Hybrid vehicles, from coupes and sedans to SUVs and trucks, have become par for the driving course these days. People are more environmentally conscious than ever before in this day and age, and living green is the thing to do. Choosing to drive a hybrid, which is a cross between a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle and electric powered, helps people to be more friendly to the environment, and their own budgets.
But which hybrid do you choose to drive? Which is the best? What are the differences between them that might influence your decision when looking to buy? Well, these are all good questions that deserve some in-depth looking into. Let’s take a look at some of the answers. Before you can choose the hybrid that is right for you, whether new or used, you should know that you are the only one who can really determine what vehicle that will be.
There are many very good hybrids out there, and the price range for them varies greatly by make, model, and features, of course. But when it comes to the actual hybrid ability, there are differences between them. Here are two main points to understand:
Called an HEV
A hybrid electric vehicle (also called an HEV) combines a typical combustion engine system with a system that is operated by electric propulsion. The use of electricity in an HEV is implemented to improve the vehicle’s performance and fuel economy. There are many different types of HEVs, and they all differ when it comes to how often the vehicle actually operates on the electrical system.
Hybrid electric cars are the most common HEV, though there are trucks, SUVs, and some models of buses that are manufactured using this technology. Also known as a PHEV, plug-in hybrids utilize a rechargeable battery which is charged and recharged by means of an external source of power. It also has a generator and on-board engine. Most of these are regular autos, minivans, SUVs, and the like, but they are also produced as motorcycles, utility vans and trucks, and more.
Okay, so now you know the main differences. Let’s go a step further and talk about actual makes and models…some of the best, no less. Over the years since hybrids became fairly mainstream, there have been, and are, some excellent models out there to choose from. Here we’ll give you a list of twenty of the best ever made (in no particular order, and the best for a variety of reasons), since the very first, the 1997 Toyota Prius, came out.
So whether you are looking to buy (new or used) and need a bit of guidance, or you just have an interest in hybrids, this list ought to fill your need. Plus, we’ll add a surprise hybrid or two, just to season this with some good, old-fashioned education. So buckle up and enjoy:
20. 2018 Volvo XC60 T8
This compact crossover is of the plug-in variety, and is one of the more stylish of the recent models on our list. Not as expensive as a comparable Lincoln or Cadillac, but definitely not dirt cheap, this Volvo hybrid has excellent handling, and has two electric motors and a lithium-ion power pack, as well as a 13.2 gallon fuel tank. On a small down-point, fuel-efficiency is just a tad bit lacking, as it gets a combined 22 mpg, but the fact is, this is an excellent running hybrid that is comfortable, fun to drive, and looks great to boot.
19. 2006 Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Toyota Camry Hybrid is one of the more popular of the hybrid vehicles on the market, which can most likely be attributed to the fact that Toyotas, in general, are quite a popular make of car overall. The 2006 Camry Hybrid is a clean burning gas/electric cross with a comfortable streamlined interior and cool enough look for a regular sedan. It can go from 0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds if it has been well loved and maintained, so there shouldn’t be a problem getting where you want to go on time. Best of all, this hybrid manages to average around 40mpg, so when all things are considered, having one of these in good working order is a win/win situation.
18. 2004 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra Hybrid
Here are the first of the trucks on our list. As you likely know, the Silverado and Sierra are both twin products manufactured by GMC, so we’ll basically discuss them as one. As full-sized pick-up trucks, these vehicles are able to fulfill the needs of those who haul or tow while still being economically and ecologically conscious.
They look good and handle well also, which is another plus. This was the first year for the hybrid versions of these trucks, which made them very popular also. However, this version’s electric capabilities served only to assist in starting it and powering the accessories. Also, when it came to a stop, the engine kicked off and the electric took over to keep it running. Not a bad deal for a 15-year-old hybrid. In the end, this truck, when in good condition, should get around 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. Well, it is a truck, after all.
17. 2009 Ford Fusion Hybrid
This electric-gasoline version of the original Fusion sedan. 2009 was the second year of production for the hybrid, and it was a common choice, both for its affordability and its reputation for quality and dependability. There were two versions: The regular Fusion Hybrid we are discussing here, and the Fusion Hybrid plug-in model, which came out in 2013. This attractive vehicle came with just about everything you could want, and it averaged about 39 mpg, which is nothing to shake a stick at. Definitely a good hybrid car, especially for the times.
16. General Motors XP 883
Here is the first interesting hybrid on our list, a GM gem from 1969. While it may be surprising that such a vehicle was made so long ago, you shouldn’t get too excited; there are more to come. The XP 883 was a tiny car, developed for those who did a lot of city driving. It had a two-stroke radial engine, similar to those in small aircraft, and it sported a plug-in hybrid system that was pretty much still experimental. We all know that it had to start somewhere, but this was further down the line than we expect. A cool bit of history, it probably isn’t the car you’d be looking for today.
