Hybrid Electric Vehicles - History - Modern Hybrids

Modern Hybrids

See also: List of hybrid vehicles

Automotive hybrid technology became widespread beginning in the late 1990s. The first mass-produced hybrid vehicle was the Toyota Prius, launched in Japan in 1997, and followed by the Honda Insight, launched in 1999 in the United States and Japan. The Prius was launched in Europe, North America and the rest of the world in 2000. The first generation Prius sedan has an estimated fuel economy of 52 miles per US gallon (4.5 L/100 km; 62 mpg) in the city and 45 miles per US gallon (5.2 L/100 km; 54 mpg) in highway driving. The two-door first generation Insight was estimated at 61 miles per US gallon (3.9 L/100 km; 73 mpg) miles per gallon in city driving and 68 miles per US gallon (3.5 L/100 km; 82 mpg) on the highway.

The Toyota Prius sold 300 units in 1997, 19,500 in 2000, and cumulative worldwide Prius sales reached the 1 million mark in April 2008. By early 2010, the Prius global cumulative sales were estimated at 1.6 million units. Toyota launched a second generation Prius in 2004 and a third in 2009. The 2010 Prius has an estimated U.S. Environmental Protection Agency combined fuel economy cycle of 50 miles per US gallon (4.7 L/100 km; 60 mpg).

The Audi Duo III was introduced in 1997, based on the Audi B5 A4 Avant, and was the only Duo to ever make it into series production. The Duo III used the 1.9 litre Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engine, which was coupled with an 21 kilowatts (29 PS; 28 bhp) electric motor. Unfortunately due to low demand for this hybrid because of its high price, only about sixty Audi Duos were produced. Until the release of the Audi Q7 Hybrid in 2008, the Duo was the only European hybrid ever put into production.

The Honda Civic Hybrid was introduced in February 2002 as a 2003 model, based on the seventh generation Civic. The 2003 Civic Hybrid appears identical to the non-hybrid version, but delivers 50 miles per US gallon (4.7 L/100 km; 60 mpg), a 40 percent increase compared to a conventional Civic LX sedan. Along with the conventional Civic, it received styling update for 2004. The redesigned 2004 Toyota Prius (second generation) improved passenger room, cargo area, and power output, while increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions. The Honda Insight first generation stopped being produced after 2006 and has a devoted base of owners. A second generation Insight was launched in 2010. In 2004, Honda also released a hybrid version of the Accord but discontinued it in 2007 citing disappointing sales.

The Ford Escape Hybrid, the first hybrid electric sport utility vehicle (SUV) was released in 2005. Toyota and Ford entered into a licensing agreement in March 2004 allowing Ford to use 20 patents from Toyota related to hybrid technology, although Ford's engine was independently designed and built. In exchange for the hybrid licenses, Ford licensed patents involving their European diesel engines to Toyota. Toyota announced calendar year 2005 hybrid electric versions of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX 400h with 4WD-i, which uses a rear electric motor to power the rear wheels negating the need for a transfer case.

In 2006, General Motors Saturn Division began to market a mild parallel hybrids in the form of the 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line which utilized GM's Belted Alternator/Starter (BAS Hybrid) System combined with a 2.4 litre L4 engine and a FWD automatic transmission. The same hybrid powertrain was also used to power the 2008 Saturn Aura Greenline and Mailbu Hybrid models. As of December 2009, only the BAS equipped Malibu is still in (limited) production.

In 2007, Lexus released a hybrid electric version of their GS sport sedan, the GS 450h, with a power output of 335 bhp. The 2007 Camry Hybrid became available in Summer 2006 in the United States and Canada. Nissan launched the Altima Hybrid with technology licensed by Toyota in 2007.

Commencing in the fall of 2007 General Motors began to market their 2008 Two-Mode Hybrid models of their GMT900 based Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs, closely followed by the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid version. For the 2009 model year, General Motors released the same technology in their half-ton pickup truck models, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Two-Mode Hybrid models.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid officially debuted at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2008, and was launched to the U.S. market in March 2009, together with the second generation Honda Insight and the Mercury Milan Hybrid.

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