Since the introduction of the Toyota Prius in the United States in 2001, hybrid cars have spread rapidly in availability, with most brands producing hybrid vehicles of varying types. Today, most car manufacturers will produce hybrid models of their most popular cars and hybrid-only models. Navigating the diverse hybrid vehicle market can be challenging due to the number of options available, and it is important to understand what certain vehicles have to offer as you explore your options.
Hybrid cars come in two varieties: hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-hybrids (PHEVs).
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)
For all practical purposes, a hybrid electric vehicle runs like a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) car. You drive until your gas tank is almost empty, at which point you go to a gas station and fill it back up. HEVs are different from ICEs in that they don't just use gasoline to power their engine – at low speeds, HEVs draw their power from their electric motor, which is charged through the combustion engine and regenerative braking.
You can't manually charge your HEV battery. The electric charge helps to increase fuel economy far beyond what a combustion engine alone can achieve. The primary fuel source for HEVs is still gasoline, and the battery acts as a supplemental fuel.
Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)
Plug-in hybrids have the added benefit of being able to charge the electric battery through an external plug-in charger. Unlike HEVs, PHEVs rely on electricity as their primary fuel source and use the gasoline engine to supplement mainly electric driving. Because the electric motor is the primary source of fuel, your energy savings (and emissions reductions) in a PHEV will be higher than in a standard hybrid. Any PHEV owner needs to know where local charging stations are and potentially invest in a home charging unit. Depending on your driving habits, it is possible to drive a PHEV and barely ever go to a gas station.
Nowadays, almost every car manufacturer offers at least one hybrid vehicle. Whether they produce a standard or plug-in hybrid, many manufacturers offer several hybrid options, often including hybrid versions of their most popular models.
Below are some manufacturers that produce quality HEVs and PHEVs with their hybrid vehicles. Models with plug-in capabilities are noted.
|Chevrolet||Volt (PHEV), Malibu Hybrid|
|Mercedes-Benz||S400 Hybrid, E400 Hybrid|
|Ford||Fusion Hybrid, C-Max Energi (PHEV)|
|Toyota||Prius, Camry Hybrid, Avalon Hybrid|
|Lexus||CT Hybrid, NX Hybrid, GS Hybrid|
|Honda||Accord Hybrid, Insight Hybrid, Clarity Hybrid|
|Audi||A3 Sportback e-tron (PHEV)|
|Kia||Optima Hybrid (PHEV), Niro Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)|
|Hyundai||Ioniq Hybrid, Sonata Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV)|
The hybrid with the best fuel economy is the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, which has an EPA-estimated miles per gallon (MPG) rating in the high 50s. The Ioniq also boasts the lowest list price of any car on this list. The best-selling hybrid in the United States is the Toyota Prius, with the Ford Fusion Hybrid close behind in second place.
Each hybrid above has unique features and benefits. Consider your options when considering an alternative energy vehicle to make the most informed and intelligent decision.