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.


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.

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