I'm hooked on hybrids! I recently shared in my magazine column my newfound love of hybrid cars (environmentally friendly, gas-efficient, easier on the pocketbook) and how proud my husband, Greg, and I were to incorporate green ethics into our annual summer holiday plans.Around this time last year I was spending hours hunkered down at the kitchen table with maps and four-colour brochures plotting out our vacation (originally we planned to fly out east). Then one day we were invited to try Nissan's Altima Hybrid. How could I say no? That's how our ultimate road trip began. When I went to pick up the vehicle, I was impressed that even with its sporty design, it offered tons of room, making it comfortable to drive, and had an ample trunk for the necessities one needs when making the ultimate road trip. At first, I was unnerved by the "Intelligent Key" system, which recognizes your key (looks like a car door opener) as you're approaching the car and with the tap of a button on the door handle or trunk allows you to unlock the car. Once inside the car, when you're ready to go you push the button ignition and you're off (no key required!). The Altima's hybrid energy drive shares work duties between an ultra-clean gasoline-powered 158 HP 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine and emissions-free 40 HP electric motor. When I pressed the push button ignition I was stunned by the silence as the Altima starts up and begins accelerating in "EV" mode, running solely on the electric motor. (I actually had to open the door and stick my head out, because I couldn't hear the engine and thought that I had somehow stalled the car.) As you continue to drive the gasoline engine starts instantly and takes over powering the vehicle. When you need more power, the electric motor starts again and works with the gasoline engine. The gasoline engine automatically shuts down when it isn't needed (at stoplights, low speeds or when you're coasting), relying on the electric motor, maximizing fuel and minimizing the impact on the environment. The best part? We drove over 3,000 kilometres on our road adventure and used one-third of the gas that we would have if we had used our own 6-cylinder vehicle. Over a 14-day period, we travelled from Toronto to Quebec City, then on to Moncton, across to Halifax and eventually made our way to Charlottetown. While in Prince Edward Island we travelled the entire island. While away, we made a point of eating locally grown/harvested foods; shopped at local farmers markets; and while we were in major cities, walked as much as possible. P.E.I. still at the top of my faves list for their green efforts: Prince Edward Island impressed me once again as a frontrunner in their green efforts. 18 per cent of the island's energy comes from renewable wind energy; there are strict rules and regs about composting and recycling (and have been for years before many of the other provinces); P.E.I. is the first place in North America to offer a guaranteed price for electricity from wind energy. In general, when driving from province to province, it's encouraging to see the efforts that are being made by residents and provincial governments to become more environmentally friendly. I do think that governments need to continue to make more efforts to encourage all of us to make a bigger effort when it comes to waste reduction and becoming more environmentally savvy (hey, how about tax cuts!) and come down harder on those of us who are not doing all we can to make this a cleaner, healthier planet.
Have you driven a hybrid car? Share your thoughts in the comments.Today's code word: hybrid Read more: • Cut your gas usage by up to 30 per cent • Ecotourism: How to make your vacations greener • Is Canada eco-friendly? Surprising ways we are... and aren't