What is a Hybrid Car?

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 gas engine powers it at higher speeds. A hybrid car like Toyota Prius and Civic Hybrid not only conserves fuel but also produce less CO2 emissions. Though hybrid vehicles are now growing in popularity but still few people are actually using it mainly due to 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 the 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.

On the other hand, there are electric cars that use rechargeable batteries. Here are few of the advantages and disadvantages of having an electric car.

While most people associate hybrid vehicles with the kind 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 a fossil fuel and an alternate fuel source.

Advantages of a Hybrid Car

Here are few of the top advantages of having a hybrid car :-

1. Environmentally Friendly: One of the biggest advantage of hybrid car over gasoline powered car is that it runs cleaner and has better gas mileage which makes it environmentally friendly. A hybrid vehicle runs on 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 comes in the form of less amount of money spent on the fuel.

3. Less dependence on Fossil Fuels: A Hybrid car is much cleaner and requires less fuel to run which means less emissions and less dependence on fossil fuels. This in turn also helps to reduce the price of gasoline in domestic market.

4. Regenerative Braking System: 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

There are many advantages to owning a hybrid car. The one you will like the best is how it helps you to 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 the 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 popular myth, hybrid cars have just as much power as regular cars and have no issue with mountain driving or towing. The disadvantages will depend on the type of hybrid fuel that your car uses.

Here are few of the disadvantages of a hybrid car :-

1. Less Power: Hybrid cars 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 car 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.

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 expensive than a regular petrol car and can cost $5000 to $10000 more than a standard version. However, that extra amount can be offset with lower running cost and tax exemptions.

3. Poorer Handling: A hybrid car houses an 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 dual engine, continuous improvement in technology, and higher maintenance cost can make it difficult for mechanics to repair the car. It is also difficult to find a mechanic with such an expertise.

5. 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.

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 purchase 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 with 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 car pool driver more if you are the one with the hybrid, this can also help to conserve energy and lessen pollution.

Image credit: Eco-rally , Donna