Over the past 20 years, the Toyota Prius has been the world's most successful “alternative”-fuel vehicle, largely because it doesn't depend on that fuel: electricity. Rather, it runs a gas-and-electric motor at the same time, most of the time, to maximize mpg's and minimize emissions.

Over 3 million Priuses have been sold globally 3 million!

The Prius said “Hello, world!” in 1997 in Japan. Back then, the car was effectively a Toyota Echo sedan with the “Hybrid Synergy” drivetrain dropped in. That was enough to get the ball rolling, and in 2001 the Prius came to America, and America never looked back. “Hybrid” became a household word, and as gas prices rose in the 2000s and SUVs slipped in popularity, the Prius had the first-mover advantage to end them all.

When I lived in Los Angeles a big market for the Prius, thanks to gas prices in the region that are higher than the national average and lengthy commute times it was hard to go a day without seeing a Prius. And if we had friends over, the streets were lined with Priuses.

Oddly, we never owned one, but when it came time to get a new car on the East Coast, I headed straight for a Toyota dealership and all but drove home an hour later with a 2011 Prius. As a moderately used car for the suburbs, the Prius has no peer. Best off all, it costs me $18 to gas up once a month.

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