The growth rate is due in large part to the dozens of new models which are now available or soon to be on the market during the next several years. Toyota, for example plans ten new hybrid models during the 2005-2012 time span.
It is believed that a significant share of the U.S. auto market will soon belong to these economical and earth-friendly vehicles. At the same time as there are more hybrids in more sizes and styles available than was previously thought possible, sales of trucks and large sport utility vehicles are shrinking.
The major deterrent to date has been the increased cost of hybrids--from $1,000 to $10,000 more than gasoline powered vehicles. Still, which gas prices continuing to rise and tax incentives for the purchase of hybrids, payback can occur in three to five years. For car buyers who are willing to pay $1000's for options such as a larger engine, leather seats or four-wheel drive, investing in a technology that will pay off for years to come makes a lot of sense.
The heart of the hybrid vehicle is the joint power structure of a small gasoline powered internal-combustion engine and a battery powered electric motor. Conventional automobiles power the car with an internal combustion engine sized to handle the horses needed at peak acceleration. That level of power is not needed during most driving scenarios. The hybrid car uses an electric motor for most of the driving purposes, saving the smaller-sized internal combustion engine for the times when peak acceleration is needed.
Most hybrids use the electric motor as the major power source when the vehicle is idling or when there is movement at low speed. The electric motor also supplements the gasoline engine when the driver speeds up quickly. The batteries of the hybrid are recharged by the capture of kinetic energy when the automobile decelerates. This is known as regenerative braking. Conventional automobiles lose this energy as heat.
Brake pads or disc brakes in conventional vehicles don't transfer the heat energy as do the hybrids. In hybrids, the slowing of the car is helped by the electric motor which transfers the kinetic energy developed into the batteries where it is stored for future use. The hybrid also has conventional brakes to kick in if they are needed during a sudden stop. Hybrids recharge themselves--you don't need to plug your car into an electrical outlet at night, although a plug-in version of the Prius is on the near horizon.