What is a hybrid?
Commonly called hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), a hybrid vehicle is simply one that relies on two different power sources for motion. The two different power sources are typically petrol and electricity (most common in the US) and diesel and electricity (which can be found in Europe). Hybrid-electric vehicles combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors to provide improved fuel economy.
The electric motor is used at low speeds. When your speed picks up, your combustion engine kicks in.
The electric battery then recharges itself using the combustion engine.
There are three main types of hybrid vehicle; full hybrids, mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
- A full hybrid (FHEV) can run on just the combustion engine (i.e. diesel/petrol), the electric engine (i.e. power from batteries), or a combination. The Toyota Prius is the most commonly known example of this. Toyota has a host of car leasing and contract hire deals on hybrid vehicles, a popular choice if looking for low emission vehicles. It's useful to note a full hybrid is not plugged into recharge; the battery is recharged by running the combustion engine.
- A mild hybrid has an electric motor and combustion engine which always work together. An example of this is the Honda Accord Hybrid. Mild hybrids cannot run in just electric or just combustion engine mode; the engines/motors always work in parallel.
- A plug-in hybrid (PHEV), as the name suggests, requires plugging into the mains in order to fully recharge its battery. PHEVs can be run in just electric mode.
The technology involved
There are 3 main components that allow hybrids to run:
- The battery stores energy generated from the gasoline engine - or during regenerative braking - from the electric motor. Since the battery helps power the vehicle, it is larger and holds much more energy than batteries used to start conventional vehicles.
- Electric motor assists the gasoline engine when additional power is needed. It also acts as a generator, converting energy from the engine or from regenerative braking into electricity and stores it in the battery. It starts the gasoline engine instantly when needed.
- The gasoline engine in a hybrid is much like those in conventional vehicles, except that it's usually much smaller and more efficient.
The three types of hybrid all share the same features in order to work. The goal of a hybrid is to use the electric portion of the drivetrain as much as possible without compromising performance. Harmful emissions are reduced and the fuel efficiency of the car increases. This is because the electric motor is more efficient than a combustion engine and produces no emissions.
An exception to such a goal may be the La Ferrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918. These high-performance cars use their electric motors to maximise performance, rather than maximise their efficiency and eco-friendliness.
Most hybrids use several advanced technologies:
- Regenerative Braking. Regenerative braking recaptures energy normally lost during coasting or braking. It uses the forward motion of the wheels to turn the motor. This generates electricity and helps slow the vehicle.
- Electric Motor Drive/Assist. The electric motor provides power to assist the engine in accelerating, passing, or hill climbing. This allows a smaller, more-efficient engine to be used. In some hybrids, the electric motor alone propels the vehicle at low speeds, where gasoline engines are least efficient.
- Automatic Start/Stop. Automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and restarts it when the accelerator is pressed. This reduces wasted energy from idling.
How Hybrid electric vehicles work?
When the vehicle is started, the gasoline engine "warms up."
If necessary, the electric motor acts as a generator, converting energy from the engine into electricity and storing it in the battery.
The gasoline engine powers the vehicle at cruising speeds and, if needed, provides power to the battery for later use.
During heavy accelerating or when additional power is needed, the gasoline engine and electric motor are both used to propel the vehicle.
Additional power from the battery is used to power the electric motor as needed.
Regenerative braking converts otherwise wasted energy from braking into electricity and stores it in the battery.
In regenerative braking, the electric motor is reversed so that, instead of using electricity to turn the wheels, the rotating wheels turn the motor and create electricity. Using energy from the wheels to turn the motor slows the vehicle down.
If additional stopping power is needed, conventional friction brakes (e.g., disc brakes) are also applied automatically.
When the vehicle is stopped, such as at a red light, the gasoline engine and electric motor shut off automatically so that energy is not wasted in idling.
The battery continues to power auxiliary systems, such as the air conditioning and dashboard displays.
Advantages of hybrid vehicles
Environmentally Friendly: One of the biggest advantages of a hybrid vehicle over gasoline-powered one is that it runs cleaner and has better gas mileage which makes it environmentally friendly. Running on twin powered engine cuts fuel consumption which means fewer emissions.
Hybrids are cheaper to run: Clever technology such as fixed-gear transmission helps hybrids to save drivers money. More compact than a traditional continuously variable transmission results in greater efficiency with high levels of refinement and responsiveness. The electric motor means that there is less fuel consumed which reduces the cost of running the vehicle.
They recharge as you drive: Each time you apply brake while driving a hybrid vehicle helps you to recharge your battery a little. An internal mechanism kicks in that captures the energy released and uses it to charge the battery which in turn eliminates the amount of time and need for stopping to recharge the battery periodically.
Built From Light Materials: Hybrid vehicles are made up of lighter materials which means less energy is required to run. The engine is also smaller and lighter which also saves much energy.
Hybrid drivers do not suffer range anxiety if you are not ready for a move to a full electric vehicle, hybrid is your perfect first step. A hybrid vehicle does not require you to charge the battery, but instead when the battery is low it switches to petrol / diesel engine.
Hybrids are more responsive to drive: the beauty of an electric motor is that it delivers all its pulling power (torque) from the moment you start accelerating.
Higher Resale Value: With continuous increase in price of gasoline, more and more people are turning towards hybrid cars. The result is that these green vehicles have started commanding higher than average resale values. So, in case you are not satisfied with your vehicle, you can always sell it at a premium price to buyers looking for it.
Disadvantages of hybrid vehicles
Hybrids are not as environmentally friendly as plug-in hybrids or electric cars: If you are looking for the best way to reduce your carbon footprint then you might want to consider a plug-in hybrid or an electric car. They are more environmentally friendly as they emit fewer emissions or none at all in the case of an electric car.
Less power: Hybrid vehicles are twin powered engine. The gasoline engine which is primary source of power is much smaller as compared to what you get in single engine powered vehicle and electric motor is low power. The combined power of both is often less than that of gas powered engine. It is therefore suited for city driving and not for speed and acceleration.
Can be expensive: The biggest drawback of having a hybrid vehicle is that it can burn a hole in your pocket. Hybrid vehicles are comparatively more expensive than a regular petrol vehicle, however, that extra amount can be offset with lower running cost.
Servicing and maintenance charges can be higher: Because there are two engines and there is quite a bit of tech in those engines, maintenance costs can be higher.
Presence of High Voltage in Batteries: In case of an accident, the high voltage present inside the batteries can prove lethal for you. There is a high chance of you getting electrocuted in such cases which can also make the task difficult for rescuers to get other passengers and driver out of the car.
A hybrid vehicle is perfect for those who want to be more environmentally-friendly but do not want to pay more for a plug-in hybrid nor do they like the idea of having to charge their vehicle up. However, if you do want to go for a vehicle that is the most environmentally friendly, then we would recommend looking at a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle. Hybrids are also perfect for those doing a high mileage as you don’t have to charge your car up. That said, maintenance does cost more with a hybrid because of the dual engines. They are also not as powerful as conventional combustion engine vehicles because the fuel engine is smaller.