Hybrid cars are a relatively new breed of cars that have started appearing in the market for the last decade or so. These cars have multiple sources of power i-e petrol or electric motor or both at the same time. There is a conventional petrol combustion engine combined with some electronics and a DC motor combined will constitute the drive-train for the hybrid car. That really means that the car will be driven automatically by a selected source of power which could be your petrol engine or could be the DC motor or in some instances, it will be both at the same time. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about this because all of this will be automatically done in a very efficient way. This is the beauty of hybrid cars and a hybrid drive-train because it combines electric and combustion engines in a way that is very optimized and efficient for fuel-efficiency. This is correct, all these above technology and resources are combined in a complex manner to enable you to achieve maximum fuel efficiency.
How do Hybrid cars Function work?
Essentially as we discussed before hybrid cars have two power sources, a DC motor and is a conventional combustion engine. Parallel hybrid configuration cars are characterized by the fact that the drive-train can provide powers to the driveshaft/tyres using either a combustion engine or the DC motor or both at the same time. Most hybrid cars are of a parallel type and one of the prime examples of parallel hybrid cars is Toyota Prius.
A parallel hybrid car would charge its hybrid battery in the following ways
- From the combustion engine directly.
- From the regenerative braking system
- With the car is coasting free
Assuming that all hybrid car starts from zero battery, it recharges the battery to a certain level before it can power the DC motor to route the power back to the drive-train. The most common fashion it uses its power is driving in urban areas where the speed is restricted to 30 mph. We have been using a term called drive-train frequently and this blog and we would like to take some time to define it properly. The drive-train is the combination of mechanical, electrical and engine parts which supply power to the axle or driving wheels.
Hybrid Cars in Urban Areas
Similarly, in urban or developed areas, there will be more frequent start-stop driving and braking, resulting in the battery being charged most of the time. The resulting accumulating charge in the battery is returned as useful power to the wheels by DC motor when needed and suitable, which implies that in developed areas is where hybrid cars really shine. the flow of the power in the drive-train and to and from the wheels is automatic and the driver does not have to worry a single thing about it. It is all done using a complex algorithm that is running in the car’s ECU and is constantly commanding the drive-train to shift the power accordingly.
Hybrid Car on Long distance Motorway drives
We looked a bit more into how the parallel hybrid car work, and its mechanism of shifting power to the wheels. We also discussed where the application is most useful that is in urban areas. On the contrary, while driving a hybrid car on motorways and long drives, the power shift from the battery will presumably be negligible as the charge to the battery will also be minimal because of monotonous drive, which essentially renders cars running on fossil fuel. This is not as empirically true as it seems on paper. The likes of Toyota Prius has proven to have delivered a significant mileage over their non-hybrid counterparts, hence proving that hybrid cars are yet very useful and relevant on fuel economy, wherever the drive may be.
Range Extender Configuration Hybrid
The range extender configuration of hybrid cars is peculiar in the way that is essentially an all-electric car as far as the source of power to the wheels i-e it only has a DC motor as the source of rotational power to the wheels.
However, with one little so-called caveat, there exists a combustion engine with the sole purpose of driving a generator. The generator, in turn, charges the battery which energizes the power source of the drive-train which is only a DC motor. In fact, in this configuration, the combustion engine only acts as an auxiliary or slave to the drive-train, commanded to produce power to charge the battery when needed. Fewer hybrid cars are of range extender configuration and the total range also depends on various models and makes.
Point to note however the power efficiency of a combustion engine is relatively poor as energy is first converted onto electrical which is then converted to mechanical rotational. There is always energy loss in the intermediate energy conversion step of electric to rotational hence range extender hybrids are better off running on the electric-only range.
Plug-in Parallel Hybrid Cars
This is a special case where an extra battery is fitted in the normal hybrid car which allows for electric-only charging just like an electric car. When the car is fully charged during it goes into an EV mode which allows for behaving like an electric car only for a certain mileage. This mileage is called Electric-only mileage. When this capacity of the battery is discharged, EV mode changes automatically into conventional hybrid mode.
Toyota Prius makes such a plug-in model which is pretty useful for short city drives.
Comparison between Parallel Hybrid and Range Extender Hybrid
The idea behind the Range extenders configuration is pretty interesting. They have larger batteries and has much larger electric-only range as compared to the parallel configuration plug-in hybrid cars. The idea behind this is that for small to mid-range drives (up to 100 KM) the range extender primarily works electric-only with the chances of the combustion engine not kicking in at all. However, if required range extenders can embark on longer drives by using the auxiliary power combustion engine.
Comparison between two configurations really comes down to your personal circumstances and application. Range extenders tend to have a much larger range on electric batteries as compared to the plug-in hybrid range that’s why they are a really special case of Electric cars. However, one important point to note is that the overall electric plus fuel range on parallel hybrids is larger than extender hybrids configuration, and this point can make the difference in choosing the right car for the right application.
If you are doing a lot of small city drives and hops with many stops, we personally recommend a conventional or parallel Hybrid car. They are longer in the market with a far better reputation and feedback as compared to range extenders.
Economy mode for efficiency
Likes of Toyota Prius come from factories with a default economy mode built for most models. This mode can be enabled to save further fuel and improve drive efficiency. We find that the hybrid economy model works best in built-up areas while its efficacy can be disputed over long-distance drives.
Advantages of Hybrid Cars
- Road tax-free (mostly)
- Superior MPG (depending on application and driving style)
- Shine in start-stop driving
- Excellent for small City drives
- Lesser greenhouse emissions
Popular consumer choice – Toyota Prius – Hybrid car Toyota
Toyota Prius is one o the most popular and established hybrid cars in the market. If we say that no one else understands hybrid cars better, then Toyota wouldn’t be an overstatement. If you are to consider hybrid cars as your next choice, then do consider Toyota Prius as this is a flagship hybrid car Toyota proudly manufactures
We do not intend to go into details of reviewing Prius however parkers have a good Prius fact sheet and review which could be helpful.
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