Is it almost time for you to replace your current car? If so, you may have one eye on environmental matters and would like to buy something that is more eco-friendly. Yet should you choose an all-electric vehicle, or pick something hybrid instead? How does a hybrid car work, anyway and could it be the answer to any range anxiety?
Not There Yet
In recent years, the number of charging stations across the UK has grown considerably. After all, governments and private companies want to add as many as possible as they anticipate the significant rise in EV ownership. Yet while politicians want to ensure that no electric vehicle owner is further than 30 miles from a handy charge point, this goal is still some way off. There's no doubt that some consumers are wary of the potential problem, affecting their buying decision, and this may be why so many people choose a hybrid as a "halfway house" between the two technologies.
Brief History of Hybrid Cars
If you believe that that the concept of a hybrid car is new, think again. Historians can trace the general idea back to the turn of the 20th century when a hybrid Porsche took to the bumpy streets with power supplied by a gasoline engine and an electric motor. The internal combustion engine drove a generator that pushed traction to the front wheels.
Consumers of the day found this to be too complicated and costly when it was much easier to build a car running on petrol alone. Consequently, the concept fell out of favour until the latter half of the century when air pollution and environmental issues came to the fore.
Hybrid Cars Explained
In simple terms, today's hybrid vehicle combines an internal combustion engine with an electric motor, but this is, of course, a lot more sophisticated than it was in the day of Mr Porsche.
The self-charging hybrid car is simply a compromise and has all the elements of an electric motor and a gasoline-powered engine, to propel the vehicle more efficiently. The engine can recharge the on-board batteries so that power from the electric motor is always available, while you can plug in some hybrid models as well. As the electric motor takes over some of the work, the gas engine can sit idle and, consequently, will use less fuel and create fewer emissions.
In this scenario, the hybrid can travel a lot further than a pure electric car without any range anxiety. It'll cost a lot less to run because it will use less fuel at the pump, and it will certainly reduce the size of your carbon footprint.
Types of Hybrid
While this explains hybrid cars in principle, engineers have developed some different designs, and you will find many options available in the marketplace.
For example, some manufacturers prefer a concept known as parallel hybridisation. In this scenario, the internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor mate to the transmission. Both of these motors can work together to provide the necessary power to drive the wheels.
This type of vehicle will need a smaller battery as it can take advantage of regenerative braking. The ICE does not directly power the electric motor, which makes the setup a lot more efficient.
A vehicle that relies on series hybridisation, on the other hand, is more straightforward but may be somewhat less efficient. Here, the electric motor is the only one of the two connected directly to the drivetrain, and it links to the on-board battery and a generator powered by the ICE.
In this case, software controls the power source and will determine how much energy flows from the engine or the battery pack. Regenerative braking can recharge the battery in some situations, while the generator can also achieve the same objective.
This type of vehicle has a much larger battery pack, but also a smaller ICE. This setup may make the car heavier and generally more costly than the parallel alternative. As a result, the series approach is quite rare today.
In the case of a mild hybrid approach, the battery pack is relatively small and will supplement the internal combustion engine. The electric motor cannot drive the car as such but can help provide some auxiliary power when the ICE runs inefficiently. This approach is also rare today in so far as it applies to a marketable hybrid car. After all, most conventional vehicles use some form of mild hybridisation anyway to power systems that automatically switch the ICE off and on at traffic lights.
The best hybrid cars take full advantage of the electric motor as the only driving source in slow-speed or in-town operation. When needed, the petrol or diesel engine will trigger and provide additional power alongside the electric motor. When you drive the vehicle at speed on a motorway or try to overtake a slower lorry, both will provide the necessary power as needed.
Today, many hybrid cars for sale are self-contained and will use the ICE and regenerative braking technology to recharge and provide electricity. However, you can plug in some others to a public charger or a supply at home.
These vehicles have much larger batteries with greater capacity. This extra provides you with a great deal more flexibility, and you may be able to run the car as 100% electric for longer distances. Some people may avoid using the ICE altogether through careful planning and use of recharging terminals.
And What Is Regenerative Braking?
Regenerative braking is a revolutionary way of saving energy during deceleration and, at the same time, charging the battery.
In a conventional car, the friction causes heat and wasted energy whenever you stomp on the brake pedal. In a regenerative braking vehicle, the electric motor connected to each wheel will reverse direction instead, when you apply pressure to the brake pedal. As this motor runs in reverse, it'll generate electricity and feed it into the on-board batteries. In some vehicles, you trigger this action when you remove pressure from the throttle pedal instead.
Looking for Your Next Hybrid
Now that you know how hybrid technology works, you can explore options from each manufacturer. As the demand for this type of vehicle increases, expect to see even more trick technology under the floor of these hybrid cars.