2009 Hybrid Cars – Year in Review

What will be the most important 2009 hybrid car developments? The biggest stories are the release of the third-generation Prius and the return of the Honda Insight. Both are high-volume well-priced options for mainstream car buyers. We will also see the first hybrid introductions from Mercedes and BMW, and improved vehicles from Ford and Honda. By the end of the year, new plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles will make debuts—although as niche offerings.

Hybrids Beat Overall Market by Staying Flat

Despite tough economic times and a shrinking US vehicle market, demand for hybrids continues to outpace the overall market. We expect the hybrid market to defy the gravity of a recession in 2009.

Hybrid sales—as a percentage of all new car sales—are likely to remain flat from 2008 levels at about 2.5 percent. But considering the overall car market is shrinking in 2009, the total number of hybrid sales will drop to about 250,000. The Toyota Prius—the third-generation version that debuted in January—will continue to be the biggest seller, but will be joined by the 2010 Honda Insight. Honda has a US sales target of 100,000 units per year, but will have difficulty reaching that number. The remaining sales will come from a field of hybrids that will grow from 15 models in late 2008 to beyond 20—including Ford’s first hybrid sedans, the first hybrid from Mercedes, and a dedicated hybrid-only model from Lexus. The two-mode full hybrid version of the Saturn Vue small SUV was put on the shelf as GM sold off the brand in its bankruptcy.

Battle of the Hybrid Titans

The first two hybrids to hit the US market back in late 1999/early 2000, were the Insight and Prius. Well, it’s back to the future. Nine years later, these two hybrid titans will once again dominate, although the Prius will remain the biggest seller.

The new Toyota Prius was unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January 2009. The third generation Prius is be bigger and more powerful. The engine grew from 1.5 liters to 1.8 liters—giving a boost in horsepower from 110 to 160—and the body is be three to four inches longer and about an inch wider. The combined US fuel economy rating is 50 mpg, by keeping the weight down to current levels and re-engineering the powertrain to extend the range of all-electric gas-free driving.

The next Prius does not offer plug-in capabilities and continues to use nickel metal hydride batteries, rather than switching to lithium ion batteries.

In the spring, Honda began shipping its revitalized Honda Insight—perfectly priced several thousand dollars below the Prius. At $20,000, the 2010 Honda Insight is be the most affordable high-mpg vehicle on the market.

The new Honda Insight is more practical than the earlier Insight. It’s a five-door hatchback with ample room for five passengers. The aerodynamic design borrows elements from Honda’s FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, and bears resemblance to the Toyota Prius’s iconic hatchback profile. Honda is pinning its hybrid resurgence on the Insight—and plans to follow in future years with a Honda CR-Z hybrid and perhaps a Honda Fit hybrid.

Upgrades for 2009 Hybrid Model Year

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid

The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid’s engine grew from 2.3 liters to 2.5. The vehicle maintains its lead position for SUV fuel economy.

  • 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid

    The Honda Civic, including the hybrid version, gets a sportier style with three larger air -intakes—and new high-tech features for 2009. The front bumper cover and grille are more angular. Inside, the hybrid gets optional leather-trimmed seats, as well as heated fronts seats and side mirrors. A bluetooth-ready navigation system and USB audio interface are also available.

  • 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid and 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid

    For 2009, the Ford Escape Hybrid replaces a 2.3-liter engine with a 2.5—boosting net horsepower from 155 to 177. Ford engineers refined the Escape hybrid’s braking system to allows for better traction and stability control, and a smoother feel to the brakes, previously not incorporated into the hybrid system. Noise and vibrations have been reduced in the process. This is especially evident when the engine shuts off and the vehicle moves into all-electric mode. A 110-volt AC power outlet now comes standard. The Mercury Mariner Hybrid receives the Sync voice-activated phone and music system as standard equipment.

  • 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

    For 2009, the Malibu Hybrid is rated at 26 city and 34 highway—meaning a much healthier 4-mpg boost over the base-level Malibu. The previous Malibu Hybrid only managed a 2-mpg gain. The combined fuel economy in our road text was 29.8 miles per gallon. (Unfortunately, the Malibu was another victim of GM’s bankruptcy.)

