Before you head out for a test drive, do your research on edmunds.com or autobytel.com, and look at the different hybrid cars available. Pay attention to the type of engine each hybrid has. You'll notice that some cars seemlessly blend electric and gasoline power, while others us the electric motor for very little. Of course, the more your car uses the electric motor, the less it's using gasoline, so look for:
- Full Hybrids -- Full hybrid cars are capable, if your driving style and conditions are right, of running solely on the battery. They typically have a gas engine, an electric motor run by a battery that charges itself when you brake, and some sort of computer that tells the car where to get power from under what type of driving conditions. The Toyota Prius and Highlander, Ford Escape, Lexus RX 400h, Mercury Mariner, and restyles Honda Civic hybrids all utilize this technology.
- Assist Hybrids -- Assist hybrids can't run on electric power alone; they use the electric motor as a way to increase torque from the gasoline engine. Assist hybrids have smaller battery packs than full hybrids, and they are able to have smaller gasoline engines without sacrificing power. The Honda Insight and the first-generation Honda Civic Hybrid are example of assist hybrids.