The automotive industry is constantly evolving. The first motor car was invented in 1886. This was the year that a German inventor, Carl Benz, patented his Benz Patent-Motorwagen. In July of the same year, his vehicle which was powered by a gas engine took its first public outing.
The first mass-produced car, in the modern sense, was the 1901 Curved Dash Oldsmobile. It was built in Detroit by Ransome Eli Olds.
Over the years, car designs have undergone some big changes but one of the more significant was the introduction of the hybrid car.
In this post, you’ll find out what a hybrid car means, the different types, how they work, and some tips on whether you should buy one.
What is a Hybrid Car?
“Hybrid car” is a catch-all term that refers to any car that has an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.
A hybrid car also has two batteries, one of which is dedicated to the combustion engine and the other to the electric motor.
There are three main types of hybrid cars: parallel, series, and plug-in. Their defining features related to how and when the electric motor and battery are used to power the car and its components.
Different Types of Hybrid Cars
There are three different types of hybrids and they each work differently.
Parallel hybrids are the most common. The electric motor and gasoline engine are connected in a common transmission. This is where the two power sources are blended.
The transmission in a parallel hybrid can be an automatic, manual, or continuously variable transmission. One of the more popular hybrid transmissions in a power-split CVT. This is the transmission of choice in the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius.
How a parallel hybrid performs in terms of acceleration, sound, and feel depends on the transmission type and size of the gasoline engine.
Parallel hybrid designs are popular with Toyota, Hyundai, Lexus, Ford, Kia, Lincoln, Honda, and Infiniti.
In a series hybrid, all the thrust is provided by an electric motor. There is no physical mechanical connection between the engine and the wheels. All the gasoline engine does is recharge the battery. This process means a series hybrid is more like an electric car and delivers smooth and powerful acceleration.
Typically, you can expect less vibration when the gasoline engages, however, it’s not always directly connected with what your right foot is doing. The battery will be making its own demands and the engine might be revving up even though the car is cruising at a steady speed.
A very good example of a series hybrid is the BMW i3 with a range extender.
A plug-in hybrid takes things one step further. Thanks to the larger battery pack that must be fully recharged using an external energy source, you get extended all-electric driving.
Much like having a larger gas tank, you can charge a plug-in hybrid using an external electricity source at home, in your office, or at a public charging station.
Depending on the model, you can expect the all-electric driving range to increase by between 15 and 55 miles. In addition, you can expect a reduction in fuel consumption.
If your commute to work is a relatively short distance, you could recharge your plug-in nightly and run on electricity for most of your journey.
When the all-electric range limit is reached, the car reverts to being a conventional parallel hybrid.
One popular example of a plug-in hybrid is the Chrysler Pacifica.
Other Types of Hybrid
There’s been a lot going on in the world of hybrid cars over the last couple of decades. “What is a hybrid car?” is not such a cut-and-dried answer anymore.
Honda, for example, has been working on a new hybrid design that doesn’t fall into any of the categories mentioned above. The engine in its new hybrid car turns a generator most of the time, just like a series hybrid. However, the engine can also directly drive the wheels, just like a parallel hybrid.
Another variation on the hybrid theme is the so-called through-the-road hybrids. Similar to plug-in hybrids from Volvo, these cars use a fairly conventional front-wheel-drive engine along with a transmission paired with an electrically powered rear axle.
Other similar hybrid cars include the BMWi*, the Porsche 918 Spyder supercar, and the Acura. The only difference is that their electric-only axles are at the front.
What is a Mild Hybrid?
So far, we’ve looked at “full hybrids”. This means they have an electric motor that can move the car by itself, even if it’s a short distance.
A mild hybrid cannot do that. The electric motor in a “mild hybrid” assists the gasoline engine to improve fuel economy, increase performance, or both. In addition, it is the starter for the automatic start-stop system. This system shuts down the engine when the car comes to rest to save fuel.
How Does a Hybrid Car Work?
A hybrid car has at least one electric motor along with a gasoline engine to move the car. Its system recaptures energy via regenerative braking.
Sometimes, the electric motor does all the hard work. Sometimes it’s the gasoline engine, while there are times when they work together.
With a hybrid car, you can expect lower fuel consumption and in some cases, the added electric power boosts performance.
