Hybrid cars have taken the country by storm, but what technology is included in these vehicles, and how do they work?
The first mass-produced hybrid vehicle was the Toyota Prius back in 1999, but technology has come a long way since then.
Hybrids can save a lot of money in fuel and provide an environmentally-friendly way to travel the roads.
What are Hybrid Cars?
The hybrid vehicle is a cross between a gas-powered and electric automobile. It combines a minimum of one electric motor with a conventional gas engine to propel the vehicle. The system can also capture the energy again through regenerative braking.
In some vehicles, the electric motor will perform most of the work, while others rely heavily on the gasoline engine instead. Adding electric power doesn’t just save fuel, but can also boost some of the performance.
The electricity comes from a battery pack, which is separate from the 12-volt starting battery. The gas engine and regenerative braking will help to maintain battery power.
While the basics of hybrid cars are the same, there are different varieties on the market today.
Types of Hybrid Vehicles
As you look at the different types of hybrids for sale, you will find the majority of them fit into one of these categories.
This is the most common hybrid design. With the parallel version, you get a gasoline engine and electric motor connected to a common transmission blending the two power sources. This system is used with CVT, automatic and manual transmissions.
Both the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius use a hybrid setup that includes a power-split CVT. However, many of the brands rely on parallel technology, including Lexus, Kia, Hyundai, Nissan, Ford, and Honda.
With a series hybrid design, the electric motor produces all of the thrust. In this type of hybrid, there will not be a physical connection between the wheels and the engine. Instead, the gas engine is used to recharge the battery only.
When driving this type of car, you will feel more like you are in an electric car. These vehicles offer more acceleration, smoother power, and less vibration than the parallel.
Still, some people find that these hybrids don’t respond immediately when pushing on the pedal. That’s because the battery is meeting the demand, not the engine. One example of the series hybrid is a BMW i3.
The plug-in hybrid comes with a larger battery pack, allowing for the vehicle to be charged with an external source. You can use a power cord at your office, home, or through a public charging station.
The larger the energy storage is, the more all-electric driving you achieve. Most plug-in hybrid cars offer an electric driving range between 15 and 55 miles. With this design, you spend less money on fuel, but also have a backup gasoline engine for longer trips.
If you can recharge your vehicle every night and have a short commute, this might be the best option for you. One example of this type of vehicle is the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid van.
Ready to be a little confused? The plug-in can be set up as either a parallel or a series hybrid.
What about the vehicles that don’t fall clearly into one of these previous categories? For example, Honda released a newer design that doesn’t work like a parallel or series hybrid. With this automaker’s design, the engine runs a generator for the majority of the time. Still, the engine can also drive the wheels, like in a parallel.
Volvo plug-in hybrids use a conventional front-wheel-drive engine paired with a transmission, but it also contains an electrically-powered rear axle. Additionally, the Porsche 918, BMW i8, and Acura NSX have an electric-only axle in the front.
What is the Difference Between Full and Mild Hybrids?
Most of what we have discussed thus far deals with full hybrid cars. In these variations, the electric motor can propel the car on its own, at least for a little. With mild hybrids, the electric motor doesn’t move the vehicle. Instead, it is used in conjunction with the starter to shut down the engine and save fuel. The systems are referred to as automatic start-stop.
So, why would you want to own a hybrid vehicle? Here are a few hybrid benefits to consider.
- Less fuel consumption than with gas vehicles
- Reduction in CO2 pollution
- Often have a selection of power settings
- Reduced maintenance for environmentally friendly cars
- Tax benefits to owners
- Higher resale value
Still, there are a few downsides to owning a hybrid vehicle. Consider these disadvantages.
- Lack of performance compared to gasoline models.
- Higher price.
- Higher cost to repair.
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