What is a hybrid car and how does it work?

June 6, 2019 9:26 am | macarthurautomotive.com.au

You're probably familiar with the concept of a hybrid car – powered by electricity and fuel together. But how do you work out if a hybrid car is right for you, and what should you know before you buy? We explain exactly what a hybrid car actually is.

What is a hybrid car?

There are several types of hybrid available on the market right now. However, in essence, a hybrid car is one that has two sources of power – such as electricity and gas. 

A hybrid car is one that has two sources of power.

In your average, 'normal' car, an internal combustion engine powers the car via petrol or diesel. Hybrid cars use the same system, but also contain an electric motor. The car can be powered solely by either the electric motor, the internal combustion engine or a combination of the two. 

When electric power is used, it comes from an onboard battery pack, which is re-charged in various ways depending on the type of hybrid. Some cars are plugged into an electricity source, others charge during driving – even the act of breaking is able to charge the battery. 

The overall aim, is to reduce how much fuel is used – resulting in less environmental impact and better fuel economy.

What are the different types of hybrid cards?

Not all hybrid cars work in quite the same way. However, they broadly fit into the following four categories.

Parallel hybrid: What most people think of when talking about hybrid cars is this, one that combines electricity and fuel to power the vehicle. Most movements are a combination of both sources. 

Plug-in hybrid: Quite literally charged by being plugged into a wall socket, this type of hybrid can run entirely on electricity for the initial part of the journey. They can be charged at home, or at various public charging stations. Once the charge depletes, it'll operate like a parallel hybrid. Plug-ins are perfect for those making short trips around the town, as you can charge when not in use and run almost entirely from electricity.

Series hybrid: Powered entirely by electricity, these cars also contain an internal combustion engine for the sole purpose of charging the battery. For drivers, it feels like an entirely electric car, but occasional revs let you know the fuel engine is charging the battery.

Mild hybrid: Slightly less popular, these cars use the electric battery to assist the internal combustion engine. The cars movement isn't truly powered by the electric engine at all. Here, the purpose of the hybrid is to achieve some level of fuel economy and add extra power to the main engine.

Benefits and disadvantages of a hybrid car

Fuel economy: As we mentioned above, with the electric motor powering your vehicle at least some of the time, you get better fuel economy. Not only does this benefit the environment, but your bank balance too. 

Idle-off: You'll probably be familiar with the way hybrid cars appear to shut down entirely when stopped at lights or a junction. This feature is all about preserving energy. The main engine shuts down but the other features (like air-con) remain on. When you're ready to move, the electric motor kicks things into gear again. 

Good resale value: As used cars, hybrids remain a reasonably high resale value which makes them a sensible investment.

Performance: While every hybrid car is different, and the term covers a number of technologies, they are generally built for fuel economy and environmental benefit. If you're looking for a high-performance vehicle, you might end up disappointed.

Maintenance: This one's a pro and con of hybrid cars. They have a reputation for requiring minimal maintenance, but when they do need fixing, it tends to be on the pricier side.

To take a hybrid car for a test drive, get in touch with Macarthur Automotives today.