2009 Hybrid Introductions

Mercedes S-Class Hybrid

In 2009, Mercedes will introduce its first hybrid.

  • Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid

    Hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan were introduced in 2009. Ford’s first hybrid sedans use a 2.5-liter engine to yield 200 horsepower. The entire 2009 Fusion lineup received a design refresh, including new headlines and front grille and a complete redesign of the interior. More importantly, the cars return 41 miles per gallon on the EPA city cycle, said chief engineer J.D. Shanahan, and highway mileage “at least 6 miles a gallon better than Camry Hybrid”—which would be 40 mpg or higher. This beats the mileage for the 2008 Camry Hybrid, at 33/34 (city/highway). Other impressive statistics for the Fusion Hybrid include pure electric speeds as high as 47 miles per hour, up to 2 miles of continuous electric-only driving, and a range of 700 city miles on one tank of gasoline.

  • Mercedes S-Class Hybrid

    In September 2009, Mercedes will begin to sell a hybrid version of its luxury S-Class sedan—the first hybrid to use lighter and more powerful lithium ion batteries. (Europe will see the vehicle earlier in the summer.) The company promises 30 miles per gallon—a 20 percent fuel economy improvement over the conventional S400. The lithium battery may be leading edge technology but it’s offered at a bleeding edge cost: The S-Class starts at about $88,000—so expect the Mercedes hybrid to cost about $30,000 more than the only other luxury hybrid sedan on the market, the V8 Lexus GS 450h.

    The Lexus, with a whopping 430 horsepower from its hybrid V8 powertrain, will outperform the Mercedes S400 Hybrid’s combined electric and gas rating of 295 horsepower and top speed of 155 miles per hour. Bear in mind that the Lexus GS only managed 23 miles to the gallon. The Mercedes S400 Hybrid will be the first in a series of hybrids expected from the company in coming years.

  • New Dedicated Lexus Hybrid: Lexus HS 250h

    The Lexus HS 250h is the Lexus brand’s first dedicated hybrid, just as the Prius was for its parent brand Toyota. A comparison to the 2010 Prius is apt, since the two cars share the same basic platform. They both ride on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, though the Lexus HS 250h is 2 inches wider, half an inch higher, and a full 9 inches longer than its hatchback relative. The HS also has a larger 2.4-liter engine—similar to the one in the Toyota Camry Hybrid—against the 1.8-liter engine used by the 2010 Prius. The complete hybrid system in the Lexus is fully 40 percent more powerful than that of the Prius: 187 horsepower compared to 134. Official EPA mileage for the HS 250h is 35 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway. The new Lexus HS will go on sale for $34,200 in August 2009.

  • BMW 7-Series Hybrid

    BMW launched its new 7-series in Paris and unveiled a hybrid concept version which will cut fuel use by 15 percent. It combines a V8 engine with electric drive with a mild hybrid system.

2009 Hybrid Plug-in Introductions

Fisker Karma

Fisker Karma.

Press releases from a number of small and innovative car companies are promising limited run plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Like Tesla Motors, which has had trouble pushing vehicles out of the factory, these companies are likely to face challenges in delivering more than a handful of vehicles to consumer.

  • Fisker Karma

    The Karma accelerates from 0-60 mph in less than six seconds, and has a top speed of 125 mph. The four-door plug-in hybrid premium sports sedan will have a starting price of $80,000. Initial deliveries of the Karma are schedule to commence in the fourth quarter of 2009.

  • VentureOne

    What do you get when you combine the exhilaration of riding a fast motorcycle, the safety and comfort of a commuter car, and the fuel efficiency of advanced automotive technologies? The VentureOne—a two-passenger, three-wheeled, 100-mpg plug-in series hybrid from Venture Vehicles in Los Angeles.

