Hybrid cars are becoming more popular and more common. Basically, a hybrid car is one that uses two or more engines, i.e., an electric motor and a conventional engine (either petrol or diesel). The electric engine powers the car at lower speeds, and the gas engine powers it at higher speeds. A hybrid car like the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid not only conserves fuel but also produces less CO2 emissions.
Though hybrid vehicles are now growing in popularity still few people are actually using them, mainly due to a lack of knowledge of how hybrid vehicles work and whether they’re as good as other gasoline-powered vehicles.
While the technology has existed since the early 1900’s, it has only been in the past decade or so that the price of manufacturing them has brought them into the range of possibility for the average driver.
There are also more government incentive programs that use credits and special discounts to support the purchase and use of hybrid vehicles. Many cities are switching their public transportation and service vehicles over to hybrid cars and buses as a part of their program to become more environmentally responsible.
Wikipedia defines hybrid vehicle as,
“A hybrid vehicle uses two or more distinct types of power, such as internal combustion engine+electric motor, e.g. in diesel-electric trains using diesel engines and electricity from overhead lines, and submarines that use diesels when surfaced and batteries when submerged. Other means to store energy include pressurized fluid, in hydraulic hybrids.“
How Hybrid-Electric Vehicles Work?
Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (HEVs) combine the advantages of both the internal combustion engine, or gasoline engines, and electric motors that use energy stored in batteries. The key areas of performance are regenerative braking, dual power sources, and less idling.
Hybrid electric cars work by charging the battery through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine, and not by directly plugging in the vehicle to charge the batteries.
Through the electric motor and the battery, extra power is being provided, which allows the use of a smaller engine and even provides auxiliary loads which could reduce the idling of the engine. In total, these features result in better fuel economy while maintaining great vehicle performance.
Hybrid electric cars work through the use of different key components, and some of them are: The auxiliary battery, which provides electricity to start the car before engaging the traction battery;
The DC/DC converter, which converts the higher-voltage DC power from the traction battery to the lower-voltage DC power to run the vehicle accessories and recharge the auxiliary battery;
The electric generator, which provides electricity from the rotation of the wheels while braking, transferring the energy back to the traction battery; The electric traction motor, which uses power from the traction battery to drive the wheels;
The exhaust system which is designed with a three-way catalyst to reduce emissions from the engine out through the tailpipe; The spark-ignited internal combustion engine which allows air to combine with fuel and ignite by the spark from a spark plug;
And the power electronics controller, which manages the flow of electric energy from the traction battery, allowing the control of the speed of the traction motor and the torque being produced.
A hybrid electric vehicle cannot be plugged in for the battery to charge. The battery is charged with the help of regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine. It helps to transform kinetic energy produced by the moving car into electrical energy stored back in the batteries.
The electric motor powers the vehicle as well as resists its motion. When you apply the brakes to slow down, this resistance slows down the wheel and simultaneously recharges the batteries.
Depending on driving circumstances, power can come from either the engine, the motor or both. The electric motor is in use at low speeds. When you pick up the speed, your combustion engine kicks in. Afterward, the electric battery recharges itself using the combustion engine. The electric motor also provides additional power to assist the engine in accelerating or climbing.
For mild hybrids, they use both a battery and an electric motor to provide power for the vehicle and also allow the engine of the vehicle to shut off when it is not in motion. Mild hybrids are dependent on both electricity and fuel, but they cost less than full hybrid cars.
On the other hand, full hybrid cars use larger batteries and much more powerful electric motors, which help in providing power for the vehicle to travel short distances and at low speeds, only with the help of electricity. They cost more than mild hybrid cars, but they provide better fuel economy as they have a larger battery capacities and more powerful motors.
When the vehicle comes to a stop, it automatically shuts off the engine and restarts it when the accelerator is pressed down. This automation is much simpler with an electric motor.
The additional power provided by the electric motor can potentially allow for a smaller engine. The battery not only powers auxiliary loads, but it also reduces engine idling when it stops. These features altogether result in better fuel economy without hampering performance.
While most people associate hybrid vehicles with the kinds that use electricity as their primary alternate fuel, there are more options available now. There are cars that use hybrid technologies with propane and natural gas as well.
A hybrid car is best defined as a vehicle that has an engine that can switch between fossil fuel and an alternate fuel source. On the other hand, there are electric cars that use rechargeable batteries and have their advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of a Hybrid Car
Here are a few of the top advantages of having a hybrid car:-
1. Environmentally Friendly
One of the biggest advantages of a hybrid car over a gasoline-powered car is that it runs cleaner and has better gas mileage, which makes it environmentally friendly. A hybrid vehicle runs on a twin-powered engine (gasoline engine and electric motor) that cuts fuel consumption and conserves energy.
2. Financial Benefits
Hybrid cars are supported by many credits and incentives that help to make them affordable. Lower annual tax bills and exemption from congestion charges come in the form of a smaller amount of money spent on fuel.
3. Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels
A Hybrid car is much cleaner and requires less fuel to run, which means fewer emissions and less dependence on fossil fuels. This, in turn, also helps to reduce the price of gasoline in the domestic market.
4. Regenerative Braking System
Each time you apply the brake while driving a hybrid vehicle, it helps you 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.
5. Built From Light Materials
Hybrid vehicles are made up of lighter materials, which means less energy is required to run them. The engine is also smaller and lighter, which also saves much energy.
6. Assistance From Electric Motor
The electric motor assists the internal combustion engine in case of accelerating, passing or climbing a hill.
7. Smaller Engines
The gasoline engines used in hybrid cars are usually small, light, and highly efficient as they don’t have to power the car alone.
8. Automatic Start and Stop
In hybrid cars, the engine is automatically shut off when the vehicle is idle and starts when the accelerator is pressed. In comparison to traditional hybrid vehicles, PHEVs can drive longer distances at higher speeds. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have lower energy emissions because they emit only water vapor and warm air.
9. Electric-Only Drive
Hybrid vehicles can be driven entirely on electricity. This usually happens while moving at low speeds, when the engine is idling at a stoplight or when the engine starts up. Normally, the internal combustion engine starts operating only at higher speeds, where it has more efficiency. This helps increase the overall fuel efficiency of the vehicle.
10. Higher Resale Value
With a continuous increase in the 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.
There are many advantages to owning a hybrid car. The one thing you will like the best is how it helps control your budget as gas prices continue to get higher. The other benefit that is not seen directly is how owning and driving a hybrid car impacts the environment. It reduces your dependence on fossil fuels and lowers your carbon imprint on the environment.
Disadvantages of a Hybrid Car
There are disadvantages to owning a hybrid car, but they are probably not what you think. Contrary to the popular myth, hybrid cars have just as much power as regular cars and have no issues with mountain driving or towing. The disadvantages will depend on the type of hybrid fuel that your vehicle uses.
Here are a few of the disadvantages of a hybrid car:-
1. Less Power
Hybrid cars have twin-powered engines. The gasoline engine, which is the primary source of power, is much smaller as compared to what you get in single-engine powered cars, while the electric motor is of low power. The combined power of both is often less than that of a gas-powered engine. It is therefore suited for city driving and not for speed and acceleration.
2. Can be Expensive
The biggest drawback of having a hybrid car is that it can burn a hole in your pocket. Hybrid cars are comparatively more expensive than regular petrol cars and can cost $5000 to $10000 more than a standard version. However, that extra amount can be offset with lower running costs and tax exemptions.
3. Poorer Handling
A hybrid car houses a gasoline-powered engine, a lighter electric engine, and a pack of powerful batteries. This adds weight and eats up the extra space in the car. Extra weight results in fuel inefficiency and manufacturers cut down weight, which has resulted in motor and battery downsizing and less support in the suspension and body.
4. Higher Maintenance Costs
The presence of a dual engine and continuous improvement in technology make it difficult for mechanics to repair the car, and the cost of maintenance is also much higher. It is also difficult to find a mechanic with such expertise.
5. Accident from High Voltage in Batteries
In the event 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 the driver out of the car.
6. Battery Replacement is Pricey
According to Green Car Reports, battery replacement in hybrid vehicles is currently rare. However, if a battery needs to be replaced, it can get pricey.
7. Battery Disposal and Recycling
The batteries that are at the end of their useful life cycle can be recycled to harvest usable materials for repurposing. This removes waste from the environment. However, the main issue with recycling lies in the collection rate of vehicle batteries.
The same problem lies in recycling lithium batteries in mobile electronics. Although lithium is 100% recyclable, extracting it costs too much to make it of high economic value. It is only done because of federal mandates and/or ecological purposes.
8. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Issues
The source of hydrogen can be both “clean” sources such as solar or wind power or “dirty” sources like coal and natural gas. Sourcing from coal and natural gas undermines the ecological motive for the use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Production of hydrogen is also expensive, and the fuel cells require refueling at a hydrogen station. At present, these stations are only located in California and near Toronto.
Making Your Decision
Deciding whether or not a hybrid car is right for you involves more than just a desire to be environmentally friendly. You have to look at the resources in your area that can help you maintain and sustain the car.
Depending on the type of car you purchase, you may need mechanics that are familiar with it or an alternate fuel source. You should also look into any credits or discounts that may be available to help you lower the cost of the car.
Changing Your Driving Habits
Even if you do purchase a hybrid car, there is more you can do to lessen your effect on the environment. One of the most important considerations is how you drive. You can replace many of your car trips by using public transportation, carpooling, or even riding a bicycle.
Also, planning to use the car more effectively can reduce the overall number of trips you are making each week. Hybrid or not, the less you drive, the better it is for the environment. You should also consider offering to be the carpool driver more if you are the one with the hybrid. This can also help to conserve energy and lessen pollution.