What does Hybrid mean
A vehicle is a hybrid if it utilizes more than one form of onboard energy to achieve propulsion. In practice, that means a hybrid will have a traditional internal-combustion engine and a fuel tank, as well as one or more electric motors and a battery pack.
Hybrids come in various different flavors. In parallel hybrids, the engine and the motor both send power to the wheels; in series hybrids, only the motor powers the wheels, while the engine simply drives the motor like a generator, recharging the batteries. Full hybrids have powerful enough electric motors and batteries to drive the engine independently, while in mild hybrids, the motor is too puny to power the car by itself and simply assists the engine (or allows it to switch off when the car is idle in traffic). Ordinary hybrids charge up their batteries using power from the engine and energy recovered from the regenerative brakes (which we’ll come onto in a moment); plugin hybrids can also be “refueled” from a charging station or domestic power supply, have much bigger batteries, and can be driven by the motor and batteries alone, so work more like conventional electric cars.
Advantages of Hybrid Cars
Hybrid Cars Show You How to Drive Efficiently
Just like a Jeep is in its element when driven off-road, and a Ferrari likes to be driven like a race car, a hybrid desperately wants to be driven efficiently. Our Toyota Prius, like most hybrids, has a display that shows our present mileage as well as average miles per gallon. It even tells us how much energy we recoup with the brakes.
Hybrids Have Multi-Engine Power
As a pilot with a sport pilot license, I appreciate the difference between a single engine airplane and the power of a multi-engine craft. The Prius is no hot rod, but, unlike a Ferrari, it actually comes with two engines. Its small gasoline engine is complemented by a powerful electric engine. Electric engines produce all of their torque from 0 rpm (revolutions per minute), a feature that allows the Prius to really scoot through an intersection from a stop. It is kind of like the snap you feel in your wrist when you operate a powerful electric hand tool.
The Hybrid Car Stays Warm
Mechanics will tell you that when you start an engine cold, it is harder to crank and produces more engine wear than when you start one that’s already been warmed up. In researching the Prius, I learned that it prevents cold starts by storing coolant in the equivalent of a thermos. This system keeps the fluid warm for up to three days. We are looking forward to enjoying easy starts and instant heat next winter.
Problems with Hybrid Cars
Rising Gas Prices Equals Rising Hybrid Prices
We knew we had to pay a bit more for our used Prius due to gas prices rising. There weren’t many hybrids on the market, and they were selling fast. Some sellers were even trying to get a ridiculous premium by advertising their used cars for almost what a new one would cost! However, unless gas prices plummet and stay low for a long time, we feel we will largely make up our purchase premium when it comes time to sell our car.
Lower Highway Mileage
You won’t find me driving my Prius on the highway in the right lane at 50 miles per hour; I can only take the efficiency thing so far. When driven at the speed of most highway traffic, you can expect mileage in the mid to lower 40s. This is great, but there are compact cars and diesels that can achieve this kind of efficiency at highway speeds.
Not All Hybrids Are Equal
We also considered the very similar looking Honda Insight, but we were turned off by the fact that it is not a full hybrid, but rather a “mild hybrid.” Its gasoline engine shuts off when the car stops and it cannot run on its electric motor alone. It does not receive the fuel economy ratings of the Prius, and we were shocked to discover that its heat and air conditioning systems do not operate when the gasoline engine stops. That might be acceptable in a temperate climate, but it’s not acceptable in Colorado. A mild hybrid might get better fuel economy than a conventional car, but it won’t ever live up to the promise of a true hybrid.