What Is A Hybrid Car And How Do They Work?

Hybrid cars have gained a lot of momentum in the past years. Here's a guide to hybrid cars and how they work.

There were naysayers, but they were wrong.

Hybrid vehicles are here, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

All it took was more than two decades of trial and error. However, many still don’t know much (if anything) about hybrids.

What is a hybrid car, and how do they even work?

Simply put, a car is considered a hybrid when it is powered by both a combustion engine and an electric motor. These two systems work together for an overall vehicle that is better on fuel and more environmentally friendly.

Thankfully, in this guide, I will cover all the basics of what you need to know about hybrid cars.

Then, I will take a quick look at the pros and cons of one compared to a traditional powertrain.

Let’s get started with the basics!

Table of ContentsShow

Hybrids 101 – The Basics

What Is A Hybrid Car?

Toyota Prius 2020

a thing made by combining two different elements.

In the case of a hybrid car, these elements refer to power sources, an internal combustion engine, and an electric motor.

Imagine having a task to do. In one scenario, you do it alone, and in another, you have a helping hand. The latter takes less time while also being less taxing, which translates to less wear and increased longevity.

Early on, there were many attempts by automakers to produce a working hybrid model that could be mass-produced. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that this happened, thanks to the introduction of the Toyota Prius.

Fast-forward to 2019, and now hybrids, plug-ins, and all-electrics account for 2.1% of the light vehicle market. Not only that, your options are no longer limited to just sub or sub/compact sedans.

Brands like Ford are introducing more capable models as well. Like the 2021 Ford F-150 Electric, a far cry from a sedan that has endured rigorous testing that clearly shows that being a “hybrid” is “not” a bad thing.

How Do Hybrids Work?

2020 Lexus ES300h

A car with an internal combustion engine creates power by igniting air and fuel. A hybrid, on the other hand, adds an onboard battery to the equation.

One hybrid technology feature is regenerative braking, which has been used since as far back as 1967. This system takes the lost kinetic energy created from decelerating and stores it in the battery. Translation: the more you use the brakes, the further you’ll be able to go.

How much does regenerative braking extend vehicle range? With most models, between 15-70%, meaning an average hybrid that would go 100 miles should be able to go 150-170. Thankfully, with a hybrid, things don’t stop at 0, as there’s an engine to take over.

While it’s happening, the brakes refill the battery, forming a lasting loop. How lengthy? An instance is the Honda Accord Hybrid of 2019, with a distance of roughly 614 miles.

Some even have an all-electric mode that allows most hybrid cars to run 100% off battery power for 10-50 miles when enough is available. This means you can optimize your mileage depending on your driving habits.

Hybrid Or Internal Combustion – Which Is Right For You?

2020 Toyota C HR Hybrid

Ok, so you’re sold on the idea and now want to know the details. What are some pros and cons of owning a hybrid car VS one with just an internal combustion engine?

First, we’ll show you the difference between an HEV, PHEV, and EV.

We will achieve this by displaying a personalized picture we’ve created so you can conveniently imagine the distinction.


Let’s get into the pros and cons of hybrid vehicles now.


  • If gas prices rise, you’re minimally affected
  • You make less of an impact on the environment
  • You won’t wake your neighbors at night
  • Fewer trips to the fuel station
  • You get to say “I own an EV” (partial)
  • Tax incentives


  • Batteries can be wildly expensive to repair/replace
  • Efficiency is drastically affected by cold-weather
  • Limited options presently available on the market
  • Used models can be problematic

Is a hybrid car right for you? If you’ve made your way this far, you should have a much better idea.

The last thing to consider is your driving habits. If you remember the above-mentioned regenerative braking system, which works when your brakes are applied, if you aren’t using it, you’ll notice less range.

This means that if you don’t often find yourself in stop-and-go traffic, or at least frequenting the city, the added costs may never add up.

Regardless, if the price is less of a factor and other items on the above list of “pros” are appealing enough, a hybrid might be right for you.

Good Thing We Have 2 Earths… Oh, Wait…

2021 Tesla Model S

Just kidding, we won’t pull that. But honestly, owning a hybrid isn’t something to be frightened of anymore. Nor is it something to feel uncomfortable about, as climate change has become popular over the last decade.

Still not sold? There is currently a production Tesla Model S (a comfortable 4-door sedan) available that can go from 0-60 in just 2-seconds.

What more could you ask for?

Have the car drive itself? It does that as well.

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Joshua Barrett

Josh Barrett is a writer hailing from the great state of Alaska. While describing himself in the third person is not his forte, writing about any and all things automotive – is. After 13+ years hustling in the exciting world of car sales, he took off to travel the world with his dog Teemo.