Toyota and Honda have begun waging battle in the hybrid market, and a price war is bound to speed conversion by consumers—the Prius is expected to dip below $21,000 in order to compete with the $19,000 Insight in Japan. But the two aren't just versions of the same new option, writes Salon. Different technology makes Toyota's offering both more expensive and more efficient for in-town driving, while Honda's is more efficient for highway driving.
The key difference is in the drivetrain: the Insight has a parallel drivetrain to transfer power from the gas engine to the electric motor, Salon explains, allowing it to have a relatively small, cheaper, battery pack. The Prius uses a series/parallel drivetrain, which can disconnect the engine and let the motor take over when it's more efficient. That makes it require a bigger battery pack.