The Top Myths About Hybrid Cars

Hybrid car discussions can sometimes be a muddled affair, as some people may assume that when they hear the word “hybrid,” that these are all-electric vehicles.  Or that hybrids all get 70+ miles to the gallon. They may even think that they are made cheaply to meet federal fuel economy requirements. And on and on the misconceptions go.

While these are merely opinions, there’s a whole batch of assumptions that “try” to stand for facts because they’ve been mentioned multiple times on community forums, blogs, etc. At the end of the day, they become myths more than anything else.  

You’ve probably have read a few of these mythical statements somewhere, but if not, here’s a short list of some of the most popular hybrid car myths.

It’s A New Thing

Well, not really.  The hybrid initiative has been around way before the U.S. ever became the U.S. In fact, you have to go back all the way to 1665 where an astronomer named Ferdinand Verbiest designed the first prototype, four-wheel steam vehicle for a Chinese Emperor named, Khang Hsi. Move up to 1769 to a man named Nicholas Cugnot who went one step further and created a functional, steam-powered carriage that got a swift 6 mph. In 1839, the very first electric vehicle was constructed by Robert Anderson.

Essentially, the historical increments of hybrid/electric vehicle engineering and prototypes puts an end to the notion the hybrid is a relatively fresh concept.  In any sense, the hybrid revolution came to a head in 2000 with the release of the Toyota Prius and its success and positive reviews from the driving community.

Hybrid Popularity Is Only Because Of Gas Prices

It is hard to completely counter this claim on all fronts, but for the most part it’s a myth.  Hybrid popularity is based on many points, none more so than the positive impact it has on the environment. Also, it’s efficient performance, complex gas-electric engine and mechanics are a technological enhancement, rather than just another model year upgrade.

And not every car buyer’s interests revolve simply around fuel economy numbers 10 years from now. Purchases, while researched and contrasted against similar models, are still an impulse.  Calculating estimations on fuel savings are just estimates.  Most drivers know there are outside elements that can increase or decrease a car’s fuel efficiency.  And while most hybrids have significant fuel economy numbers and can save the average driver some money, it’s not the sole reason for buying one.

It’s Super Expensive

Hybrid vehicles aren’t a luxury item and won’t devour your wallet. That is, unless you’re planning on buying a BMW ActiveHybrid 750, then sure, you’re going to be spending a little outside the norm.  That hybrid fetches somewhere along the $100k mark. Then again, it is a luxury model and has an above average sticker price for even that particular segment.

Initial costs of the normal range of hybrids (think Prius, Insight, Volt, etc.) is a bit more than similar conventional cars, but the future forecasts of mileage, fuel economy and auto maintenance with hybrids is enough to push it over the hump of most regular vehicles.  Hybrids obviously churn better MPG and have less to worry about when it comes to future auto servicing.

They Have Tortoise-Like Performance

Only if you are considering the hybrids of old.  And when I mean old, I’m referencing the steam-powered prototypes in the early 1900s. Those were “tortoise” hybrid vehicles. Today’s hybrids share no resemblance with low-performance engines and overall driving experience. Even if you were an early adopter of the first generation Prius, you were still treated to very respectable specs across the board thanks in part to the dual collaboration of the gas-electric engine that got – for that time – outstanding fuel economy numbers (47city/37 hwy). Not to be outdone, the 2000 Honda Insight topped those numbers with 49 city/ 61 highway MPG.

Fast forward 12 years from that date to the present day and fuel economy standards hover at or above the trailblazing hybrid vehicles at the turn of the new millenium.  Better yet, advancements have been made to increase horsepower – the all-new Lexus LS 600h gets 389 hp – and a host of other amenities.  While plans haven’t been made to match the horsepower of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, it’s good to know that hybrids are at least equalling or surpassing some of the most popular conventional cars in the performance department.

Here’s a short list from Autobytel on current hybrids with the highest horsepower:

HEV fuel economy

Final Thoughts

There are other myths out there that are also baseless, but then again, I’m sure there are just as many urban legends tied with gas-powered vehicles as well. That’ll be for another blog topic later down the road. But for now, let’s assume that hybrids are evolving into something greater with every year (ditto for conventional cars) and the notion that fads and trends should be left strictly for the fashion world.

Author Information

Kyle O’Brien is a freelance writer and frequent automotive industry blogger covering topics ranging from car model reviews to driver safety tips. He’s consulted for the Wolfe Automotive Group, and in particular, an area St. Louis dealership located in Ballwin, MO.


  1. Brian D says

    If the vehicle from 1665 was powered by steam alone then that is NOT a hybrid. A hybrid marries TWO different power sources.

    They ARE more expensive. They have to be. They add motors and a large battery plus all the hardware and software required to integrate and recharge.

    They ARE NOT more “environmentally friendly”. The heavy metals and chemicals in the batteries mining, manufacturing, and disposal issues. Plus, if it’s a plug in hybrid, it is probably a coal / gas hybrid.

    Performance CAN be good. I used to have a Lexus RX400h and it was quick enough.

    I still prefer my FD3s RX7.