A hybrid car is one that uses more than 1 type of technology to provide motion. Usually, these cars will have an internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor – where the electric motor is sometimes able to power the vehicle on it’s own – or to assist the internal combustion engine.
The benefit of a hybrid car is that it will typically use less fuel, and also produce fewer emissions than a conventional vehicle of a similar size. The disadvantage of a hybrid car is that it is generally more expensive than a conventional car, due to the cost of the technology.
There are a few different types of hybrid vehicle systems:
- Electric motor that assists the petrol engine. This type of hybrid cannot be driven on the electric motor only. The electric motor changes to a generator during braking, deceleration and light cruise conditions. The energy produced is stored in a battery pack, and then used to assist the petrol engine to accelerate when needed.
- A second type has both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, both of which can power the vehicle independently, although the electric motor can only handle low speeds and short distances. Power generated by the electric motor is stored in battery packs and the electric motor can assist the combustion engine when required.
- A plug-in hybrid provides for the battery pack to be charged from mains power.
- A mild hybrid is a conventional vehicle that can generate and store energy during braking and deceleration, to be used later thereby reducing fuel costs.
- A range-extended electric vehicle has a full electric drivetrain supplemented by a petrol engine that drives a generator. This is not really a true hybrid.
Hybrid vehicles are most suited to a city environment with a lot of stop/start driving that will charge the battery pack. Significant fuel savings can be achieved in these conditions. Highway driving will not show much in the way of fuel savings, however, and the hybrid vehicle’s highway fuel consumption could well be bettered by some of the modern diesel turbo vehicles.