CNET GLOSSARY: Terms for the techie
Hybrids combine a conventional gas or diesel engine and one or more electric motors to maximize fuel economy and reduce emissions. Three types of hybrids are widely available today. Toyota's Prius and Highlander hybrid models, Lexus's RX400h, and Ford's Escape hybrid are dual-mode versions that can operate on the gas engine, the electric motor(s), or both, depending on the load. Honda's system, called Integrated Motor Assist, uses the electric motor to add power to the gas engine, and Chevy's Silverado Hybrid pickup uses a 42-volt starter/generator to save a modest amount of fuel by shutting off the engine when the vehicle stops, then quickly restarting. The Chevy hybrid also provides multiple power outlets for tools.
Some auto executives think that hybrids are a temporary phenomenon that will attract only a handful of buyers and will go away as soon as hydrogen-fueled vehicles arrive. But both Toyota and Honda are rolling out hybrid versions of mainstream cars and SUVs that are quicker than the gas-only versions, while also boasting better fuel economy. Toyota is so bullish on the technology that it's planning a rear-wheel-drive version of the system for its luxury cars and large pickups.
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