In our busy lives, cars are sought out to be one of the best modes of transportation. But, with the rising economy, people tend to buy cars that have better mileage. But still we think of trading cars with something that is cheaper when we look at the rising petrol costs. Though we do not think much about the environmental effects, we must still consider the fact that cars are the major contributors to pollution. To an extent, hybrid cars can be a remedy to many of these problems. A lot of car manufacturers have started new plants to produce their own version of hybrid cars.

As a matter of fact, we have seen many versions of hybrid vehicles before. Some of them are the simple motorized-pedal bike (moped), pulling trains, diesel-electric buses, and diesel-electric mining trucks and so on. A moped is actually a combination of gasoline and pedal power. Diesel-electric buses run on diesel for a while and later when connected to overhead electric wires, they run on electricity. The submarines used by our country are also hybrid models, where their fuel may be either nuclear-electric or diesel-electric. Some of the earliest hybrid cars include Toyota Prius (1997), Honda Civic Hybrid (2002), and later on many more. Ford Company introduced the first hybrid SUV called The Escape in 2004. Similarly came companies like Chevrolet Silverado and so on.

In this post we are going to give you a detailed explanation on how hybrid cars work, their efficiency, advantages and disadvantages.

What are hybrid cars?

In simple words, the word hybrid refers to anything that has a combination of two different ideas. When a car uses two different ideas to move, it is called a hybrid car. Usually our cars run on petrol, diesel or gas. But their inefficiency, as explained earlier, led to the invention of electric cars. But, since electric cars also had disadvantages of frequent battery charging and inefficient long drives, there evolved a combination of both. When gas and electricity were used in the combined mode, a better solution was made to the inefficiency and mileage.

A user of a car always asks for some minimum requirements while using a car. They are

  • For long distances, the car must run for at least 450 kilometres before refuelling.
  • The drive should be smooth and easy.
  • The car should maintain a good speed so as to cope up with other cars in traffic.
  • Easy and fast refuelling of cars.
  • A good mileage
  • Less pollution

Though most of the conventional cars can provide the first four requirements correctly, they are very much backwards in the case of mileage and pollution. Electric cars, on the other hand can provide a very good mileage and very less pollution. But, the first four requirements will be let down. A combined use of both electric and gas energy will clearly find all these requirements satisfactory.

As Hybrid cars use two energy sources, a lot of energy consumption was reduced for travel (As both the gas and electricity share their energy.) As explained in my article about electric cars, there would not be a disadvantage of recharging the battery frequently. They will be spontaneously charged, while the car is running. Apart from the mileage, the car has also proved to give a performance almost adequate to a conventional car. Due to its improved mileage and reduced pollution, the governments in most countries have been pleased and have helped in its promotion.

Parts Of a Hybrid Car

There are mainly 5 essentials for a hybrid car. They are

  1. Conventional car engine – It can be a gasoline engine or also petrol or diesel respectively. But whatever engine is used, will be more advanced than the usual ones, as they have to work together with the electrical system. They will be smaller with greater efficiency and lesser emissions.
  2. Fuel Tank – For storing the fuel needed to rum the car engine.
  3. Batteries – Batteries are needed to store and release energy as required by the car. The energy from the battery is taken by the motor.
  4. Electric Motor and generator – Though motors can act as generators, both of them are needed for this car. A motor will be needed to take energy from the batteries and accelerate the car. Generators, on the other hand, are needed to produce the electrical power.
  5. Transmission System – The entire transmissions that were performed in a conventional car will be done here as well, but in the hybrid manner.

Series and Parallel Hybrids

There are mainly two types of hybrid cars – Series and Parallel. They differ in the manner in which the two energy sources are combined.

The series hybrid has the generator driven by the engine. This generator is used to charge the batteries and also drive the electric motor, which drives the transmission. Thus power to the vehicle is never directly given by the engine.

Parallel hybrid, on the other hand has both the engine and the electric motor to drive the transmission at the same time. This transmission is then used to turn the wheels. The fuel is given to the engine and the motor is supplied power by the motor. Parallel hybrids are considered straight forward, and hence are used widely. Take a look at the block diagram of a Hybrid Car.


Hybrid Car Block Diagram
Hybrid Car Block Diagram

How Hybrid Cars work?

To know the working of a hybrid car, we must understand the basics of Mild Hybrid cars and Full Hybrid cars.

In mild hybrid cars, the electrical motor is used only when additional power is needed. The conventional engine is used to provide most of the power. The electrical motor alone cannot operate the vehicle. Whenever power is needed the electric motor acts as a side-kick to the conventional engine. Some vehicles that carry this concept is the Honda Civic and Insight.

