What Makes a Car Hybrid?

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Car driving on highwayAll hybrid cars share at least three common factors. In fact, all three capabilities must be present in order for the vehicle to be classified as hybrid. These three steps include: Regenerative braking, idle-off capability and power assist. These steps are explained below in more detail. Read on to learn more about what makes a car a hybrid.

Regenerative Braking

This is the function that allows the battery pack to be recharged without a stationary plug-in. In a conventional car, friction is what causes the car to slow and eventually, to stop. This friction causes heat and this heat energy is simply lost. In addition, the energy from the moving car is also simply lost. In a hybrid car, it is the electric motor that brings the car to a halt. The electric motor works like a generator and is therefore able to recover some of the energy produced by the moving car. It also does not throw away any energy in heat loss. This process turns the energy into electricity that the motor then stores in its batteries.

Idle-off

A hybrid car turns off its gas engine when it is not moving, and it switches it back on when acceleration is initiated. When you stop at a traffic light, wait at the drive up window at the bank, or are stalled in rush-hour traffic, the gas powered engine automatically switches off without the driver even needing to turn the key. During idle-off, the electric motor keeps the vehicle running. When you are ready to move forward again, the gas engine turns back on. Hybrids are designed so efficiently that the switch happens more quickly than the driver even registers the need.

Power Assist

The power assist ability is what was described earlier when one motor helps the other perform the full function of driving. The power assist ability is combined with downsizing the engine. It is this quality that allows a hybrid car to achieve the same level of performance as a car with a larger engine, but with the added advantage of better fuel economy.

Alex loves nature and does his best to take care of the planet. He doesn't take for granted the serenity that can be found in the stillness of an ancient forest, or the majestic power of the ocean's large waves as they crash on an isolated island shoreline. He wants to raise awareness for how simple it can be to make a couple changes in your everyday life that can make a huge difference for the environment in the long term.

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14 Comments on "What Makes a Car Hybrid?"

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Anonymous
Good to know – I was always amazed at how people would quickly jump on a bandwagon and not have much idea of what went on behind what they were getting into. Okay, there was probably a better way to say that, but oh well 😉

Long story short – is it still worth the upfront investment, and high repair costs down the road, of buying a hybrid now that gas prices are so low?

treehugger
Good question. I think in terms of cost it may not make as much of an impact today as it did in the last couple years, or will in the next decade. However, in terms of affecting your carbon foot print and helping the environment, it makes a big difference.
fuel saving app
Good information to hybrid a performance a car. This post is so informative and makes a very nice image on the topic in my mind. It is the first time I visit your blog, but I was extremely impressed. Keep posting as I am going to come to read it everyday!

Anonymous
A fact I kept coming across in my research was that hybrids are safer vehicles. This factor was a bit harder to nail down, but it comes down to the types of parts which are used in the hybrids versus conventional vehicles. The battery used in a hybrid car is nickel laid instead of the lead acid variety used in a typical car. Combined with the use of less gasoline, there is much less likelihood of having a true disaster, including fire.

I am not sure that I buy all of that, but still there are some powerful arguments and reasons here. The main argument against, from my point of view, is the higher cost. I am not sure that such a purchase could be justified on pure economic reason. Even if the reduction in gas consumption was as much as 50 percent, it would take years to balance out the higher vehicle price with lower gas costs. Personally, I think that lower gas consumption is an overused tactic for selling these vehicles.

Anonymous
After doing some research, I clearly understand some reasons which might motivate people to purchase such a vehicle. The first advantage is the enhanced fuel economy. These cars will get about 30 additional miles per gallon than most conventional cars. This means that a typical hybrid vehicle will achieve between about 50 and 65 miles per gallon. There is also the potential for these types of cars to achieve up to 100 miles per gallon in the future. I am not really sure all of that is possible, but it would certainly be a reason to start changing my mind.

Another advantage is that these cars do not need to have the oil changed as often as conventional vehicles. The hybrid car will probably only need to have oil change every 5000 to 6000 miles, which is typically half as often as a standard gas powered car. The main reasons for this are probably related to the power assist and idle off functions.

The hybrid vehicle also helps to protect the environment. The theory here is that these vehicles use less gasoline. Therefore, there are less harmful emissions given off. The less emissions there are, the less green houses gases there are and the less pollution and damage to the environment. I suppose I can see the logic in this argument, if everything else is equal.

Actually, I discovered that the power assist and idle off features play an even larger part in these vehicles. If you are going less than 15 miles per hour the gas engine will shut itself off. The electric motor can supply all of the power you need to go such a slow speed. The gas engine will turn back on automatically if you press the accelerator. This is also a reason why these vehicles are sometimes called smart cars. This is also a big reason why these cars have excellent fuel efficiency ratings.

