Sure, gas prices are low now, but in the summer of 2008, when gas prices hit upwards of $4 a gallon, it scared a lot of drivers. Suddenly, green driving was all the rage and consumers tried eco-friendly driving. Some even switched to the most fuel-efficient car models they could find, and of course, they searched for as much hybrid car information as they could get their hands on, too.
Hybrid cars and trucks use an electric motor to power the car when the gasoline engine isn't necessary. That allows the internal combustion engine to shut off, saving gas. Because of those savings, hybrid cars have become increasingly popular. And hybrids aren't just for granola-crunching hippies anymore, either -- luxury car makers have gotten into the game.
Keep reading to see which hybrids were the most popular in 2008.
When Santonio Holmes won the MVP Award for Super Bowl XLIII, he clearly had green driving on his mind. MVP winners are allowed to choose any car from Cadillac's lineup, and Holmes chose the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid.
In 2008, 801 buyers opted for the car that proves going green doesn't mean you have to sacrifice bling. The Escalade Hybrid combines a V-8 engine, seating for up to eight passengers, high-tech interior features and towing ability with a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy compared to the standard Escalade. While the Escalade Hybrid's size prevents it from getting the same fuel economy as smaller hybrids, it allows buyers who need lots of space and utility, and those who want lots of luxury, to make a slightly greener choice.
Of course, there are plenty of car buyers who want a luxury hybrid without having to drive a large SUV like the Escalade. In 2008, 980 people purchased the Lexus LS600h, the largest and most luxurious hybrid car produced by Toyota Motor Corp., Lexus' parent company.
With a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) that starts above $100,000, the LS600h obviously isn't for people who are looking to save a little cash on gas. In fact, the LS600h only gets an EPA-estimated 20 MPG (8.5 kilometers per liter) in the city and 22 MPG (9.35 kilometers per liter) on the highway. The LS600h is an interesting hybrid because the electric motor not only can power the car at slow speeds to save gas, it can also provide a power boost to the gas engine. That makes the Lexus LS600h the hybrid of choice for well-heeled buyers looking to add a little thrill to their green driving.
The Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon Hybrids offer the same capabilities and seating as the Cadillac Escalade hybrid. However, with much lower price tags, it's not hard to see why 5,876 buyers went for the Tahoe and Yukon in 2008, compared to the 801 buyers who chose the Escalade Hybrid.
But the Tahoe and Yukon Hybrids aren't just pale imitations of the Escalade. The Tahoe Hybrid was named the 2008 Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal, giving it some green street-cred. Like the Escalade Hybrid, the Tahoe and Yukon Hybrids' size prevents them from getting great fuel economy, but for people who need to tow heavy loads or haul lots of people, the extra miles per gallon, not matter how small, is a big benefit.
Nissan is often seen as an "also-ran" competitor when compared to Toyota and Honda, the Godzillas of Japanese automakers. But for buyers who want a little more performance from their family sedan, the Nissan Altima has long been the car of choice. The Nissan Altima Hybrid now lets drivers pass the gas station in addition to passing other cars on the road.
In 2008, Nissan sold 8,819 Altima Hybrids. While those sales numbers aren't as high as sales for hybrids from Honda or Toyota, what makes the Altima Hybrid's sales impressive is that it's only available in eight states. If Nissan sold the Altima Hybrid in more areas, sales, and Nissan's reputation for eco-friendly driving, might be a bit higher.
The sixth best selling hybrid in the U.S. for 2008 is another luxury model, and another Lexus. More than 15,000 Lexus RX 400h hybrid SUVs were sold in 2008 -- almost twice the number of the Nissan Altima Hybrid, the next most-bought hybrid in America.
The Lexus RX 400h appeals to buyers looking for Lexus luxury and reliability, SUV practicality, and reduced oil use and carbon emissions. It's also popular because, fuel economy aside, its performance is decidedly unhybrid-like. It accelerates strongly, handles well and wraps passengers in a tech-heavy cocoon of luxury. The only downside to the RX400h is its high sticker price: It starts at about $42,000.
Some people want to have it all: a car that uses less gas but is still capable of handling all of the people and stuff you need to haul. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is one of those vehicles that does just that.
The Highlander Hybrid is a midsize hybrid SUV, which means it seats seven and has plenty of cargo space for luggage, sports equipment or pets. It's also fairly rugged; while it wouldn't be most people's first choice for an off-road machine, it can handle foul weather and dirt roads with no problem. When you add a hybrid power train that give drivers a 37 percent improvement in city fuel economy, you get a machine that really earns its spot as the 5th best selling hybrid in America.
Even though General Motors has three hybrids on this top 10 list, Ford is the only domestic automaker with hybrids listed in the top five. Together, the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids are the fourth best selling hybrid vehicles of 2008. The two models are fairly similar. Both are compact SUVs that seat five and are almost mechanically identical.