  • Phoenix Motorcars SUT

    Phoenix Motorcars, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., had big plans to shake up the EV world in 2009, but fell short and finally sputtered into Chapter 11. Its fate is undetermined but the prospects are not high. The company had planned to use engine-less vehicles supplied by Ssangyong, Korea’s fourth largest automaker, as the basis for its electric vehicle line in the US. (Ssangyong doesn’t sell cars in the United States). Analysts questioned Phoenix’s business model for years and its capacity to deliver a $45,000 SUT in any quantities. It now appears that the few models that were produced will become collector’s items.

More Hybrid News...

  • Anandhan

    it is possible for u to give the details of the components used in hybrid vehicles and the comparitive study on those component with current hybrids…..

  • Jos Bruin

    I’m very interested in the new Honda Insight.
    Because of a chronic back injury I’m not able to drive the Toyota Prius and the current Honda Civic Hybride because of their relative low seat height.
    Can anyone inform me about the seat height of the new Honda Insight?
    Important for me is the seat height from the floor of the car.
    ( measured from the front of the seat to the floor of the car)

  • PR Man

    why is there no mention of the Hyundai Elantra LPI HEV to be released in July, 2009????

    The Hyundai Elantra LPI HEV is the world first hybrid car to be powered by liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and the first to adopt advanced Lithium Polymer (Li-Poly) batteries.

    Worth a mention, surely??

  • HCH of Nezar

    Tomorrow I’ll sell my car and buy a HYBRID car. Toyota Prius is the best!

  • Melissa P

    Let me start off by saying that I absolutely love the Lexus ls600h.
    I am currently writing a research paper on hybrid vehicles in general, and I would just like to thank everybody, especially Igal because I found some of his information helpful towards my paper. If anyone knows anything interesting about hybrids or knows of any helpful websites that I could use, that would be great if you just post them.


  • Gandalf

    My Civic Hybrid is a gem. It is beautifully made, quiet, handles nicely and gets about 40mpg average.

    The only poor aspect is acceleration to highway speeds. The Prius has much better acceleration but is not as nice to drive because of the bar across the rear window.

  • Marcey S

    My husband and I are really hoping for a Sienna Hybrid – SOON! I am surprised to read that there is already one available in Japan. If an American company gets to a minivan hybrid first…I will certainly consider it very strongly.

  • David

    Its nice to see that American companies are finally catching up with their Japanese counterparts. The 2009 Fusion Hybrid seems pretty nice.

  • SoLO

    ar to cool the cars i want one of this car but is imposibil , the cars ar not on te market :(((

  • jesica

    i think hybrid cars are good for the envirment and everyone should have one!! this car is so high its hard to buy!!!

  • samantha

    My only concern about Hybrid and electric vehicles, is that while their purpose is to reduce greenhouse gasses and the affect they’re having on our environment… what is going to happen when all those batteries become unusable, and end up in our landfills? All the toxic wastes involved in the creation of batteries is just as harming to the environment.. while the trend right now is focused on greenhouse gas emissions. Are we creating more problems for ourselves?

    This is not to say that i’m against hybrid and electric vehicles. I’m all for them. I’d like to get one myself. But really, it just feels like we’re deflecting the issue, and creating another.

  • Patricia George

    We purchased a 2003 Toyota Prius. Never a single problem besides the original factory tires were junk. But, that is the case with every new car.

    We have over 90,000 miles now on our green car and loving it. We have fully had our expectations met with this car. We also feel we have made an investment in the environment by reducing the amount of fossil fuel we use driving. We walk the walk. Can you?

  • Dief

    I love my Prius. Three years with no problems, and averaging 47.8 mpg. Had hoped for a Plug-In by now, but none of the Big Boys are ready to gamble on the Li-Ion batteries yet.

  • Carly Simpson

    Hi Melissa,

    I read your comment and I am too writing a research project on hybrid cars. I am at the University of Bristol, doing my 3rd year physics project. What sort of aspects are you looking into with regards hybrids? My partner and I are investigating the fuel consumption of the Lexus RX400h for urban and non urban driving and then comparing it with the non hybrid equivalent 4X350. Would you have any advice about how to find information about the location of the manufacture of the hybrid parts? (we were trying to investigate the over all carbon cost of producing a hybrid) also any information on the battery disposal? Any useful links about anything at all would be very useul. Hope your’s is going well


  • Not yet a hybrid owner

    Batteries are recycled by manufacturers. Toyota reports Prius batteries last longer than 130,000 miles. They have a warranty to 100K, I believe.

