People charging the Prius Prime in their garage

The Future of Cars Brings Big Changes

Visions of flying cars driving through futuristic cities may seem like the backdrop to every sci-fi film, but the future is a lot closer than you think. In fact, the future of cars is already a work in progress. While you may not see hovering vehicles on the streets anytime soon, you will see other impressive feats of mobility technology. From autonomous-driving cars to hydrogen fuel-cells to fully electric engines, we're already seeing a shift in the auto industry. Here's what we're noticing.

Electricity Fuels the Future of Cars

Companies like Toyota, Amazon, and FedEx have already started making improvements to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, more than 50 market-leading corporations have started their commitment to being carbon-neutral. One of the ways companies are working towards achieving this lofty goal is by focusing on the road. With a constant flow of deliveries, switching from gas-guzzling trucks to all-electric or hybrid fleets is the first step.

Toyota has laid out six environmental goals that will reduce the harmful impact of waste on nonrenewable resources here on earth. They have aptly named these efforts the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050. The goals are categorized under water, carbon, materials, and biodiversity. These are the biggest forces Toyota believes are impacting climate change.

Like Toyota, more and more car manufacturers are adding hybrid engines and all-electric vehicles to their lineups. While the Toyota Prius was one of the first mass-produced hybrids, it has gained competition over the years. Even vehicles synonymous with huge, gas-guzzling combustion engines, like SUVs, have come on board. Toyota’s popular Highlander SUV now has a hybrid engine available.

While hybrids have finally gained traction, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles are newer to the scene. To understand the full scope of how cars are changing, let's start by defining these different options.

Blue Prius parked at the rim of the Grand Canyon

How Do Hybrids Work?

A hybrid car has a combustion engine and an electric motor that work together to power each other. Hybrid vehicles use gas, but do not need to be charged from an outlet.

More Information: If you're asking yourself, "How do hybrid cars work?" you're not alone. Basically, what you need to know is that a hybrid has both a gas combustion engine and a motor that work together. While you're driving and braking, the hybrid battery is charged, providing extra power. This system allows your vehicle to sip gas, increasing your fuel economy estimates. Not only that, hybrids also create less greenhouse gases because they use less gas.

Woman charging a white Prius Prime at a charging station

What is a Plug-In Hybrid?

Similar to a regular hybrid, a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) has a combustion engine and electric motor. A plug-in hybrid takes regular fuel but can also be charged at home or at a charging station.

More Information: For a plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, the name says it all. You can plug in your vehicle to charge its electric motor. Unlike the hybrid, a plug-in hybrid can run mostly on electric battery power. Once there is no charge left in the "tank", it will then switch over to gas-powered energy. The benefit of a plug-in hybrid is that your fuel savings go up even more. Plus, you can use charging stations or plug in at home.

Three RAV4 Hybrid vehicles parked outside a building.

Benefits of Hybrid Cars

Aside from the obvious fuel savings that come with hybrid and electric vehicles, there are other benefits too. Here are just a few:

  • Electricity can come from renewable resources such as water, wind, and the sun.
  • Save on maintenance repairs since all-electric vehicles don't need some regular maintenance items, like oil changes.
  • Get government incentives for driving smart. To encourage the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles, some states give drivers tax credits.
  • Fly past the traffic jams. While the HOV lane is usually for carpooling, electric cars are given the go ahead in most states as well.
Interior of Toyota Prius.

Future In-Car Technology

Along with sleek looks and impressive electric driving ranges, the future of the automotive industry also brings new safety technologies.

More technological advancements will allow for Car-to-X Communication. With wireless multimedia capabilities already in place, this same idea can be applied to communicate with other cars. While this might sound strange, it could allow for the transfer of important information like road conditions and speed limits.

Another tech feature that will help keep drivers like you safe is the increased availability of Heads-Up Displays. This technology displays information like speed limits and road signs when detected right on the windshield. No longer will you have to take your eyes off the road. All the information you need is already in plain sight.

Drive Into the Future with Toyota

As we continue to explore new technology and advance towards a more eco-sensitive world, we'll soon be living the sci-fi dream. Until then, electric vehicles are becoming more and more readily available. Follow along with Toyota and other industry leaders as they continue to innovate.