reduced by as much as a quarter if we all considered the cars we drive more carefully.

There are further financial benefits to driving a hybrid car. If you live or regularly drive in the city, you'll understand just how unpleasant pollution is, particularly on hot, muggy days. According to a study published by London mayor Boris Johnson last month, over 4,000 people die in London each year after being exposed to pollution over a number of years.

Most of this is preventable. The majority of fine particulate matter pollution comes from the internal combustion engine, so it's clear that engines need to become cleaner before pollution becomes an even more serious health concern. A separate report by the House of Commons' environmental audit committee revealed that as many as 50,000 deaths a year in the UK could be attributable to pollution.

By driving a hybrid vehicle in the capital, you'll not only be doing the locals' lungs a favour, but you'll be exempt from paying the Congestion Charge. What's more, any hybrid car driver will pay lower annual car tax bills, while the value of their vehicle is unlikely to depreciate too much over the years.

How so? Well, because the demand for hybrid cars is only just beginning to grow, there is likely to be an emergence of a second-hand hybrid vehicle market in the not-so-distant future. So when the time comes to upgrade your existing hybrid car with a newer model, you can look forward to cashing in ahead of making a new purchase.

Now that you understand a hybrid car's environmental and financial credentials, you might want to learn a little more about how the technology works. To an extent, the clue is in the name - a hybrid vehicle uses a combination of an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine. While this type of technology doesn't produce zero emissions - as an electric vehicle would - it does emit notably fewer pollutants than conventional vehicles, which is good news for everybody.

The CR-Z Hybrid is one of the most in-demand vehicles of its kind. Not only has it found a happy medium between quality driving and clean motoring, it has proved that hybrid cars can be sporty and exciting to drive. It has also shown that it's possible to own a sports car without having to feel guilty about its impact on the environment. Having been introduced in 2007, the CR-Z Hybrid's popularity appears to be going from strength to strength.

Hybrid cars do cater for other demographics. Families are among the most proactive groups in terms of taking responsibility for their environmental impact, particularly in regards to motoring, and the Insight Hybrid has allowed many to do just that.

The Honda model, which was officially the most popular car in Japan in April 2009, comes in the form of a five-door hatchback, a size ideal for smaller families. Whichever model you opt for, one thing you can be sure of is a quieter journey, especially when not travelling particularly quickly. During slow speeds, the electric motor will become operational instead of the petrol or diesel one, something that particularly comes in handy while driving in the city.

During the design process of its hybrid vehicles, Honda has recognised something rather unusual about the motor industry. Unlike other consumer products, which have tended to become smaller and more efficient over the years, most cars have grown large and require more fuel to run. Interestingly, and perhaps worryingly, the average car now weighs a third more than it did in the 1970s.

Fortunately, Honda has bucked this trend by producing smaller, more technologically-advanced hybrid vehicles that require far less fuel to run - without comprising a car's performance. Some hybrid vehicles are now able to go from zero to 60mph in just seven seconds, while the use of two energy sources means there is greater scope for driving performance to be improved further.

Very few of us are prepared to give up driving our cars completely, but it's up to all of us to understand the importance of driving responsibly in order to do your bit for the environment. This looks set to become easier in the future, particularly as vehicle manufacturers are now developing the first hybrid diesel cars, while the success of the hybrid petrol model has been proved right across the globe.

Perhaps now is the best time to consider investing in a hybrid car. Not only will you be doing your bank balance and the environment a favour, you'll be taking advantage of the latest in motoring technology, a type that is almost certain to go from strength to strength.

More on hybrid cars

Hybrid car
CR-Z Hybrid
Insight Hybrid

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