It's now been just over a decade since the first hybrids, the original Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, were introduced. After a slow start, rising fuel costs caused consumer interest to take off mid-decade. Today, most consumers have some idea of what a hybrid is, but many are unaware that hybrid systems from competing manufacturers have entirely different hardware and function in dramatically dissimilar ways. That's why, for instance, you can't drive a Honda Civic hybrid on electric power alone, but you can in a Prius. Even greater variations on the hybrid theme will become available in the next few years, as automakers attempt to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and steer clear of patents held by their competitors.
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