Wicklow's eco-friendly nuns motor around in hybrid car
The one consumer decision most people make which impacts the greatest on the environment is the choice of car they drive.
Hybrid cars offer drivers an innovative, efficient, and affordable option. After years of development, the new hybrids have become a practical choice for consumers.
A hybrid car features a small fuel-efficient petrol engine combined with an electric motor that assists the engine when accelerating. The electric motor is powered by batteries that recharge automatically while you drive.
Hybrid cars also gain efficiency from using smaller and more efficient engines and regenerative braking - the electric motor acts as a generator and charges the batteries while the car is slowing down.
The cars feature periodic engine shut off - when a hybrid car is stopped in traffic, the engine is temporarily shut off. It restarts automatically when put back into gear.
Advanced aerodynamics and low-rolling resistance tyres reduce drag. They are also made from lightweight materials.
In line with their ethos of lessening their impact on the earth, the sisters of the Dominican Convent and Ecology Centre in Wicklow town are the proud owners of a Toyota Prius, one of the first mass produced and marketed hybrid vehicles.
While she admits that she is not fully au fait with the car's technology, Sr Julie Newman says it is a lovely car to drive. It is extremely quiet and when it is in electric mode you can hardly hear it at all, she reports.
They got the new car in January and Sr Julie says that while hybrid vehicles present a rare sight in Wicklow, she noticed many such cars during a recent visit to London. They are excellent in city traffic.
We got it because we wanted something that will use less fossil fuels, have low carbon emissions and be generally more environmentally friendly,' she explains.
We only drive the car when we have to but when you do have to get around the less CO2 you can pump into the atmosphere the better,' she adds.
While hybrid cars are expensive, the dreaded Vehicle Registration Tax on them is far cheaper than that on an ordinary car.