Hybrid cars have probably been around for longer than you’d think. They have been on the roads since the late 1990s, but how much do you actually know about them? Even if you own a hybrid vehicle, while you probably know the basics, you may not be completely sure how they work! We’ve explored hybrid cars in more detail below:
What is a Hybrid Car?
As the name suggests, a hybrid car is a vehicle that combines electric power with another fuel – generally diesel. The car will have at least one electric motor, which will assist the conventional diesel or petrol engine.
The ways in which the two means of propulsion work together can vary. With some hybrids, the electric engine will contribute towards acceleration, while others run on electric power alone, though perhaps for shorter distances.
How Do Hybrids Work?
A hybrid will have an electric motor, a petrol or diesel engine, and a battery pack. The latter is powered by both the engine and the kinetic energy that is created by the motion of the car, especially when braking and slowing down. You may have heard kinetic energy referred to as ‘self-charging’ in reference to a hybrid vehicle.
There are three types of hybrid vehicle, and each one works in a different way. These are parallel, plug-in, and range extender hybrids, which we’ve outlined below:
Parallel Hybrid Cars
A parallel hybrid is the most common type of hybrid vehicle. Perhaps the most widely known example of a parallel hybrid is the Toyota Prius, which is a popular family car, considered to be practical and reliable.
These types of cars work in three different ways – the wheels can be powered by the electric motor alone, directly by the engine, or with both of these power sources working together. Generally speaking, parallel hybrids use the electric motor for lower speeds and pulling away, making them a very economical car for city driving.
When you use the brakes on a parallel hybrid, the regenerative braking system will produce electricity, which is then stored in the battery for later use. And while the battery won’t be able to take you very far – in the Prius, just over a mile – it may be enough to get you to a filling station.
Plug-In Hybrid Cars
It’s pretty easy to guess how these hybrid cars are charged! A plug-in hybrid can be charged using an electrical outlet at home, as well as on the move. These vehicles are essentially an equal balance between a conventional hybrid and a fully electric car.
Plug-in hybrids have larger batteries than the other two types of hybrids, and can therefore drive longer distances using this power source. With some larger vehicles, you can drive up to 30 miles using only electric power.
Range Extender Hybrid Cars
With a range extender hybrid, the engine doesn’t actually drive the car. Instead, the engine is used to produce electricity for the generator, which charges the batteries. Examples of range extender hybrid cars include the BMW i3 and the Honda Jazz.
With these types of hybrid, you can separate the vehicles into two categories – strong or mild. Unlike cheese, this isn’t referring to strength of flavour, but rather the battery capacity. The vehicles with higher capacities, which are strong hybrids, can drive further using electric power only.
Charging a Hybrid Vehicle
A hybrid car recycles energy, charging its own electric battery while on the move. With plug-in hybrids, you do have the option of using a charging point to give the battery extra charge, but it’s not technically necessary.
If you do want to charge your hybrid car at home though, it’s incredibly straightforward. The vehicle will come with a built-in socket and cable, which you can simply connect to your home’s 13 amp power supply. On average, charging a hybrid will take between three and eight hours.
Benefits of a Hybrid Car
Perhaps the main benefit of hybrid vehicles is the fact that they can have great fuel economy and low emissions. If you’re travelling for short distances, at low speeds, your hybrid may not need to use fuel at all, but run completely on electric power. These cars are therefore great for anyone driving in a busy city.
Another advantage of a hybrid vehicle is that they’re a good compromise for people who aren’t yet ready to buy a fully electric car. You don’t necessarily need to charge a hybrid, which can be useful for people living in flats, with no easy way to charge a vehicle.
You don’t need to worry about range either, as some people do with an electric vehicle. As mentioned above, you don’t need to get to a charging point with a hybrid, as they charge their own batteries.
There is furthermore a lot of choice with a hybrid vehicle. They come in a variety of power modes, from eco to power, so you can choose your ideal car depending on the way you drive. Overall, hybrid vehicles have a lot of benefits, and may be a good option for your next car!
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