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Gas prices leading people to hybrid powered vehicles

There are places to go. Jobs to do. And driving gets us there--- so far, no matter how high gas prices go.

Dr. Glen Prater

"We're seeing continued rise in gas prices create a niche. A number of technologies are moving in to fill the niche and one of those is hybrid vehicle technology."

Dr. Glen Prater heads the mechanical engineering department at the University of Louisville. He says the new hybrid vehicles ring in a new era in car-making.

Prater continues

"In the auto industry it's unsettling because if you spent your career designing gas powertrains this is outside your professional experience. On the other hand, you have vehicles for the first time in a century fundamentally different than what we're driving, what we see on the roads."

By combining a gas engine with an electric motor and battery power, hybrid vehicles give better gas mileage and release fewer emissions.

More from Dr. Prater

"Modern gas powertrains are low emissions, efficient. But as fuel costs continue to climb it opens a market niche for technology right now more expensive and complicated, but in the long run might yield lower costs."

In 2004, 80 thousand hybrid units were sold by three major car makers. Experts expect that to at least double this year. Prater says hybrids available today mark the beginning of alternative power for vehicles. Many car makers are working on fuel cell technology using hydrogen, although that technology is several years from being consumer ready.

Prater again

"They're proving the technology, trying to prepare the market for a broader acceptance."

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