Electricity to power the car comes from a high-voltage battery pack. This is separate from a car’s conventional 12-volt battery. The battery pack is replenished by capturing energy from deceleration. In conventional cars, this energy is typically lost to the heat generated by the brakes.
Hybrid cars also use the gasoline engine to charge and maintain the battery. Car companies use a variety of designs, depending on what they want to accomplish. It might be maximum fuel savings or keeping the vehicle costs to a minimum.
The Top 5 Mechanisms
To help you understand how a hybrid car works, let’s look at different parts of a journey.
- Pulling away from a stop: To pull away, the car is initially moved with the help of an electric motor. This motor draws its power from the hybrid battery.
- Normal cruising: When cruising at normal speeds, the petrol engine and electric motor work together or independently.
- Heavy acceleration: When you accelerate heavily or are driving at high speeds, power is provided by the petrol engine.
- Braking and deceleration: When you slow down and brake, kinetic energy is transformed into electric energy which replenishes the battery pack. Also, the electric motor goes into a reverse mode when you apply the brakes which helps the wheels slow down.
- Coming to a complete stop: When your car stops, the electric and petrol motors shut down. However, the battery still powers vehicle systems such as lights and air conditioning.
What are the Best Hybrid Cars?
If you’re in the market for a hybrid car, here are our top picks:
Audi A7 55 TFSI e Plug-in Hybrid
This mid-size luxury vehicle has the versatility of a hatchback body style coupled with up to 26 miles of EPA-rated electric drive range. It’s a slick fastback that combines comfort and convenience that make it one of the best hybrid cars in its segment.
This sports sedan from BMW is a nice all-rounder that has a roomy interior and better-than-average driving dynamics. This 288-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain offers 23 miles of EPA-rated electric driving range. There is a default rear-drive form, but an all-wheel drive is also available.
BMW X5 xDrive 45e
This X5 from BMW has 31 miles of EPA-rated electric driving range. This electric twist to BMW’s midsize SUV can hit 60mph in 4.7 seconds thanks to the 389hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. As you might expect, the interior is high-end and it has a logical infotainment setup.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
This graceful, comfortable, and handsome plug-in hybrid from Chrysler is a great family car and one of the best hybrid minivans currently on the market. It’s a pleasure to drive whether you’re out on the highway or shuttling the kids to school. You can expect 32 miles of all-electric driving, per the EPA.
Ford F-150 PowerBoost
Thanks to the Ford F-150 gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain you can expect a massive 400hp punch. This model also includes a 7.2kW onboard generator which is perfect for powering small appliances.
The Maverick allows Ford to reenter the compact pickup space. A strictly powered 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine is optionally available, by a 191-hp gasoline-electric hybrid comes standard. This pickup also comes with front-wheel drive and car-like fuel economy.
Honda Accord Hybrid
If you’re looking for more thrills while you’re driving, you should consider this sporty sedan. One option is a gasoline-electric hybrid that provides a very efficient twist for your daily commute. It’s one of the best hybrid cars currently available and comes with a comprehensive set of standard driver-assistance features and an intuitive infotainment system.
Honda CR-v Hybrid
This hybrid model isn’t going to get your blood pumping but it’s a comfortable drive and very fuel-economical thanks to the fuel-efficient gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. This compact SUV includes a host of standard safety features and various popular tech options.
Hyundai Santа Fe Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid
The Hyundai Santа Fe has been around for a few years now but it’s still a very compelling mid-size SUV option. You can choose from a gasoline-electric hybrid or plug-in hybrid, which offers up to 32 miles of EPA-rated electric driving range.
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
This family sedan is great value and visually interesting. Three trims are available for this mid-sizer: Blue, SEL, and Limited. All are powered by a 192hp gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain and include an array of convenience and standard comfort features.
Should I Buy a Hybrid Car?
Whether or not you choose to buy a hybrid car depends on whether you’re budget allows you to pay a little more at the point of purchase to benefit from the potential for greater savings over time.
Hybrid cars tend to be more expensive but are better in terms of retaining value over time. Their reduced impact on the environment may also entitle you to various rebates, incentives, and tax credits at the local, state, and federal levels.
Deciding what kind of hybrid car depends on where you live, your lifestyle, and how you commute to work. For example, a plug-in hybrid might be best if you own your home, don’t have a long commute to work, and tend not to drive long distances for pleasure.
