Owning a car can sometimes be a necessity for Americans. Cars can be beneficial, especially for anyone who has a family. However, nearly all vehicles and other similar ones run on gasoline or diesel, which are both fossil fuels. When used to power an engine, fossil fuels produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming. Many people face the dilemma of having to use a vehicle that adds to destroying the environment.
To compromise, many people have decided to use a hybrid electric car. These vehicles utilize an electric motor in conjunction with an engine that runs on gas or diesel. Hybrids command higher price tags, but they have better fuel economy and produce smaller amounts of greenhouse gases. What exactly makes hybrid electric cars work? Delving deeper into their inner workings will help us understand how and why they work.
A hybrid electric car is what it sounds like precisely. It is a combined version of a conventional car and an electric car. It has the option to draw power from either electricity or fuel. By itself, this arrangement doesn’t necessarily lead to better fuel economy and a more environmentally-friendly vehicle. However, the key here is efficiency: the two prime movers work in a way that allows them to complement each other, improving overall performance.
In many models, the usual mode of operation involves only one prime mover. That is, just the conventional engine or the electric motor is driving the wheels for most of the car’s operations. The power source is chosen based on the driving conditions, as peak efficiency for each power driver is mainly dependent on environmental conditions.
The conventional motor is usually more powerful than the electric motor, and it is often more efficient when used in high-speed settings. In contrast, the electric motor is generally weaker but more energy-efficient under low load conditions. Hence, people usually use the conventional engine during highway travel or when high travel speeds are required. For shorter trips such as those used within cities, the electric motor is used to help conserve energy. An onboard computer continuously analyzes factors such as vehicle speed and load, and it uses this information to determine which engine or motor to operate.
Many cars use a parallel configuration. This arrangement enables the use of both prime movers, which can come in handy if maximum power is required.
Since hybrid vehicles have an electric motor, these vehicles also need to carry a battery to store an electrical charge that will drive the motor. Conventional hybrids charge the battery whenever they use gas-powered engines. Some power diverts from the wheels towards the cell. While there is lost of some usable energy as heat during the transformation, the increased efficiency of having an electric motor outweighs any cost.
For many models, a feature called regenerative braking also helps recharge the onboard battery. Whenever the car uses its brakes, some of the kinetic energy of the vehicle is used to drive the electric motor in reverse. The engine essentially becomes a generator, allowing it to generate power while slowing down the car.
The Advantages Of Hybrid Vehicles
As discussed earlier, hybrid vehicles take advantage of the differing efficiencies of conventional engines and electric motors. By selectively operating each prime mover, hybrid cars can always use the more efficient prime mover for any scenario. The parallel configuration takes the concept even further by allowing simultaneous usage of both movers during high-power scenarios.
Hybrid vehicles have better fuel economy compared to traditional cars that only use a gasoline or diesel engine. Of course, they also produce less pollution, as the increase in energy efficiency means that less fuel needs to be consumed to travel the same distance. Due to the presence of the battery, the engines used by hybrid cars can be made more compact and efficient.
Compared to purely electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles provide more flexibility, range, and power. Current electric motors used in cars have some trouble operating at high power outputs for extended periods. Hence, electric vehicles may find it difficult to traverse long distances or go up steep slopes. By having a conventional engine as a fallback, hybrid cars can surpass this problem.
A newer kind of hybrid car takes things a step further. Called plug-in hybrid electric cars, or PHEVs, these vehicles allow the external charger to fuel up their internal batteries. This arrangement enables drivers to have a greater say on which power source to use for their cars. Potentially, achieving further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will occur if electricity sourced from renewable sources is used to charge the vehicle.
Of course, there is also the added flexibility of having the option to use electricity or gas to use the car. This choice can be convenient for many car owners, assuring them of a steadier supply of power for their vehicle.