Ad Age's Hybrids for Dummies

It's Electric! Wait, No It's Not. Then What Exactly Is a Prius or a Volt? Here's a Handy Guide to Models on the Market and on the Horizon

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Think you're confused about hybrids now? Just wait; more are coming.

The biggest misconception today is that the vehicles are electric, said Jack Nerad, executive director-auto analysis at the Kelley Blue Book website,, and author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hybrid and Alternative Fuel Vehicles." Although all the models for sale to the public have electric motors, none need to be plugged in.

The Ford Escape uses Toyota technology.

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Ad Age's Hybrids for Dummies

Instead, they come with an electric motor, a gas engine and a battery pack that collects energy converted during braking to help recharge the battery, Mr. Nerad said. The systems capture energy that would be wasted by a conventional gas engine.

While systems vary by manufacturer, they all work basically the same, he said. Virtually all hybrids are most fuel-efficient in stop-and-go driving. Where they differ is in power, delivery and smoothness of ride -- yet the marketing largely focuses on what they have in common rather than what sets them apart.

Here is Ad Age's Hybrids for Dummies, which includes some models still to be introduced.
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