15. 2002 Honda Civic Hybrid
First introduced in Japan in 2001, the Civic Hybrid had an electric power train and was the very first vehicle to earn certification as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Admissions automobile. Honda manufactured this car until 2015, of course making improvements along the way. An Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system was used to give it its capabilities, and the result was an average of 45 mpg combined. Not bad…not bad at all.
14. 2012 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
First introduced to the public at the North American International Auto Show in 2012, the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid was a welcomed addition to the growing hybrid automobile market. It only had a small lithium ion battery, but it provided a combined average of 44mpg…very nice, even seven years ago. Considering how rapidly the industry is changing for the better, Volkswagen managed to hit it fairly big with this one, as the Jetta was one of the most popular hybrids of the day.
13. 2017 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid
The name ‘Clarity’ is actual what they refer to as a ‘nameplate’ that Honda utilized to identify their ‘alternative fuel’ line of vehicles. Currently, that line includes Honda’s Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, the Clarity Electric, and the newer Clarity Fuel Cell. A single speed direct-drive vehicle, this cool-looking little car could go 240 miles on a charge, making jaunts easier than ever before, not to mention that the electric capabilities put out over 130 horsepower. Not too shabby, but Honda seems to be on top of their hybrid game.
12. 1992 Volvo EEC
Here’s an oldie but goodie. The 1992 Volvo EEC was not only a very attractive car, it was a hybrid that was ahead of its time in many ways. For Volvo, it was basically a peek into the crystal ball, showing what was to become available to the public in the future. It had an electric motor and a gas turbine that was ‘series connected’, and together these two features worked to get people where they were going without spewing overwhelming amounts of exhaust into the atmosphere. The sedan-style hybrid was also considered very safe and handling was in keeping with Volvo’s standards. While the miles-per-gallon estimation is vague, we’re sure it was better than anything your straight gasoline-runner would give, especially for a sedan as spacious as this one.
11. 1916 Woods Motor Vehicle Co. Dual-Power Model 44
Here is the second mind-boggling and ancient hybrid automobile on our list. Yes, you are reading it right: It’s a 1916 car that was made by a company called Woods Motor Vehicles, and it was technically the ‘Model 44’. Back then, things ran by either steam, gasoline, or electricity; this auto ran by what they called ‘dual power’ back then. Dual-power allowed the car to run off either electricity, gasoline, or swap between the two options; it even had the capability of recharging its battery on its own. Woods Motor Vehicles had been making electric cars since 1899, so working with gasoline was likely new territory for them. Prior to the Model 44, Woods had sold more than 13,000 vehicles, but went out of business only two short years after the release of this car. We guess the world just wasn’t ready…sigh.
10. 2005 Lexus RX 400h
The North American International Auto Show of 2004 was the scene that introduced the 2005 Lexus RX 400h to the world. We are all familiar with Lexus, which is basically a Toyota with a high price tag, but the fact remains that these hot-selling cars hold their own, even apart from their parent auto. The RX 400h came onto the scene at the same time as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, but the Toyota didn’t steal the entire show; over 9,000 of them were pre-ordered upon their introduction. The SUV class vehicle had it all, and the public noticed. The best part was that, even though it was an SUV, and still is, the 2005 hybrid was able to get a combined 26mpg, and that tells us all that this hybrid was no slouch.
9. 2016 Kia Optima PHEV
This mid-sized sedan has been a great seller even without being a hybrid, so you can imagine how well a green vehicle bearing the same name went over. The 2016 version can be seen putting around everywhere, so it speaks for itself. Unveiled at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Optima Hybrid was a hit, with nearly 20,000 sold, and turned out as second in sales in the hybrid category in 2011 alone. But it continued to garner attention over the years as the manufacturer made it better and better. By 2016 the car could go nearly 65 mph in electric mode alone, and that’s saying something. As for mileage, how does 37 mpg/city and 39 mpg/highway sound to you? Kia had managed to prove themselves time and again, and when it comes to their hybrid vehicles, the Optima is definitely no exception.
8. 2011 Infinity M35 Hybrid
Infinity has quite a reputation. Known for making vehicles that are on the higher end of the scale, the company has managed to maintain their luxury vehicle persona with grace and dignity from 1989 until now. So when hybrid vehicles started to really take off, it was important that they keep up with the Johnson’s, so to speak. Being owned by Nissan made it a bit easier, due to experience, to keep up, however. With driving mode selections including ‘Standard’, ‘Snow’, Sport’, and ‘Eco’, drivers are able to change modes with the use of a conveniently placed selector knob. The car also has safety features galore, including the Blind Spot Intervention System. Drivers will be happy to know that they not only get 350 hp, but the vehicle averages 27 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Just about right for a car of this caliber.
7. 2009 BMW Concept X6 Active Hybrid
Here is the second actual crossover on our list, but this one is about as luxurious as it comes; we suppose that since it’s made by BMW it has obligations to meet. Well, we’d say they did that in spades. With a V8 twin-turbo engine that works exceedingly well with the two-mode active transmission, the vehicle is capable of basically choosing which mode to drive in by the best available power source; it actually opts for what is most efficient for the circumstances! First introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009, it has a maximum system output of 485 hp and gets. The only real downside is the mileage, which comes in at 13 mpg/city and 18 mpg/highway, but with the power it gives, what can you say. When it was new in 2009, the Concept X6 ActiveHybrid sold for nearly $90,000.
