How Hybrids Work and What Makes Them Different From Regular Cars

Posted April 7, 2014

Have you ever wondered how a hybrid vehicle actually works? Whether the increasing price of gasoline has you considering the economic benefits or global warming has you rethinking the environmental costs of driving, a hybrid car is an appealing alternative. But what makes a hybrid different from a regular car?

Hybrid vehicles work by combining two (or more) power sources. A moped is actually a hybrid, combining the gasoline engine with the rider’s pedal power. Most hybrid cars use gasoline and electric – combining a traditional combustion engine with an electric motor. This gives you the best of both worlds – you can still have the power and convenience of a gasoline-powered engine with the economic benefits of an electric engine.

Though all it takes to be a “hybrid” is two power sources, hybrid vehicles also have a few unique features that allow them to work more efficiently. The first feature is Idle off, which turns the gasoline engine off when the car is stopped – which means fuel savings! The electric engine continues to power the vehicle while stopped, and the gasoline engine turns back on when you are ready to drive again.

Regenerative braking is another feature of hybrid vehicles. A typical car relies on the mechanical brakes to slow and stop, creating friction that reduces the vehicle’s kinetic energy. A hybrid can use its electric motor for “regenerative braking.” The electric motor captures the kinetic energy from the moving car and converts it into electricity. Instead of losing the heat energy from the brakes, your car can save and store some of the energy in the battery to be used later!

Hybrids also utilize power assist and engine downsizing to operate the vehicle. To qualify as a hybrid, the electric motor must be large enough to actually supplement the engine to power the car and accelerate while driving. Some hybrids rely on engine downsizing, using physically smaller engines or those with more effective combustion cycles. Power assist then reduces the amount of engine work and gasoline needed to accelerate and run the vehicle. Through these methods, hybrid cars achieve the same power as traditional vehicles but use less gas!

The features above are true of all hybrid vehicles, but hybrid cars can vary from the basic, minimum features to fully hybrid – offering electric only drive capability and extended battery electric range. Other variations include how the components are arranged in the drivetrain, working either in series or parallel (or sometimes both).  The batteries, electric motor, gasoline engine, and other components work together in the drivetrain to operate the vehicle, allowing you to slow, accelerate, cruise, and brake.

Hybrid vehicles combine a traditional combustion engine with an electric motor and battery to operate your vehicle, take advantage of the benefits of both systems, and save you money on fuel! If you have more questions about hybrid vehicles, stop by the shop or call 719.382.5691 for more information.

Categories: Auto Repair

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