Hybrid Cars

What is a Hybrid Car?

What is a Hybrid Car?

Hybrid cars came on the scene in 1997 with the release of the Toyota Prius. Touting its increased fuel economy and reduced emissions, the Prius quickly became popular among many environmentalists and eco-minded celebrities. Hybrids have continued to grow in popularity ever since, and automakers such as Toyota, Kia, Honda, Ford, Hyundai and others have built hybrid variations of their most popular models.

So, what exactly is a hybrid car? How does it work? And most importantly, should you consider one? The answer depends primarily on your driving habits.

There are two types of hybrids that both utilize a combination of electric power and gasoline. One is a conventional hybrid vehicle often referred to as a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and the other as a Plug-in-Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). The difference between an HEV and PHEV is that a PHEV can be plugged in to recharge whereas an HEV uses regenerative braking to recharge. An HEV is also assisted by the car's gasoline engine to recharge the electric battery pack when it gets low. Both types of hybrids can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 35%.

The table below further outlines the differences between the three main types of electric cars:

Electric Vehicles (EV) Cheat Sheet  
Type of CarBEVHybrids 
  HEVPHEV
NameBattery Electric VehicleHybrid Electric VehiclePlug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle
Fuel TypeBattery OnlyGas + BatteryGas + Battery
Fuel SourceChargerGas + Regenerative BrakingCharger + Gas + Regenerative Braking

To learn more about the technology behind HEVs and what sets them apart from all-electric cars, read our guide on the Difference Between Hybrid and Electric Cars. Here, we explore the technology behind HEVs, highlight the advantages and disadvantages over a conventional gasoline car, and help you determine if a hybrid is the right kind of vehicle for you. Let’s pop the hood and jump in!