With the cost of gasoline hovering around the $4.00 per gallon mark at one point, it cost $50 or more to fill up at a gasoline station. Just as fuel economy became more worrisome for many consumers, the automotive industry introduced a new technology with a promise to lower those monthly gasoline bills: hybrid cars.
On the one hand the highways of America are full of cars that run on gasoline. On the other hand there are fuel cell cars and other electric vehicles that are slowly moving from the research labs to the automobile manufacturer's production lines. In between there is a hybrid car; a vehicle that offers consumers a compromise between these two ends of the spectrum.
One of the important features of a hybrid vehicle is that it does not require any shift in infrastructure or normal operating procedure. That is, hybrids meet the basic requirements that everyone's come to expect when buying a new car:
Currently, fuel cell cars do not meet any of these three criteria completely; however, hybrid cars do.
The theory behind a hybrid car is simple: overcome the limitations of today's electric cars by leveraging the power of gasoline driven engines. In fact, hybrid technology has been around for years, and individuals that are familiar with the workings of today's diesel powered locomotives understand this point. Hybrids use a traditional fuel, such as gasoline, to produce electricity that drives an electric motor.
Putting together a hybrid car is a somewhat complex engineering feat, which utilizes the following closely-integrated vehicle components:
The power plant of a hybrid remains the internal combustion gasoline engine. To achieve some of the engineering goals of these vehicles, the engines utilize advanced fuel efficient technologies to both lower emissions and increase the car's fuel economy.
The batteries found in today's electric vehicles are just not able to match the efficiency of gasoline in terms of energy stored per pound. That is, it's possible to store a lot more energy in gasoline compared to batteries on a pound for pound basis. That's just one of the reasons hybrid cars still depend on gasoline and traditional fuel tanks.
The electric motor on a hybrid car is sophisticated, and can work in one of two ways, parallel or series, which will be described in detail later on. Essentially, the electric motor(s) drive the wheels of the car, and the motor can act as a generator that captures energy when slowing down.
Right now, batteries in a hybrid car are used to store supplemental energy that can drive the electric motor. For example, the supplemental energy stored in batteries could be used to move the vehicle up a steep hill or incline. Energy can be stored to the batteries as well as drawn from them as the car moves along the roadway.
As mentioned, hybrid electric vehicles, or HEVs, depend on both electric motors and internal combustion engines. Hybrid cars use energy stored in a battery to move an electric motor, which then moves a car in one of two ways:
Of course car manufacturers can also use combinations of the above two designs to achieve even greater savings.
New hybrids on the road today fall into the three major categories of non-commercial vehicles: cars, trucks, and SUVs. Listed below are hybrids (2020 models) that can be found on the road today, grouped by these categories:
Since ybrids utilize advanced systems to generate and recapture energy, there are certain driving habits that can maximize the fuel economy of these vehicles. Some of these methods also apply to gasoline powered vehicles:
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