  • Matthew Roth

    the article is concerned with US hybrid vehicles. The hyundai will be released in Korea only. After they can only sell in countries that have LPG infrastructure. not sure where you are from but that leaves the US out

  • Rahulbisme

    Fisker Karma is awesome!!

  • jen

    Hey everybody! I really want to get a hybrid for my next car. Waiting for the 2010 models to come out before I decide between the Prius, the Honda Civic, and the Honda Insight. Would love to hear opinions and owner experiences. I’ve been reading some of the blogs and these seem to be some of the problems: Toyota Prius has issues with the gas tank, the Civic wears the tires badly, and the Insight may be too small. Can anyone tell me anything to help me out? Thanks!!

  • Love hybrid

    Fisher Karma is a WOW

  • Blair

    I’m looking into a hybrid car (not an SUV) but my husband is 6’6″ and doesn’t fit in the Prius. Any suggestions about hybrid cars that might fit him?

  • Jenny Tsankova

    I heard that the Prius has serious problems in the snowy weather. Is that true for all hybrids?

  • Johan Young

    I love hybrid. Hybrid very promising in reducing the greenhouse effect.

  • Aneeque k

    is there any optimum speed which is required for these cars? is there any speed range between which the motor will b turned on?

  • Anonymous

    Is Doge Have A hybird car?


    dear sir,
    we are only one electric vehicle manufacturing company in nepal.
    so,now we want to make hybrid vehicle in nepal with electrical system by solar system.
    please give us idea about it.
    in details of technical data.

    with regards

  • Jay


    I’m not sure what you’ve read or saw about the Prius with snow? We have one that just over a year old, and had no issues with it last winter.. We are in Minnesota, so we get the snow and cold.

    Only thing about the deep cold (-10˚), the engien runs more to keep the cabin warm. so the avg MPG drops.

  • Menaka

    to arun,
    hey i had no idea there is a manufacturing plant in nepal let alone a hybrid vehicle plant. way to go! proud of you lot.

  • tom king

    I just test drove the honda insight. Nice car but it does sit you low. I’m quite tall and it didn’t work out so well for me. If you need to sit high, I don’t think the insight is going to do it for you. A quirky liittle thing that really annoyed me was the lack of dash lights. All the controls for air conditioning, radio, etc. are unlit and at night you can’t find them. The salesman swore that once you knew where they were, you could find them, but it couldn’t have been that difficulty to light the dash controls. No good choice in the hybrids just yet. Toyoto still uses the heavier and slightly outdated battery technology but gets the better mileage while Honda uses the newer technology but gets worse mileage. Both are uncomfortable in the driver’s seat unless you’re short. Good luck with your search.

  • Donna L Beals

    How is the 2010 Toyota Camary 4dr SE Hybrid?
    I saw one tonight and read the specs – sounds like it is built on safety and also I fell in love with its looks. This one was a aloe green. What can you tell me about it?

  • Testy

    Wow 90,000m in 6 years. That’s not really walking the walk now is it. Ever heard of public transport?

  • Testy

    I believe BMW make a nice hybrid convertible.

  • Testy

    Ah the good old U.S.of A, still behind the rest of the motoring world and telling itself it’s leading the way. I can only hope the Elantra is imported into Australia where we do have the infrastructure to handle such a vehicle without suffering massive government expenditure. Bring on the reviews, i look forward to hearing more about this car.

  • Anonymous

    great choice

  • Sappire

    The Camry hybrid is the best car in the world.

  • Proud American

    fuck you

  • amy

    hey i have one ques about hybird cars ,, is it reel that hybrid gmc and tahoe car dont have spare wheel ?? plz some body answer me

  • bethany

    i think the cars r good 4 the evernment but do i know im only 12 and im in sciece class posting a comment lol teacher is comming BYE

  • Retus Osborn

    Green house clean up is a noble idea. Hybrids effect on fuel economy seen to be the dominant
    issue to me. If they don’t significantly increase gasoline mileage, they’re worthless.