In 2008, Ford sold nearly 20,000 of the Escape and Mariner Hybrids as buyers opted for all the convenience and capabilities of a small SUV, but with the added boost of improved gas mileage and decreased emissions. As Ford starts to roll out more hybrids, including the well-reviewed Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Escape and Mariner Hybrids seem to be a good platform to build on.
The Honda Civic Hybrid has the distinction of being one of the most affordable hybrids out of the top 10 best selling hybrids in America. The Civic Hybrid is nearly indistinguishable from the conventional Civic, except for its powertrain.
Buyers snapped up more than 31,000 Honda Civic Hybrids in 2008. Not only is it an economical choice for green drivers, but the Civic Hybrid retains a lot of the fun-to-drive characteristics of the conventional Civic. The Civic Hybrid handles well, accelerates with some oomph and has Honda's bulletproof reputation for reliability. But the Civic Hybrid won't be the cheap kid on the block for long. In April of 2009, Honda will reintroduce the Honda Insight, a midsized hybrid that will likely be priced less than the Civic Hybrid.
When it comes to hybrid sales, Toyota is king. And while Toyota is well known for its Prius hybrid, the second-best selling hybrid of 2008 is the Toyota Camry Hybrid. In fact, Toyota sold more than 46,000 of them in 2008.
While the Prius is known for its distinctive shape, the Camry Hybrid flies under the radar. On the outside, only a hybrid badge separates it from the conventional Camry. Under the hood, however, the Camry Hybrid manages to get an extra 12 miles per gallon (5.1 kilometers per gallon) in the city compared to the standard Camry, and a 26 percent improvement in fuel economy overall. The Camry Hybrid is another one of those "have everything" hybrids. In addition to the eco-friendly ride, buyers get a comfortable passenger cabin and good performance, too. All reasons that explain the Camry Hybrid's popularity.
The Toyota Prius may not be as large as the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, but when it comes to hybrid sales, the Prius is a juggernaut. In 2008, Toyota sold 158,886 Prius hatchbacks. That's more vehicles than the rest of this 10 best selling hybrids list combined.
The Prius has long been the most successful hybrid on the market. Not only does it have excellent fuel economy, but buyers love its exterior design, which has become the de facto shape of a hybrid in most people's minds. The Prius is slatted for a redesign in 2010 and Toyota is pulling out all the stops: not only will fuel economy improve, but the car will be larger and more comfortable, feature solar panels on the roof (to power interior accessories), and be built in America.
While you can never say for sure what a redesign will do for a car, the buzz building around the Prius is that it will continue to dominate the hybrid market for years to come.
For more great HowStuffWorks top-10 and top-5 lists, follow the links on the next page.
The Hybrid X concept car from Toyota sparked interest in another Prius-like model. Learn how the Hybrid X evolved and what Toyota's plans are for it.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Edmunds.com. "2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Review." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://www.edmunds.com/cadillac/escaladehybrid/2009/review.html
- Edmunds.com. "2009 Lexus LS 600h L Review." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://www.edmunds.com/lexus/ls600hl/2009/review.html
- Golfen, Bob. "Autos: Hybrid sales down in 2008." Speedtv.com. Jan. 23, 2009. (Feb. 20, 2009) http://automotive.speedtv.com/article/hybrid-sales-down-in-2008/
- Hybrid Car Review. "Hybrid Car Sales, December 2008." Jan. 7, 2009. (Feb. 20, 2009) evuieew. "-- The Year in Review." December 16, 2008. (February 20, 2009). around the Prius is that it will continue http://hybridreview.blogspot.com/2009/01/hybrid-car-sales-december-2008.html
- HybridCars.com. "2008 Hybrid Car -Year in Review." Dec. 16, 2008. (Feb. 20, 2009) http://www.hybridcars.com/2008-hybrid-cars#sellers
- Kelley, Rob. "Tahoe Hybrid SUV named 'Green Car of the Year.'" CNNMoney.com. Nov. 18, 2007. (Feb. 23, 2009) http://money.cnn.com/2007/11/15/autos/green_car/index.htm
- O'Dell, John. "Hybrids Finish 2008 in the Dumps, With Prices Weakened and Sales Down." Edmunds.com. Jan. 6, 2009. (Feb. 20, 2009) http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2009/01/hybrids-finish-2008-in-the-dumps-with-prices-weakened-and-sales-down.html
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Chevrolet_Tahoe-Hybrid/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Ford_Escape-Hybrid/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Honda_Civic-Hybrid/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Lexus RX 400h." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Lexus_RX-Hybrid/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Mercury_Mariner-Hybrid/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Nissan_Altima-Hybrid/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Toyota_Camry-Hybrid/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Toyota_Highlander-Hybrid/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "New 2009 Toyota Prius." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Toyota_Prius/
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "2010 Toyota Prius." (Feb. 26, 2009) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/toyota_prius/2010/