How Hybrid Cars Work

Electric car

A look at green car mechanics and the changing face of today's automobile

Hybrid cars are the automotive industry's answer to a cleaner, more fuel efficient mode of transportation, with the 'driving green' revolution in full swing.  Based on the utilization of advanced technologies and alternative fuels, green cars aim to reduce harmful emissions and the consumption of non-renewable energy sources, such as fossil fuels.  You've probably seen many hybrid cars on the road today - heck, you might even own one.  But have you ever wondered how hybrid cars actually work? In this section, we offer a simple explanation.

The dual power sources of a hybrid car

The word hybrid means "something of mixed origin or composition."  When it comes to vehicles, hybrid refers to mixed power sources — in this case, the combination of two power sources. A moped could be considered a hybrid in its simplest form, using a gas engine in conjunction with the pedal power of a human rider to propel the vehicle forward.  Similar to a moped, today's hybrid cars use two power sources — in most cases, a gasoline engine with an electric motor.  These types of hybrids will be the focus of this article.

Gasoline and electric performance

Most commonly, hybrid cars use an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors with a battery pack. A hybrid car can be powered by gasoline or alternative fuel while relying on electric energy in tandem.  As a result, this combination of power sources reduces the amount of fuel used while producing fewer emissions in the process.

Since a gas-electric hybrid car has two power sources, it can make use of a smaller gasoline engine than a larger engine found in a conventional car.  This is an important point given the fact that cars with larger, heavier motors require more power to move and expend more fuel to do so. Many hybrid cars make use of their smaller size by requiring a smaller gasoline engine and the backup of a battery pack to power the car. Collectively, these factors make a hybrid car more efficient than a conventional car.

Advanced technologies of a hybrid car

In addition to motion, braking requires a significant amount of energy.  That energy is completely wasted in gasoline-powered engines that use only one power source.  However, many gas-electric hybrid cars on the road today use Regenerative Braking technology that allows the motor to recover braking energy and to use that energy to recharge its batteries.  The electric motor then draws on the batteries for acceleration and power, including energy needed to climb steep hills and the resources required to turn the wheels.  When stopped and idling, the electric motor picks up where the gasoline engine leaves off, conserving fuel and reducing emissions.

While not exhaustive, the description above should give you a good understanding of how hybrid cars work.  And don't forget there are other green cars on the market today, including hydrogen vehicles, flex-fuel vehicles and plug-in hybrids.  No matter the green car technology, our future could very well be one in which nothing but green cars are driven, as today's automakers continue to make great strides in developing more environmentally-friendly, fuel efficient cars.

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