The Hybrid Technology Page

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Greener than a hybrid?

We recently converted our hybrid Toyota Prius to a 'plug-in hybrid'. This makes it one step 'greener' than a stock Prius. Here's some info on the topic:

1. Environmental Impact

A plug-in charged from grid electricity of the average national blend results in a 70% or greater reduction in CO2 emissions compared to a traditional gas-powered vehicle. If the Lithium-ion battery is charged from electricity generated entirely by coal-fired power plants, there is still a net CO2 emissions reduction of at least 50%.


As our national blend of electricity generation progresses towards greener generation sources, such as solar and wind, the environmental benefits of  plug-in hybrids will continue to grow. The Lithium-ion battery is also environmentally friendly and recyclable, containing no heavy metals or toxic chemicals.

2. Petroleum reduction

Plug-in hybrid vehicles reduce oil consumption by up to 70% over conventional, gas powered vehicles. Upgrading to a plug-in hybrid will result in a significant reduction in petroleum consumption on an individual vehicle basis. With widespread adoption, plug-in hybrids present the potential to reduce national oil consumption while using today’s existing infrastructure – the grid.

The Set America Free coalition, an advocacy group focused on energy independence and GHG reduction points out that "if all cars on the road are hybrids and half are plug-in hybrid vehicles, U.S. oil imports would drop by 8 million barrels per day."

3. National Security

Widespread adoption of plug-in hybrid technology can help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Plug-in hybrids enable us to reduce our consumption of foreign-sourced petroleum and allow us to rely more on electricity generated at home using our current infrastructure. SAE

Plug-in hybrid technology can also help us take advantage of off-peak electricity generation by charging vehicles overnight when electricity demand is low. Moving towards a more electric vehicle platform allows us to work towards vehicle-to-grid technologies and a more redundant and fault tolerant grid.

For more on HAC's committment to the environment, take a look here. For more about hybrids and the rapidly-developing technologies behind them, take a look at some of these links:



Answers to the four questions

1. What was the model and year of the first (modern) hybrid vehicle sold in the USA?

In 1999, Honda began selling the Insight in the United States.  Almost a hundred years ago, drivers had a brief fling with electric and hybrid vehicles until gasoline vehicles became cheaper and more powerful.

2. Why can the brakes on hybrid cars last 4 times as long as the brakes on gasoline only cars?

If you've followed hybrid technology at all then you've probably heard the buzz words "regenerative braking."  Simply put, this means that some of the energy that was invested in accelerating a hybrid vehicle is recaptured and stored whenever the brake pedal is pressed.

Conventional internal combustion powered cars have no way of recapturing this energy or storing it, so it is unfortunately wasted-- the useful kinetic energy that we need to move us around is converted to useless thermal energy in our brake pads and rotors.  To add injury to this insult, you've not only wasted your energy, but also the friction materials wear away faster.

This is one of the reasons that hybrid vehicles can be much more fuel efficient than gasoline/diesel only vehicles, especially when comparing city driving (stop and go) fuel economies.  But there are several other ways that hybrids manage to utilize much more of the energy released from burning fuel in an internal combustion engine.  They stop the engine when it’s not needed, electrically launch the car from a stop, and restart the engine automatically.  They use engines with smaller displacement while maintaining the same peak horsepower by combining engine torque with electric motor torque.  They use a slightly altered valve timing (Atkinson cycle versus the conventional Otto cycle) to achieve maximum fuel efficiency and minimize pollution.  They are also able to operate their engines at a speed that is independent of vehicle speed by using continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) rather than manual or automatic transmissions with fixed gear ratios; this allows the engine to be operated at its "sweet spot" for any vehicle speed and power demand.  Additionally, the high voltage system also powers the air conditioning compressor more efficiently than conventional belt-driven systems.  The Toyota Highlander also keeps 4WD capability by powering the rear wheels with an electric motor rather than having the weight and expense of a drive shaft connected to the engine in the front of the vehicle.

And you save money by not having to get your brakes replaced as often.  All I'm saying is, hybrids are pretty cool.

3. What is the relative cost of driving conventional gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all electric cars?

