We tend to think of hybrid vehicles as cars (and other types of vehicles) with gasoline engines that are aided by an electric motor, switching back and forth to get the best possible gas mileage. And it’s true that most new hybrid cars fit this description. But the actual definition of a hybrid is much simpler: it’s a vehicle that moves based on at least two different power sources. So though most new hybrid cars are based on the gasoline-electric model, there are other possibilities. Hybrid vehicles have been around in some form or another since 1899. So even though the early adopters of the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and other small hybrid cars of the last 20 years or so can be a little self-congratulatory at times, the technology isn’t totally new. It just keeps getting better.
Since most new hybrids currently on the market tend to be of the gasoline-electric variety and therefore function pretty much the same, consumers who are shopping for new hybrid cars should consider the ways these vehicles might be different from each other. Although hybrids first became popular in small or compact passenger cars, since it seemed like an efficient engine would work best and be more appealing in a small, economically friendly vehicle, the technology has improved considerably since then, to the point where hybrid drivetrains can efficiently power trucks, sport utility vehicles, and even sports cars. People shopping for new hybrid cars aren’t limited to small econoboxes any more, and that’s opened up hybrid ownership beyond its original demographic. Even though surveys say that hybrid owners tend to really like their cars, people who wanted or needed larger vehicles didn’t have the option of hybrid ownership. Fortunately, new hybrids have opened up the possibility of efficient, economically friendly transportation to a much wider audience.