Listen to part of a lecture in an engineering class.
Professor: Well, hybrid cars aren’t anything new. They’ve been around in one form or another since the early seventies during the oil crunch in the U.S. Pre-seventies, most Americans believed in the false notion that oil reserves were unlimited and would always be there to provide a cheap source of fuel for their gas-guzzling cars. Well, the limited supplies in the seventies, along with the high prices that came along with them, were a huge wake-up call for many people. Many scientists and engineers realized that there would be a need to develop alternative power sources for automobiles, which, in effect, they did.
The problem though soon became twofold for early hybrid projects. Number one, oil imports again increased to normal levels, so the price of a gallon of gas became inexpensive again. Number two, hybrid technology was archaic as was battery technology. Hybrid cars were simply too ambitious and expensive in the seventies and eighties, and they were, for the most part, put on the backbumer. Enter the late eighties and nineties and the discovery of the greenhouse effect and the damage fossil fuels are doing to the environment, not to mention the increased reliance on foreign supplies of oil. Again, hybrids came onto the transportation scene as a viable alternative to traditional gas-buming cars. Today, the technology has caught up, in the cases of batteries and storing energy, and has made hybrids, especially plug-in hybrids, important players in the car industry. Uh, yes, question?
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Student: I get hybrid, meaning the car uses both gas and electricity to run. But what do you mean by plug-in hybrid?
Professor: Well, that’s a good question. To answer, it is exactly what it sounds like. When energy or battery sources are low, you simply plug your car into any standard electrical outlet to charge it back up, just like your cell phone or MP3 player. Pretty cool, huh? Sure, the technology is there, and a number of companies, such as Toyota and Honda, have had models out on the market for a number of years.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of a plug-in hybrid car. One of the most obvious is that they save you money. Sure, they might cost a few thousand more than a gas burner, but they save you money in the
long run. Studies have shown that it costs the equivalent of about a buck a gallon to recharge a plug-in hybrid’s energy tank. That’s a third of the cost of a gallon of gas right now. This cost could eventually come down even more to about twenty-five cents per gallon, especially if the individual recharges his car at night, when electric companies discount their rates. Now, compare this to a non-hybrid car, which generally costs about twenty-five cents per mile to drive. That’s a huge savings in favor of the plug-in hybrid, isn’t it?
More advantages of the hybrid? Okay. They are highly fuel efficient, or, I should say, rather, energy efficient. When the car moves, electricity is used, but when it doesn’t, energy is stored. This is in direct contrast with gas-buming cars, which bum lots of fuel even when they’re stopped at a red light. Think about how much gas is wasted just when cars are idling! And all that wasted fuel contributes to the greenhouse effect. How about reduced emissions? When you own a plug-in hybrid, you are contributing to a cleaner, not a more polluted, environment. Plug-in hybrids have at least seventy percent lower emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide compared to non-hybrid, gas-thirsty, environment-damaging cars. We should accept the responsibility of saving the environment by eschewing non-hybrid cars for the more environmentally friendly plug-in hybrid.
Are there any more questions at this point…? No, great, then I’ll continue. Another important advantage of the plug-in hybrid car is that it will make the consumer more energy independent. What I mean is that users will no longer be slaves to fossil fuels and the export policies of foreign oil suppliers. They won’t have to be part of the roller coaster ride of the world oil markets and have to worry about rising fuel costs and supply. Plus, as more and more people purchase plug-in hybrids, the demand and pressures on fossil fuels such as oil will decrease. And, let me give you a little preview of what is to come in the future. Engineers are working on a new generation of hybrids that will run completely from solar or wind–generated power. If people are willing to pay the extra couple thousand dollars on the sticker price at first, they will reap the rewards of the most energy-efficient cars, which will run on clean systems, not ones which emit harmful gases into the atmosphere.
Listen to part of a conversation between a student and a housing employee.
Employee: Good afternoon. What brings you down to the Housing Office?
Student: Well, I just got the key to my dorm room, and I must say that I’m incredibly disappointed with it. It’s got so many things wrong with it that I don’t even know where to begin.
Employee: I see. Why don’t you have a seat there and tell me what exactly is wrong with your room? To begin with, what’s your name, and which dorm are you assigned to?
Student: My name is Sheila Patterson. Pm a second-year student here, and I am supposed to live in West Hall. My room number is 407.
Employee: Okay, I’ve got all that information typed into the computer here. According to my records, your room should be in perfect condition. So… What exactly is wrong with your dorm room?
Student: Well, there is a whole list of things. I hope you’re taking notes as I speak. First, when my roommate and I checked in, we discovered that there was only one key. We’re supposed to have two… you know, one for each of us, but there was just that one.
Employee: Hmm… That happens from time to time. But we can rectify that in a matter of hours. What else is the matter?
Student Okay, once we got into the room, I had to wait around a couple of hours until Mary showed up with the key, by the way. Anyway, once I got in the room, I noticed that there was mold growing both on the walls and in my closet. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that you guys had cleaned the rooms thoroughly.
Employee: Yeah, I don’t know what to say to that. It sounds like we need to send someone from Buildings and Grounds over to clean up your room. Well, if that’s everything, then I think we can make the necessary arrangements.
Student Actually, I’m not quite yet finished. There’s one more problem that came up. Cockroaches. I saw a couple of them in the room. I really think that you need to get someone to fumigate the room for us.
Employee: Okay, I’ll get on that right away. I’m terribly sorry about this. These things just sometimes happen, and you were the unlucky one this year.
Student: It’s all right. I understand that there are a lot of dormitories, so it’s hard to keep track of everything. I do have one request though.
Employee: Sure. Go ahead and ask.
Student Where can I stay until my room gets cleaned up? I can’t stay there with all those problems, and I definitely don’t want to be there or even have my stuff in there when the exterminator comes.
Employee: Good point. Our policy is to put you up in a local hotel until all your problems are solved. We’ll also reimburse you for your travel expenses back and forth from the hotel to the school. Just make sure that you keep the receipts for everything.
Student: Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.
Employee: Well, we messed up, so the least we can do is make sure that you and your roommate’s time away from school is as comfortable as possible.