What are the Benefits and Downsides of Owning a Hybrid car?
The advantages of owning a hybrid car include:
- Eco-friendliness: Hybrid cars are less dependent on fossil fuels and produce low CO2 emissions.
- Financial benefits: A range of incentives and tax credits are available which help to make hybrid cars more affordable
- Regenerative braking system: When you apply the brakes, the energy is captured and used to recharge the battery which reduces the need for regularly recharging the battery.
- Higher resale value: Hybrids are growing in popularity which means their resale value is higher than average.
The disadvantages of owning a hybrid include:
- Higher costs: Hybrid cars tend to be more expensive than regular gasoline cars. The technology also means higher maintenance costs.
- Less power: In many cases, the combined gasoline engine and electric motor provide less power than a gas-powered engine.
- Poorer handling: Manufacturers are forced to look for ways to reduce the extra weight which often means smaller motors and batteries. In addition, there is reduced support in the body and suspension.
- High voltage batteries: Should your hybrid car be involved in an accident, the high voltage battery increases the risk of passengers being electrocuted and makes it more difficult for rescuers.
Common Issues With a Hybrid Car
Hybrid cars tend to be very reliable. After all, the technology used in these cars has been around for several generations of cars. That being said, there are some common hybrid-specific niggles you might encounter.
- Batteries: You need a second battery if you’re getting a hybrid car. You may find it doesn’t perform as well as its ICE counterpart. It will be more expensive and you may need to replace it more often.
- Catalytic converters: This is the component that converts exhaust gasses into less toxic emissions. A replacement will be more expensive on a hybrid than on ICEs.
- Evaporative emission systems (EVAP): This part of your car also helps to control emissions. You may need to replace parts and fix leaks more often with a hybrid car.
- Oxygen sensors: This part of your hybrid car won’t need replacing more often than an ICE car, but when it’s faulty, it can lead to significantly lower fuel economy.
Can I Ship a Hybrid Car?
The popularity of electric and hybrid vehicles is only going to increase over the coming years. It is anticipated that by 2030, there will be around 4 million EVs in California alone.
The potential for shipping electric and hybrid cars is also likely to increase, but how safe is it to ship a hybrid or electric car?
Why Hybrid and Electric Vehicles Need Extra Care
It’s easy to forget that electric and hybrid cars are combustible. While the odds of a lithium-ion fire are relatively low, a damaged/pierced or overly hot electric battery is just as incendiary as a fossil-fueled car.
Careful shipping of vehicles that contain lithium-ion batteries is strictly regulated in the US and carriers have to follow these to safeguard the vehicles. Hybrids and EVs must be firmly secured to prevent excessive battery motion or short circuits during transit.
Only auto carriers that are experienced in shipping electric vehicles are equipped to transport these cars safely.
USTrans has the experience to offer such a service and here are some tips to help you the best possible hybrid auto transport service.
Tips for Safe Electric/Hybrid Vehicle Shipping
- Be prepared to pay a little extra: Electric or hybrid cars are heavier and require a little more care and attention. Therefore, you might have to pay a little extra for the best service.
- Charge the battery: You’re likely going to need to make some kind of trip after your car reaches its destination. You might have to drive it home, for example. It’s therefore critical that the battery has enough juice for the last leg of its journey.
- Get your vehicle checked out by a qualified electric car mechanic: This is always good practice before you ship your car. A healthy car in transit is better than one that might be compromised.
- Prep your car for transport: Remove personal items and secure accessories.
- Be available to check your car when it’s delivered: When your car is delivered you must spend time walking around and checking for damage.
If you ever need to ship a hybrid car across the United States, keep USTrans in your phone contacts. We can provide a reliable, safe, and affordable car shipping service.
What does it mean when a car is a hybrid?
A hybrid car uses two or more distinct types of power. Typically, that would be an electric motor and a gasoline engine to move the car.
What is a hybrid car from Toyota?
Toyota has several hybrid models in its stable. They include:
What is a plug-in hybrid car?
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) uses a battery to power an electric motor along with another fuel such as gasoline to power an internal combustion engine. The PHEV battery is charged via charging equipment, a wall outlet, by the ICE, or through regenerative braking.