In simplest terms, a hybrid combines a petrol engine and an electric motor to provide adequate power with minimal fuel useage and low emissions. Hybrids do not need to be plugged into an electric outlet in order to be recharged. They charge themselves by using energy normally lost during coasting and braking, and can also be charged by the car’s petrol engine. The advantage is that the petrol engine can then be quite small, since power is obtained from not one but two sources. When you consider that at highway speeds the average car requires only 20 horsepower to keep it running, a large petrol engine makes little sense except for pulling heavy loads.

Driving a hybrid is like any other car except for one thing. When the car is stopped for more than a few seconds, the petrol engine is shut down automatically. This can be a little eerie at first, as you find yourself sitting in silence.

But step on the accelerator and the electric motor gets the car underway until the gas engine cuts in. There is no starter in the conventional sense since one isn’t needed.

Some critics have questioned whether hybrids will be durable over the long run.