The hybrids have been one of the hottest trends in the automotive world. What's all the buzz about anyway? Let's take a look.
A hybrid vehicle is a vehicle that has two different systems to power the car. The 1st hybrid was built in 1900 by A Belgian carmaker, Pieper, introduced a 3-1/2 horsepower "voiturette" in which the small gasoline engine was mated to an electric motor under the seat. When the car was "cruising," its electric motor was in effect a generator, recharging the batteries. But when the car was climbing a grade, the electric motor, mounted coaxially with the gas engine, gave it a boost.
So our current "cutting edge" hybrid technology isn't so new. The best selling hybrid in the U.S. is the Toyota Prius. It was introduced in 1997 in Japan. Today the Prius is the best selling car in California (not just the best selling "hybrid").
There are different terms to explain the ways these cars use their electric and/or gas engines.
Electric: The Nissan Leaf is currently the only new mass-produced car offered that is all electric. No gas engine. Plug in overnight (at least 8 hours) for a full charge, when using 220 volt line. Tesla and Fisker are also electric cars, but small production numbers and pricing is over $100,000, so they are priced higher than most people will spend on a car.
Plug-in Hybrid: These are designed to recharge it's batteries via plug-in to an electrical source. When the batteries are exhausted, the car goes to running on the gas engine. Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in, Porsche 918, VW Jetta, Audi R8, Ford Fusion are examples of this type of vehicle. Expect more companies to offer this technology.
Hybrid: These are where the car will run on electric, gas or both, depending on conditions. It seems most manufacturers are offering a hybrid. This runs the gamut from micro cars to full-sized SUVs (see below an example). Overall better mileage than it's conventional gas counterpart, at an additional cost.
What's next? Great question. BMW has had a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles for years crossing the globe to demonstrate that technology. What comes out of the tailpipe is water vapor. Zero pollution. LPG (Liquid Propane Gas) is in use on large vehicles (buses) and is doing well. Diesel is still a lower cost to operate with better MPG than their gas equivalent, but does produce emissions.