There was a time when anyone who drove a hybrid car--especially a Toyota Prius--was viewed with distain by the majority of other road users.
They were seen as aloof, over-privileged, and perhaps, thanks to a certain episode of South Park, smug about their car buying decision.
But with more hybrids than ever before on the market, have hybrid cars broken through their own stereotypes?
And do people who drive them no-longer conform to the old image of hybrid drivers?
Yes, and here’s why.
The Prius has grown up
Although Toyota’s first generation Prius sedan and second generation Prius hatchback offered impressive gas mileage, many car buyers disliked their high-tech dashboards, underpowered engines, and extremely light power-steering.
The 3rd generation Toyota Prius--launched in 2010--improved on the flaws of earlier models, and became the first Prius hybrid mainstream buyers were happy to drive.
It offered more power, a more conventional interior, and the best gas milage of any Prius to date.
By the time the Prius family expanded earlier this year with the 2012 Prius V, 2012 Prius C and 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, more people than ever before were happy to drive a hybrid.
Motorsport has made hybrid technology cool
When the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius first debuted, most motorsport teams weren’t interested in hybrid engine technology.
But thanks to systems like KERS, hybrid car technology has seeped into everything from Formula One to Drag Racing.
Earlier this year, a hybrid car even won the famous Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race.
As with other automotive technologies, motorsport’s involvement in hybrid technology not only helps improve it, but it helps to raise its profile.
Variety makes picking a hybrid easier
At one point, if you wanted a hybrid car you had to choose between the compact Toyota Prius, and the equally uninspiring Honda Insight.
It also means they can choose a hybrid car which suits their needs, rather than just their gas mileage requirements.
With more hybrid car variety, hybrid cars have become a much more valid vehicle choice for those looking for a new car than they once were.
Hybrid cars don’t look strange any more
Finally, and most importantly, not all hybrid cars look like hybrid cars any more.
And by that, we mean weird, futuristic vehicles designed to cut through the air with the lowest drag possible.
Neither look like the stereotypical Prius of days gone by, and both have conventional interiors too, making them far more appealing to someone making the jump from a traditional gasoline car to a hybrid.
And in the case of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, its performance, load carrying capabilities, and even gas mileage are enough to give more traditionally-styled hybrids a tough time on the dealer lot.
Do you think hybrids are finally cool? Do you think other road users view hybrid owners with distain, or envy?