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Paynesville Press - July 21, 2004

Hybrid cars hit roads in Paynesville

By Kayla Welle

Laughing as he drives past gas stations is Willie Scheel's favorite thing about his new hybrid car. Since it averages between 50 and 60 miles per gallon, Scheel stops for gas much less frequently now.

Scheel, a longtime Paynesville resident, and Dwaine Lindberg, a longtime summer resident on Lake Koronis, both purchased a hybrid car recently. Coincidently, both own a 2004 Toyota Prius, which was named Motor Trend's 2004 Car of the Year.

While they bought them for different reasons, they both agree that hybrid cars are the future.

Scheel believes that because technology is always getting more and more advanced, the hybrid cars will be the future.

monitor The biggest reason that Lindberg bought his hybrid car was because it's more environmentally friendly. Hybrid cars are less dependent on crude oil, explained Lindberg, who also can be seen biking in his recumbent bicycle around town.

A computer screen serves a variety of purposes in a hybrid car, including showing how much power is coming from the gas engine and how much from the electric motor.

"Hybrid cars offer less pollutants and double the gas mileage," he said. "But, it still doesn't compare with my bike," he joked.

Scheel and his wife Gloria said they got a hybrid "just to try it out." According to Scheel, he had read about the car and its benefits in Popular Mechanics and decided to give it a shot.

Hybrid cars combine technology from regular cars, powered by gasoline or diesel engines, and electric cars, powered by an electric motor. A hybrid car has both an electric motor and a gasoline engine, making it more fuel efficient.

Unlike electric cars, hybrid cars do not need to be plugged in to charge their battery, Scheel said. Instead, hybrid cars are constantly recharging their battery using kinetic energy. When the brakes are applied or when a hybrid car is decelerating, that energy is used to charge the battery. If you are going down a mountain and you have your brakes on the whole time, you will be charging your battery the whole time, Scheel said, as an example.

So unlike electric cars it is convenient to drive hybrid cars on long trips. The Scheels have already driven their car to Colorado and to Louisiana.

Scheel A hybrid car runs on its electric motor until it reaches seven or eight miles per hour, then its gasoline engine starts, giving it more power and speed than an electric car.

Since they purchased their 2004 Toyota Prius, Willie and Gloria Scheel of Paynesville have taken it on trips to Colorado and Louisiana.

Hybrid cars get nearly twice the gas mileage as some gasoline-powered cars, Lindberg said. It's a happy medium between a gas-powered car and an electric car, he added. There is no plugging in, yet it gets great gas mileage.

While all modern cars use computers, their hybrid cars have an actual computer screen that shows a variety of controls such as temperature, fuel efficiency, and how much power the car is getting from its gas engine and its electric motor. Lindberg's computer even has an optional navigational system that can give verbal driving directions to a given address.

Scheel and Lindberg can actually start their cars by merely pushing a button, instead of using their key for ignition. Lindberg's car recognizes his key - even in his pocket - and unlocks the doors automatically

. One disadvantage of hybrid cars is that repair shops for them are still scarce, Lindberg said, since they aren't very popular in this area yet. Due to a deer accident, Lindberg has already experienced the repair end of the spectrum. He said that the body work is probably the same as any other car, but the computer repairs were much more technical.

Scheel got his Prius in April after a six-week wait. The waits for different colors and packages, Scheel said, were much longer. Lindberg, who got his Prius in mid-June, also had a short wait because of his color and package choices.

They paid a similar amount to any new car, both felt, while they expect to save gas money.

Both Scheel and Lindberg are very happy with their new cars, which ride just as nice, they said, if not better than their old vehicles, especially past gas stations.

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