Hybrid cars - whether conventional or PHEVs - are an interesting mix of both gasoline-powered parts (such as the gasoline fuel tank and the internal combustion engine) and electric-powered parts (such as the battery pack and electric motor). Whilst they were first popularised by Hollywood celebs driving about a Toyota Prius, they’ve been around longer than this: as our 14 facts below explore.

The Lohner-Porsche Mixed Hybrid, from wikipedia.org

  1. 1900 - 1905: when the first ever gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle was produced. The Lohner-Porsche Mixed Hybrid was created by a 25-year-old Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of the luxury car manufacturer Porsche. It was too expensive for mass-market consumption, but its engineering was studied by various companies, and later helped to inspire NASA’s Lunar Roving Vehicle during the 1970s.

  2. Environmentally friendlier: they’re better for the environment than gasoline cars. They produce up to 90% less harmful pollutants (carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide). They also emit one-third less CO2 greenhouse gases than ordinary gasoline cars, whilst using up to 35% less energy (megajoules) when on the road.

  3. Used prices can increase: when gasoline prices start to rise, the price of used hybrids can actually increase! Huffington Post found that used prices can quickly rise 5-10% when there’s a spike in gas prices. Of course, the flip-side is also true: the used prices fall just as quickly when gasoline becomes cheaper. So day trading in hybrid cars probably won’t work out well for you!

  4. Government tax credits/subsidies waning: various countries used to have tax credits or subsidy schemes for hybrids. Conventional hybrids used to enjoy Government support, but most countries have now scrapped this. PHEVs still get you tax credits in America ( such as $7,500 off the Chevy Volt PHEV), although the UK has scrapped all funding on them. As EVs become more commonplace, tax credits and subsidies on PHEVs are expected to be reduced/eliminated as well.

    A teaser image of the Toyota Prius all-wheel drive

  5. Toyota Prius: the Prius was the first mass-market hybrid, launching in December 1997 and almost becoming synonymous with the word ‘hybrid’ due to their massive popularity compared to other hybrids. There’s been over 6 million Prius units sold thus far and it’s the most-sold hybrid in America and Japan. Sales have started falling in the past few years due to the rise of electric cars, but the Prius was truly groundbreaking at the time of its launch. So much so that a range of Hollywood celebrities bought and drove them throughout the noughties.

  6. Prius Celebrities: the Prius was so groundbreaking when launched that it quickly become known as the green car to own. Hence a range of Hollywood celebrities bought it and made sure everyone knew they owned one! This includes Jennifer Aniston, Tom Hanks, Cameron Diaz, Matt Damon, Demi Moore, Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, Orlando Bloom, Miley Cyrus, Will Ferrell… and many more!

  7. Full size engine, small battery: the internal combustion engine in a typical hybrid car is full size (compared to purely gasoline-powered cars), whilst the battery pack is much smaller: usually 1.31kWh in a conventional Prius hybrid, or 4.4 kWh in a Prius PHEV (plug-in hybrid). Despite the small capacity (especially on the conventional hybrid), this is sufficient to make the vehicle much greener than the pure-gasoline equivalents.

  8. Formula 1 is hybrid-friendly: F1 now have hybrid engine rules which mean that F1 cars have both a gasoline-fuelled combustion engine alongside an electric motor to deliver peak performance and versatility in the superfast racing cars. These 1.6L hybrid power/drive-trains can produce close to 1,000 bhp. They also are heading towards 50% efficiency; this is a lot better than the 25-35% average in conventional gasoline-fuelled combustion engines.

    A Formula1 hybrid engine linked to a battery pack

  9. Brakes are used less: uhm wait… aren’t brakes a good thing? Well yes, but the brakes on hybrids (and EVs) work a bit differently. They only get used when actually needed: if a car is simply slowing down (or gradually stopping), the on-board electric motor can go into reverse and supply power back to the battery pack. This saves energy, but also means that a hybrid can naturally slow down - instead of the brakes immediately engaging the tires in the traditional way. This reduces wear and tear (hence maintenance costs) on both the brakes and the tires.

  10. Up to 50% lower fuelling costs: the fuelling costs of hybrids can be as much as 50% lower than gasoline cars. A Hyundai Ioniq hybrid will use $1.28 of fuel for a 25 mile journey, compared to a Ford Focus which would use $2.51 in fuel for the same journey.

  11. Save $6,082 over 5 years: research from Vincentric found that the cost of owning and running a Ford Fusion Hybrid (platinum trim) is $6,082 lower on average over 5 years than the equivalent Ford gasoline car, despite the hybrid costing $1,273 more to purchase. This saving is mainly due to the much lower running costs, but also takes into account that the depreciation on hybrids is lower than other car types.

  12. 77 million: the number of tonnes of CO2 emissions that Toyota research says their hybrids have saved (compared to gasoline cars), along with 29 million kiloliters of gasoline.

  13. Conventional hybrids still cheapest: conventional hybrids are still relatively much cheaper than PHEVs or pure electric vehicles, mainly due to how expensive the battery packs are. Looking at the Hyundai Ioniq Premium which is available as all three types, the hybrid version starts at £23,590.00 ($29,695.19), the PHEV is £28,395.00 ($35,743) whilst the all electric BEV is £30,245.00 ($38,072.53) - albeit the BEV alone qualifies for UK subsidies which brings the cost down to be £2,000 ($2,517) cheaper than the PHEV - but still a decent amount more than the conventional hybrid. Whilst the gap in price is closing, the ‘pay off’ time - i.e. including cheaper fuelling costs - is still quite high for PHEVs/EVs (compared to standard hybrids).

  14. Hybrids are frogs… according to Tesla’s Elon Musk! In the YouTube video below, he describes hybrids as amphibians - meaning that they are merely a stepping stone to help transition from gasoline cars to electric cars. A green car article is never complete without Elon Musk, so we’ll end with the ‘hybrids are frogs’ video - thanks for reading!