6. 1915 Owen Magnetic Touring Car
Known as ‘The Car of 1000 Speeds’, the Owen Magnetic Touring Car was a different sort of ‘hybrid’, but considering that ‘hybrids’ really weren’t a ‘thing’ in 1915, they didn’t have much competition. See, the car had no mechanical connection of any kind between the driveshaft and the engine, as the cars we know do. Instead, the gas engine sent power directly to the wheels by means of an electric motor and a clutch that was magnetic.
It drove without a clutch, and no gears needed to be shifted at all, believe it or not. The issue was that the vehicle was horrendously expensive to manufacture, and basically drove the company to bankruptcy, so they never even got the chance to prove what they could really do. But we know that it was the efforts of all the early experimentation that brought us to where we are today, so we give them a hearty ‘thank you’.
5. 2003 Suzuki Twin
Looking much like the little Smart car of today, the Suzuki Twin was sold for only two years in Japan. It was available as a regular motor car, or as a hybrid, and it got about 100 miles for every 1.2 gallons of gas or so. Classed as a ‘kei’ car, this two-door coupe was about the cutest thing on the road, if not the toughest, but we can’t have them all. Actually, when the vehicle was designed, the makers had young women in mind, and that is obvious in its appearance. While reviews on the Twin were mostly negative, the car was a good idea conceptually; we can say they tried, and so we give them an ‘E’ for effort. It was a cute little bugger, to say the least.
4. 2008 Mazda Tribute
This little SUV greatly resembles the Ford Escape of the day, and the reason for that would be that Mazda and Ford worked together on this one. The regular Tribute debuted in 2000, which meant that there was a lot of work on the horizon before the hybrid version hit. As a matter of fact, the Ford and Mercury hybrid versions beat the Mazda to the market.
By the time the Mazda was introduced, maybe the public simply wasn’t so impressed. It’s stats weren’t all that great, but it was still selling somewhat. The best thing about it was that it had plenty of power, but that power managed to damage the fuel economy enough that a newly green world simply didn’t seem interested. A good idea that went south fast, the Tribute Hybrid ceased production in 2009. Still worth the effort, though.
3. 2007 Saturn Aura Green Line Hybrid
The Saturn Aura was a mid-sized sedan that was manufactured by General Motors. It was introduced at the North American International Auto Show as a concept car in 2005, and the 2007 model went up for sale in the summer of ’06. Considered a mild hybrid, the model years only went from 2007 to 2010. The electric capability started up when the vehicle was in open throttle and during take-off, which must have helped a bit. It was able to get 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, which isn’t too shabby; according to Saturn, this was a 30% improvement on the standard Aura model. Unfortunately, Saturn shut down, which ended this car’s run, but while new models may be gone, it’s not forgotten. Auras can be seen on the streets today, twelve years later. They must not be too bad.
2. 2008 Cadillac Escalade with Global Hybrid Cooperation
At this point you are likely wondering what Global Hybrid Cooperation is. Well, it is also referred to as the Advanced Hybrid System 2 (AHS2) and is basically a collective of hybrid technologies developed by Chrysler, General Motors, and Daimier, in cooperation with each other. The Escalade’s hybrid version used this system, and was released to the public at the South Florida International Auto Show in 2008 with an MSRP of nearly $75,000, and that was for the two-wheel-drive version. By August of that year, nearly one-fifth of Cadillac’s sales were attributed to the hybrids they made, with the Escalade nearly at the top of the list. It went from 0 to 60 in 8.2 seconds and claimed 379 horsepower. Unfortunately, the luxury hybrid SUV only got 12mpg in the city and 18mpg on the highway, which may explain why it was discontinued in 2013.
1. 1901 Lohner-Porsche Hybrid
Yep, we saved the most interesting, and most ancient, hybrid for last. Made in Vienna, Austria by electric carmaker Jacob Lohner & Company, the car was actually designed, at least basically, by Lohner employee Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche figured out a way to hub-mount two electric motors to the front wheels of a car, which eliminated the need for transmissions. Dubbed ‘Lohner-Porsches’ for obvious reasons, the vehicle very well may be the very first hybrid automobile ever made. This alone makes it one of the very best. Here’s to thinking ahead (even if it is nearly one-hundred-and-twenty-years in advance). Kudos, gentlemen!
There you have them: 20 of the best hybrids of all time. Well, some on the list may not be considered the ‘best’ by some standards, but the effort alone made them worth it, not to mention the knowledge gained by simply listing them. Good enough? We hope so. So, if you trying to buy this might help, but mostly it’s just a conglomeration of facts compiled for your reading pleasure.
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Written by Benjamin Smith
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