  • Naveed

    The Lexus HS250H which was released in august 2009 is going to be one of the best luxury hybrids in the market for 2010!

  • Robert Rushlow

    this is a great thing to do

  • Robert Rushlow

    the new car are the graets in the world and i will like to have one yayayayayayayayay

  • Angelo

    Good afternoon. On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily lying down.
    I am from Turkmenistan and know bad English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: “Instead, when bathing, the tamagotchi could swamp much times, red as direction its bathrooms, point consumers, and broadly make a screen.”

    Thank you so much for your future answers :). Angelo.

  • alisial

    hi i m intrested in converting some previous technology car to hybrid cars is it possibel how? can i get traning and feedback for that

  • jul

    I think Prius is a all good vehicle. Theres nothing wrong about it and I think that for anyone who dosent have more than two kids should get one! When the 2010 insite comes out the prius will still be a top seller.

  • jul

    I think you should get the Prius because the Toyota has a better and longer lasting engine, and the Honda has some issues. The gas tank on the Prius stays in pretty good shape exept when you need to bring it in once or twice a year. Plus it’s not that expensive. Please get the Prius because it’s very good for the envirement, comportable, afortable, and clean!

  • Gerald Katz

    almost 98% of the lead in batteries are currently recycled. The plastic and electrolyte is also recycled. 60% to 80% of new batteries are made with recycled materials. Advanced batteries should have as much or greater reuse rates which can be increased by high buyback payments and other incentives for recycling. It is far easier to control battery materials from geting into the envirnment that emissions from fossil fuel use.

  • yas

    I am also looking for hybrid 4 x 4, but the only thing I come up with is Lexus.
    BMW did state that they will release a hybrid X5,but the showrooms have say that they have not heard of it.

    I would like to buy a hybrid landcruiser
    I need a 4 x 4 for work,it is much more practical.

    Please help, we need to buy in January!!!!

  • KatieMac91

    I see you have done a research paper on hybrid vehicles.
    I am a university student doing a research project on hybrids.
    Where did you find the best information/is Toyota Prius still the best choice in your opinion?
    Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  • Phil Friday

    We live in the “snowbelt” of michigan and have driven the Prius in all kinds of winter conditions for 2 years every day and frankly see no difference other than the millage drops from about 51 MPG to about 49 MPG highway speed driving. the “sour grapes” stuff one hears is a bunch of baloney. It’s a remarkable and very well built piece of machinery and if one wants to look into it the very high resale values make it one of the least expensive cars you can own. Most of the cars I see going off the road here where we have real winter are 4-wheel drive SUV’s driven by nuts who have no idea what they are doing.

  • Ruth L.

    I purchased a Honda Insight in June and was informed today
    that it does not qualify for the federal and state tax credits.
    Was informed by the dealer that neither the Honda Insight or
    the Toyota qualified. Does anyone know if this is true or not?

    Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  • ericbecky

    Here is the hybridcars.com article that answers that question:

    “Credits for Toyota and Honda hybrids no longer qualify at all for tax credits.”

    Sorry to say, but there was a limit to the number of cars which would be eligible for each manufacturer. Honda and Toyota surpassed the allotted amount some time ago.

    Eric Powers
    Green Drive Expo
    Home to Hybridfest
    * SF Bay Area – Second weekend in June
    * Madison, WI – Third weekend in July

  • HourWage

    Anyone here ever driven or known anyone, who owns a Ford Escape Hybrid? If so, can you give me your opinion on this vehicle please? Like to hear some feedbacks… Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • pouya

    hybrid cars
    whst is a hybrid car? how do hybrids work?

  • Robert Murac

    The batteries are recycled. I also believe that becasue the batteries are made up of cells, only the cells that go bad are replaced.

  • Robert Mura

    I have never had a problem in the snow with my Prius. It handles just as well as any car I have driven in the past.

  • influent

    I hope you have a nice day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future .

  • Chrisanthus Gunasekera

    Pl advice me how to get a extra remote key for Hybrid cars