A History of Hybrid Cars

Hybrid cars have been mass-produced for more than 10 years. With technology constantly improving, they have definitely come a long way. While the first mass produced hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius, is still the best selling hybrid, the number of models available to consumers has increased drastically in the past few years.

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that ten years ago, Americans were on a waiting list for a hybrid from either Toyota or Honda, especially considering a recent Accenture study that showed that 42 percent of consumers are likely to purchase a hybrid or electric automobile in the next two years.

I’ve decided to put together a timeline of how far hybrid cars have come and what to expect in the very near future.

1997 – Toyota launches the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius, in Japan. 37,000 Prius’ were sold in Japan before the popular Toyota became available in the U.S.

1999 – Honda releases the Insight in the U.S., making it the first mass-produced hybrid automobile sold in the U.S.

2000 – Toyota launches the Prius in the U.S. Only 12,000 vehicles are available.

2002 – Honda unveils the Honda Civic Hybrid

2003 – The second generation Toyota Prius was named the 2004 Car of the Year by Motor Trend Magazine. Over 700,000 Prius’ were sold in the U.S.

2004 – Ford introduces the Escape Hybrid, the first hybrid SUV and the first American-made hybrid. The Escape Hybrid was named the North American truck of the year in 2005.

2005 – Three hybrid SUVs, including the Lexus RX 400h, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid are introduced. The Highlander Hybrid is considered a “muscle hybrid” because of its increased horsepower; however, it sacrifices fuel economy.

2007 – Nissan enters the hybrid market with the Altima Hybrid sold in 8 states – New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California. Chevrolet also introduces the first full-size SUV hybrid that increases fuel economy by approximately 25 percent more than the conventional model.

2009 – The newly redesigned Honda Insight becomes the only hybrid option under $20,000. Toyota also introduces the 2010 Prius with the highest fuel economy of any car on the U.S. market at 50 mpg.

2010 and Beyond – In late 2010, GM unveiled the Chevrolet Volt which was expected to travel up to 40 miles on electric power alone. GM estimated that it would cost 2 cents per mile under batter power.

In 2012, Toyota is expected to produce 20,000 to 30,000 Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrids which can run about 12 to 18 miles on battery power alone.