That's easy! Here's a simple list from most expensive to least expensive:

Just kidding!  This is actually a very complex question.  If we want any sort of useful answer we really have to narrow the scope of this question:

First of all we have to pick a date that we want to answer it on.  You are probably well aware of the rapid fluctuations in the price of various forms of energy.

Second, are we talking about you driving all of these different cars?  That would be way too difficult to answer because I don't know your driving style.  And what are you going to be using it for on a daily basis-- that especially comes into play with the plug-in hybrids.  Let's just agree to use the EPA's protocol for determining cost to drive 25 miles.

Also, are we just talking about the cost out of your pocket?  Are we going to consider the initial cost of the vehicles?  What about the lifecycle costs of maintenance?  Let's just keep it simple and consider what it costs when you go to the pump or plug.

And then, of course there are the environmental issues-- we're never going to get anywhere if we add that into the discussion.  Let's just pretend that the environmental impact is already somehow calculated into the cost.  (But of course, it isn't.)

And then there's also a slight issue, especially with CNG of whether or not you have convenient access to a refueling center.  This is becoming less of an issue with EVs as more charging stations are popping up, but then you have to somehow account for the time that it takes to charge up a battery...

And then there's the most obvious variable:  what kind of car are we talking about here?  A compact sedan, a light-duty truck, an Escalade?  Why don't we just pick out a few common midsize 2013 sedans with automatic transmissions for comparison.  I pulled this data from


Make and Model

Cost to drive 25 miles

Ford Fusion (gasoline)


Ford Fusion (hybrid)


Ford Fusion (PHEV)

$1.19 (21 miles on single charge)

Toyota Camry (gasoline)


Toyota Camry (hybrid)


Volkswagen Jetta (diesel)


Volkswagen Jetta (gasoline)


Volkswagen Jetta (hybrid)


Honda Civic (gasoline)


Honda Civic (hybrid)


Honda Civic (CNG)

$1.69 (This is the only CNG car I found on

Toyota Corolla (gasoline)


Toyota Prius (hybrid)


Toyota Prius (PHEV)

$1.48 (11 miles on single charge)

Chevy Malibu (gasoline)


Chevy Malibu (e-Assist, mild hybrid)


Chevy Volt (PHEV)

$1.05 (38 miles on single charge)

Nissan Leaf (EV)

$0.87 (75 miles on single charge)

Tesla Model S (EV)

$1.08 (139 - 265 miles depending on which battery pack is purchased)


4. What car recently achieved Consumer Reports highest rating ever, 99 out of 100?

This question is a bit of a tease... No, Consumer Reports' top scoring car is not a hybrid. But it does incorporate much of the same technology-- it's the fully electric Tesla Model S.  It may be cost prohibitive to many of us, but still lies in the price range of its luxury peers at around $70,000 for the base model with batteries sufficient for about 230 mile range.  Higher end packages take the total cost closer to $100,000 with options like a 300 mile battery, leather upholstery, sunroof, 21" wheels (versus the standard 19" wheels), various paint jobs, etc.  Read all about it at:

Think CityOr even better, stop by the Tesla show room the next time you’re in the neighborhood of Washington Square Mall and get a feel for it in person.

For those of us who realize that electric is the best new way to get around but are forced to get by on less than six figures, we would be happy to tell you all about the all electric Think City, for which we are proudly the authorized warranty service and repair center in the Portland area.  If you're dropping your car off for service at Hawthorne Auto Clinic, we have a Think City available for you to rent so you can go about your day without missing a beat.  (In fact, a Think might just put some extra zip into your beat-- these little cars are fun to drive!) is part web journal, part online community and part hybrid market research organization. Learn about the Honda Insight and what makes it so unique.
New Hybrid Tax Credits 2006 Find out the latest on tax credits for hybrid cars. - Video Follow this link for a short Prius video on the Discovery Channel    
Read Oregonian columnist Chip Keen on hybrid cars

Honda press release

Hybrid sales zip into the fast lane Toyota press release
The Money-saving Perks of Hybrid Cars Ford Escape Hybrid
   ACDC Qualified Hybrid Auto Center

Luscious Garage Hybrid Specialists February 4, 2010. Here's an interesting article about the Prius 'unintended acceleration' issue.