Here Are Five Fun Facts on Hybrid Cars

Learn These Interesting Tidbits About These Popular Alternative Fuel Vehicles

2012 Toyota Prius PLug-in Front View
The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in is targeted at consumers who frequently drive short distances. Photo: Toyota Motor Corporation

Sure, you understand regenerative braking and you know the difference between plug-in hybrids and the rest of the pack. But are you schooled enough about these popular alternative fuel vehicles to know these five interesting tidbits about them?

Hybrid vehicles are not an invention of the last decade.

In fact, they date back to 1902 when a gentleman by the name of Ferdinand Porsche built the first fully functioning hybrid car, known as the "Mixte." If that name rings a bell, it should. Porsche was indeed the founder of the Porsche company. Early hybrid cars were referred to as "Semper Vivus," meaning "always alive." The first hybrid had a two-combustion engine with an electric motor hub designed to store energy in the battery. It wasn't until 1997 that the first commercial hybrid car was produced and it was the Toyota Prius which rolled out its first hybrid in Japan that year. Since the Prius hit the market in the U.S., nearly every major automaker has either produced or announced plans to produce, a hybrid vehicle or line of vehicles.

Hybrid cars are not the only example of hybrid technology.

Hybrid technology isn't new and has been around for many years, as noted above. But did you know that it has been used in mopeds which united the gasoline engine and power pedals? Of course you did...you just never thought about it that way until now. Hybrid technology has also been used in locomotives, submarines, mining trucks and other applications. It took over a century for the technology to find its way back to automobiles.

Hybrid cars are not one-trick ponies when it comes to savings.

While fuel savings are the most obvious economic argument to be made for hybrid car ownership, with hybrids getting over 50 miles per gallon and using just one-third of gas as conventional cars, there are other financial reasons to consider a hybrid. They have lower depreciation rates compared to their conventional counterparts and most owners will be eligible for a tax rebate. While batteries are costlier, most automakers now offer a lifetime warranty on batteries and some also offer substantial warranties on other parts. Finally, hybrid cars retain excellent retail value.

Repair costs won't break the bank.

Much like some conventional models, known for their costly maintenance, vehicle maintenance for a hybrid should cost no more than for conventional vehicles. This statement used to be false, but popularity of hybrids has decreased costs considerably with more mechanics now trained routinely to perform maintenance on hybrid vehicles, making it much easier--and less expensive--to keep a hybrid vehicle performing optimally.

Hybrid cars are breaking through long-held myths.

One of the most nagging myths about hybrid cars is their performance. But with hybrid car makers tuned into this growing concern, advancements in technology with advanced electronic mechanisms which can intelligently strike a balance between performance and efficiency according to the driver’s needs, have answered to this concern. Another myth that is also slowly being disproved is that hybrid cars are dangerous in the case of an accident. In reality, hybrid cars include many safety features to protect both the drivers and passengers as well as emergency response personnel. Power train components are marked clearly with bright colors to warn emergency workers of their existence and recent recommendations are for additional safety features to be put into place. Another example of inaccurate information once believed to be true is that hybrid cars need to be plugged in every evening and that drivers will be stranded if the battery runs down while driving. In reality, the hybrid vehicle's popularity has grown at least in part from the realization that hybrids--other than plug-in hybrids--are not plugged in to charge their batteries--they charge while on the go.

In addition, hybrids will not leave you stranded since they seamlessly switch to gasoline when necessary...just remember to have some gas in the tank!