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Submitted by: James Gunaseelan

Considering all the excitement of hybrid energy vehicles, HEVs, the first such vehicle was actually developed by the Greeks for use in their warships. It was a sailing vessel that included oars for use when the wind wasn t favorable to moving the ship. In more recent times, the history of hybrid power encompasses the moped and electric bicycles that used either gas or electric motors coupled with muscle power to move the vehicles. However, in modern times, the history of hybrid cars didn t begin until around 1905.

Although the concept of combining an electric motor with a gasoline engine dates back to 1905, the abundance of oil and the more powerful gasoline engines put the idea in storage. During the oil shortages of the 1970s the history of hybrid cars received a boost as the United States started looking for ways to save gasoline. As oil again became more plentiful, the idea was shelved once more. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Toyota looked at the $3 per gallon price of gasoline in Japan and got serious about developing a true hybrid energy vehicle, unveiling the Prius in Japan in 1995. Its aggressive approach to development of the Prius made it the first production vehicle to hit the market in 1997 and within three years secured its place in the history of hybrid cars with over 50,000 units sold.


In 2000, Toyota had sold 12,500 hybrids in Japan and another 6,500 to overseas markets and by 2005 sold another 49,000 in Japan with an additional 145,000 to its overseas markets. Hitting sales approaching 200,000 units in the 10 short years of its technological breakthrough, the history of hybrid cars began to speed up with the development of HEVs in larger wheel-based vehicles, trucks and buses.

Saving money of gasoline as well as offering less of an environmental impact became the selling points during the history of hybrid cars and as people began to realize they were not losing as much power as they initially believed, the popularity of hybrid vehicles began to grow. With cars with many of the popular options available on larger cars such as power windows and door locks, air conditioning and without the need to plug the car into an outlet to recharge its batteries, hybrid vehicle sales went ballistic. While the Toyota Prius may be listed as the first production hybrid vehicle and has a permanent place in the history of hybrid cars, it is by no means the end of technological advances. As more companies continue their work on hybrid energy vehicles, more offerings are on the drawing board as well as on their way to production.

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