It is easy to find mechanics for repairs. While the technology inside these cars is quite advanced, it is also very similar to conventional cars. Therefore, almost any decent mechanic should be able to perform any kind of typical repair or maintenance and body work.

Anonymous
I must confess that I do not own a hybrid car, nor have I ever really been tempted to buy one. In fact, I have never really even considered the possibility. I always have felt that buying such a car was an exercise in spending more money trying to do something good that actually had very limited results at best. While I am still of the same general opinion, I did find this article quite interesting. Now I have a much better understanding about what makes a car a hybrid and what some of the reasons are to consider buying…and driving…such a car. It also motivated me to do some further research on my own.

In response to the question posed, the author cites three distinct areas which classify a car as a hybrid. The first of these areas is regenerative braking. Actually, I found this first factor fascinating. In a typical vehicle, the car is stopped due to friction. Friction causes heat within the engine itself, which is basically lost as the car comes to a stop. Additionally, the energy from the vehicle moving is also lost. In contrast, a hybrid vehicle actual is stopped because of the electric motor. This motor works as a generator and is actually able to recover some of the energy produced by the moving car and some of the heat produced. Although I am still a bit fuzzy on how much is defined as some, this is a pretty incredible way for the motor to be recharged while the vehicle is operating. I also wonder if this is a significant producer of recharged power for the operation of the vehicle, or if it must be stored within the battery.

The second area of concern is an automatic idle off. This is another interesting feature. The hybrid car will actually turn off its gas powered engine when the car is not moving. So, whenever you are waiting in line or at a traffic light, your vehicle will turn off its gas engine, saving energy, power and improving efficiency. As you are waiting, the electric motor will keep the vehicle running and powered. Once you are ready to start moving again the gas engine will turn itself back on. All of this happens automatically and incredibly quickly. This is a prefect example of increased fuel efficiency that many people cite when they buy such a car.

The final area that indicates a vehicle is indeed a hybrid is termed power assist. Although the author did not provide a very helpful description of this function, I think I understand. It is basically one motor helping the other to achieve its full level of power and performance. Therefore, as the vehicle is moving, both engines will at times be working. When only one is needed, then this allows the other to relax a bit, as it were. It is an excellent way for a vehicle with a smaller engine to perform equal to one with a larger and stronger (single) engine. Of course, there is the added advantage of increased fuel economy with the hybrid vehicle.

Anonymous
I have no idea what all the technical terms mean that are used for hybrid cars, but I know that they save both energy and money on gas. I wouldn’t know how to use a hybrid car after using the cars that have been around for many years. I would like to join the car donation program and replace my car with a hybrid. I have been turning a new leaf and going green for the past year now. I think this would be a great change.

Anonymous
A hybrid vehicle is a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources to move the vehicle and this hybrid vehicle addresses the problem of high gas prices and the greenhouse effect.

Regards, Michael

Car Repair Houston PRO

Anonymous
For me, hybrid cars are the solution to the non-stop increase of gas every year and these cars could also lessen the overwhelming air pollution and thus help stop global warming.

Amy Brannan
I have to agree that if one thing could sway me towards driving a hybrid it would be the money I could save in gas every year! Right now I drive a Honda Accord and get pretty good mileage but some of the mileage on hybrids is absolutely amazing. The added benefit of reducing pollution is another perk, I can’t imagine what it would be like to walk in to a big city and be able to breathe clean fresh air! Until I can afford to invest in a hybrid, I can only do my part by carpooling, limiting my driving and being green in other areas of my life!

Anonymous
Finally a summary/ break-down/ quick and easy read on how a hybrid car works. I wonder how many politicians have any idea of how a hybrid really works? If they did, they’d probably realize that fuel cells are not the way to go. Electricity/ battery technology is here now, and instead of slowly “phasing out” the oil market, we need to take advantage now. If we don’t, China will.
Anonymous
Gas prices are going back up…
Anonymous
For me is something new. Only once I watched a program about it. But still I didn’t quite understand what a hybrid car is. Thanks for the article.

Rekel
Electric hybrid cars are the most unique and best innovation of the apteral car. Is mileage a question in case of electric cars? Mostly people prefer fuel car due to the better mileage but electric cars are pollution free. In these entire concerns electric hybrid motors came into existence with the best mileage and helps the people to get a pollution free society also. In case of fuel cars you need to think how much fuel will fill and how much distance it can run. While in electric car you need not think all these concerns.

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