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The difference is that the electric motor in the Honda system is simply bolted to the crankshaft - it essentially replaces the flywheel of a conventional car - while the Toyota system (to simplify) has separate gas and electric motors connected to a complicated transmission that handles apportioning power to the wheels.

If you did find a way to run the Honda electric-only, it would be very inefficient, since the electric motor would have to turn the gas engine too.

The real benefit of the Honda system - and the reason I wouldn't want a Prius even if it got better mpg - is that you still get to have a manual transmission.
 

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I don't see why running only 1 or 2 cylinders would increase economy, unless of course you have the added complexity of a clutch of some kind on the crankshaft.

If your fuel injectors are just supplying fuel to 1 cylinder, with the others still turning, you have the same amount of friction to overcome, and need to produce the same amount of power, so you burn the same amount of gas. What does it matter how many cylinders burn it?
 
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