The hybrid system found in the Toyota Prius, Highlander Hybrid and Camry Hybrid, which is called Hybrid Synergy Drive, combines an electric motor and a gas engine, along with technology that allows the motor to capture and reuse energy that is usually lost during traditional vehicle braking (regenerative braking).
The Electric Motor
Unlike some other hybrid vehicles on the market, the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive motor provides power to start the vehicle and for low-speed driving conditions where internal combustion engines are least efficient. The electric motor provides additional power to assist the engine in accelerating, passing or hill climbing. This allows a smaller, more efficient engine to be used.
One of the biggest misconceptions about hybrid vehicles is that the driver must turn the electric motor on and off. Not true; the Hybrid Synergy Drive system automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and gradually restarts the engine as the vehicle begins to move forward again. This prevents wasted energy from idling and starting from a dead stop ? two times when a vehicle?s engine is the most inefficient.
These features make Toyota?s Hybrid Synergy Drive system unique in that it is a ?full? hybrid, meaning that it can run on electric power alone under certain conditions. Other hybrids on the market are known as ?mild? hybrids, which means they rely on the gasoline engine to power the vehicle at all times while the electric motor assists the engine as needed. The electric motors and batteries in mild hybrids are less powerful than in full hybrids.