Everybody’s got some phobia. Heights? Confined spaces? Naked mole rats?

For me it’s Ryan Seacrest.

I start watching something on television and Seacrest pops up as host, well, I just might need medication.

The phobia that I find most interesting, however, is the one some people display when you ask them to consider purchasing a hybrid.

Of course, there are many hybrid converts, and their numbers are increasing as we speak. But there seems to be this sizeable group that is prone to hanging garlic cloves and a crucifix on their doors whenever they see a hybrid in the neighbourhood. And the rationale for their fears usually comes down to preconceived notions about the electric drivetrain — that it is complicated, difficult and expensive to repair, and not reliable and/or durable for the long haul.

But judging from the experience of taxicabs in Western Canada, nothing could be further from the truth.

Operators in Victoria and Vancouver were among the first anywhere to use Toyota Prius models as taxi vehicles.

Legend has it that the first hybrid cab pioneer was Andrew Grant of Vancouver. Back in 2001, he put a first-generation Prius on the road for taxi duty. His experience convinced his colleagues to also take up the cause. Before long, cities on Canada’s west coast, and then Calgary, and then Winnipeg, were all crawling with Prius taxicabs.

Driving this development were, are, three factors: Fuel efficiency (particularly in city driving); battery packs that last longer than anyone would have predicted; and significantly reduced repair and maintenance costs.

Those skeptical of hybrid battery life base their notions on batteries in computers or cellphones. Overcharging and undercharging is what kills them in those applications.

In a hybrid, a computer system doesn’t allow batteries to drop below a 40 per cent charge, or raise much over a 70 per cent charge. In that sweet spot they can charge and discharge virtually indefinitely. Keeping them cool, via the vehicle’s on-board cooling systems, also extends battery life. Net result: Battery packs are lasting longer than anyone thought they would.

Another welcome surprise is how few brake jobs need to be performed on hybrid cabs. A hybrid’s regenerative braking system takes a huge load off conventional braking system parts, such as pads, rotors, and calipers. They end up lasting much, much longer than we’re used to, and in a high mileage application like a taxi cab, this can add up to significant savings.

This is not to say there haven’t been any hybrid component failures, but they don’t fail any more than do “conventional” components, like transmissions, starters and alternators.

So if you’re considering a hybrid, don’t fret about the durability of its electrified elements. They are more serious things to worry about, like Ryan Seacrest getting his own afternoon talk show.

– Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for more than 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.

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