In a full hybrid car, the electrical energy is used while the car needs less power. The gasoline energy is used when the car needs less power. Thus at lower speeds the battery drives the vehicle and at higher speed the gasoline drives the vehicle. This technology has been used in cars like Toyota Prius and Ford Escape.

Both of them though have a little different mode of operation provide the same amount of efficiency.

Since both electric motor and an engine are used simultaneously, the size of the engine will be considerably smaller than the usual ones. But they will be a lot more advanced than the usual ones. The motor, on the other hand is also used to give power for the air conditioner, power windows, water pump and also power steering.

Take a look at the diagram given below. It shows the actual working of the hybrid car Toyota Prius. During the starting position, none of the system is working. After the car starts to move, it is in the normal driving mode. Thus the car will automatically change to the use of electric motor. Later when the car is accelerated and gains speed, it switches from the use f motor to the use of engine. Thus the gasoline engine supplies the required power. This switching is carried out automatically, with the help of an on-board computer. Since the battery has lost some of its charge, it needs to be immediately recharged. This is also done automatically. When the car starts to go in a uniform speed or when it is descending a road, the generator starts charging the battery.


Working of Hybrid Cars
Working of Hybrid Cars

Comparison between a hybrid car and a gasoline car

If you compare the power drive of both the cars, you will see that both of them are equally efficient. While a gasoline car has a bigger engine, the hybrid car has a smaller engine. Conventional cars have enough power to attain the required speed, and that too at the required time. In a hybrid car, as the engine is smaller, it is more efficient. It has lighter parts and reduced number of cylinder. The fuel required for smaller engines is lesser than the other ones. Since bigger engines have all the pistons in a bigger size, they need more energy when they make an up and down movement in the cylinder. Even if the car is not moving, the engine may be on. At this time also the big engine cylinders use fuel.

If both the cars are moving equally the car with gas engine will use its whole single power to drive the car. The hybrid car will also need the same output power to drive the car. But, as it is smaller, it makes lesser power than the bigger one. This is when the electric motor comes into play. They provide the rest of the power from the battery to compensate the balance.

Advantages Of Hybrid Cars

  • Very less pollution.
  • Better mileage.
  • More reliable and comfortable.
  • Very clean cars due to less emissions.
  • Batteries need not be charged by an external source.
  • Warranties available for batteries as well as motors.
  • Less dependence on fuels.

Disadvantages Of Hybrid Cars

  • The initial cost will be very high – higher than other cars.
  • Since a lot of batteries will be needed, the car will be very heavy.
  • As there are electrical components, there is risk of shock during an accident.
  • The vehicle can be repaired only by professionals.
  • Spare parts will be very costly and rare.

Tips to improve fuel efficiency

  1. Most people buy tires that provide good traction for all weather conditions. Little do they look out for efficiency. If stiffer tires with higher pressure are used they reduce the friction by two times than the usual.
  2. For any car, as the weight and size of the car increases, the efficiency decreases. So remove the unwanted weight and thus increase efficiency. Make the body using lighter metals like aluminium and magnesium.
  3. Aerodynamics plays an important role in the fuel consumption of your car. For this you have to reduce the frontal area of the car, thereby reducing the air drag.
  4. The energy wasted from your hybrid car includes the energy wasted as heat. If you could recycle that energy and reuse it, you can surely get more fuel efficiency. When you apply brakes, you are throwing out energy from the car. This energy can be stored in the battery through a process called regenerative braking. Instead of applying the brakes, the electric motor drives the hybrid to reduce the speed of the car. This way, the electric motor acts as a generator and charges the batteries while the car is slowing down.

Selecting a hybrid car

It is indeed a very tricky task to select a hybrid car that suits all your requirements. There are certain basic parameters that you must look out for while buying a hybrid car.

  • Price

As told earlier hybrid cars have a much more initial expense than the ordinary ones. Hybrid cars range in prices from $20,000 to $50,000. The price varies according to the size of the car and also the style. So, decide wisely as this is a lot of money.

  • Mileage

Clearly, hybrids have a lot more mileage than the conventional cars. But still try to buy cars that have better mileage among the category. There are cars with mileages varying from 65mpg to 28 mpg.

  • Travel comfort

For long distance traveling, travel comfort plays a very important role. There are cars with comfortable hatchback and others with leg room, boot capacity and overall space. But to get all these features in one car is a little difficult. So begin a massive search for them.




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