Driving a Hybrid in Winter without Snow Tires

I'm a still a few days away from receiving my 16" Studded Hakkapeliitta snow tires and getting them mounted on my car, so I thought I'd take a moment to describe how my car handles in the winter, with and without snow tires.   I drive a 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - decent on gas mileage, but it has a few quirks.  Like most hybrids it does not accelerate quickly, or if it does accelerate quickly it is after a short delay.  Those few seconds waiting for your car to react can be a nightmare while merging into heavy Boston rush hour traffic.

Another downside to the hybrid is the regenerative breaking.  When traveling at speeds ~15 mph or faster, and the breaks are lightly applied, the car uses friction to regenerate the hybrid battery and slow the car down rather than using the disk brakes.  Once the car is below ~15mph or the brakes are pressed very firmly/quickly, the disk brakes engage to stop the vehicle.  The two types of braking are very different and take some getting used to.

So how does this all play into winter driving?  It takes some getting used to, when you don't have the right tires!  I bought my car in November of 2012 and thought that the brand new all-season tires would get me through the winter - was I ever wrong...  The first snow of the winter was only about two inches and yet it was enough to clog up my all season tires.  That, coupled with the fact that I had accelerated too much due to the hybrid finally kicking into a lower gear and the regenerative braking not slowing my car as fast as I thought it would, caused my Sonata and I to slide through a four way intersection with a red light!  Luckily, it was later in the evening and there were very few cars on the road, but it was enough of a scare to get me to invest in winter tires for this car.  We'll see if the studded Hakkapeliittas can live up to their reputation when they're combined with my car, heavy traffic, and poorly plowed roads - Bring on the Snow!!

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