What’s a hybrid automobile?
Let’s start by defining what a hybrid vehicle is: A hybrid vehicle is any type of vehicle that has two sources of energy. These can include sailboats (wind / engine) or a locomotive (diesel / electric). In the case of an automobile, a hybrid is one that combines an internal combustion engine and an electric motor which can be powered by a hybrid battery pack. Many the hybrids have gasoline engines, with an regenerative energy system, which makes them the most efficient cars in the world. They have been a reality for many years and have gradually begun to become popular thanks to the oil crisis, the rising cost of fossil fuels, cheaper technology and greater environmental awareness. There are a number of myths that discourage many people to consider this great driving option, but fortunately most of these misconceptions disappear as soon as you enter a hybrid. They are not a definitive solution, but they are an excellent alternative to improve the current conditions in the short to mid-term, thanks to the great contribution that their efficient systems make of alternative energies.
The history of hybrid technology
Did you know that the first hybrids appeared in the 19th century? Nikolas August Otto (1832-1891), one of the car’s brainchild, saw "the electric motor as a brilliant invention that would one day complement the gasoline engine." He was right... Hybrids are a technology that have been with us since the 19th century, during the boom of electric and steam engines. Different scientists and industrialists from different parts of the world sought to generate energy by the most affordable means back then, when it was extremely difficult to extract and transport hydrocarbons as we do today. All of them sought to complement alternating current, the most widely-used form of electricity transmission, with a gasoline engine, so that when one being used at peak capacity, the other could store energy in a potential state, then release it when necessary. This is a timeline of developers from different countries who launched this great plan: The invention of the first electric vehicle is attributed to different people. In 1828, Anyos Jedlik from Hungary, invented a very basic electric vehicle motor, although it certainly was not considered an automobile just yet. In 1834, Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith from Vermont, USA, built a similar apparatus that operated on a short, circular and electrified track, making the internal combustion engine unnecessary altogether. In 1835, Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen in the Netherlands and his assistant Christopher Becker created a small-scale, battery-powered electric car. Between 1832-1839 the first electric carriage (or automobile as we know it today) was developed through the work of Scot Robert Anderson. Shortly thereafter, Thomas Davenport and Robert Davidson perfected the concept. The invention of the rechargeable battery managed to eliminate the problem of the first batteries, which when depleted were considered useless.
Hybrids can be classified into three types based on their configuration:
The electric motor is responsible for driving the vehicle. The internal combustion engine has no mechanical connection to the wheels, so its role is solely to generate electricity. This engine operates at an optimal capacity and recharges the battery until it’s full, at which time it is temporarily disengaged. Traction is always provided by the electric motor.
Both the internal combustion engine and the electric motor are used to simultaneously power the drive wheels. Here, the internal combustion engine primarily drives the vehicle, and the electric motor is responsible for providing additional support when necessary. As a result, the car can never be driven un 100% electric mode. It is a relatively simple solution, but not the most efficient.
Here, both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine can drive the vehicle (so they both have a mechanical connection to the wheels), and the car decides if one or both is powering the vehicle automatically according to driving conditions. This advanced design makes it a very efficient mechanical and electric solution.
You also have hybrids that can be plugged which allows their batteries to be charged externally, such as a Plug-in Hybrid or PHEV: A hybrid belongs in this group if its batteries can be recharged by external means, such as connecting it to a power outlet, and usually can travel in electric-only mode for 32 kilometers (20 miles) without the need for the gasoline engine or another charge
Hybrids only use their electric motor powered by the energy stored in the hybrid battery
The internal combustion engine, together with the electric motor, moves the drive wheels, maximizing vehicle efficiency at all times.
The electric motor assists the internal combustion engine to provide additional power.
The electric motor serves as a generator and recharges the hybrid battery using the movement of the drive wheels as a dynamo. The internal combustion engine does not consume any fuel at this time.
Low speed driving
The electric motor is the only power source, resulting in improved efficiency.
At a standstill
The internal combustion engine and the electric motor are off, and only power on if the battery has to be recharged.
Driving a Toyota hybrid is the best anti stress remedy. Smooth, powerful and quiet, with the satisfaction of knowing that it reduces fuel consumption and emissions. Toyota was the first car manufacturer to invest heavily on this system, so today you can find a hybrid for almost any need.
Hybrids require large batteries to store energy and require the driver to charge them continuously. The battery needed by a hybrid car in many instances is small and fits in the back without reducing trunk space. The excess power produced by the combustion engine recharges the battery when driving at cruising speed on highways or in stop and go traffic in urban environments.
The hybrid battery has to be continuously replaced. The battery has the same lifespan as the vehicle itself and Toyota hybrid vehicles are used in some markets (such as Europe and several cities in the US and Canada) as taxis, driving over a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) without any maintenance to the hybrid batteries.
Hybrid technology is new and unreliable. Millions of drivers have tested this technology, with this is the fourth generation of Toyota hybrids setting efficiency records. Toyota has been marketing hybrid vehicles for more than 20 years and has sold more than 10 million units worldwide.
It is more complicated to drive a hybrid than a conventional vehicle. All you have to do to power on a Toyota hybrid is press a button: you don’t need to even operate a key. Hybrid driving is just as simple as an ordinary car; you don’t even have to shift gears since it’s very similar to an automatic. The vehicle automatically determines when it needs the electric motor, when it needs to use the combustion engine or both power sources simultaneously, and even when it doesn’t need either one, taking advantage of inertia and not wasting fuel nor electricity. What can take a little getting used to is that the car does not make any sound when driving in electric mode, although it’s easy to get used to good things. The batteries are perfectly insulated so that neither cold nor heat interfere in their operation.
If the battery runs out of electricity, the car will not start. Hybrid vehicles are programmed to turn the gasoline engine on and off automatically in order to avoid the hybrid battery from discharging. But in any case, if road conditions or driving style deplete the battery, the gasoline engine will give life to the vehicle. The vehicle will never fail because of the battery, precisely because since it’s a hybrid, it has a second power source. And when the battery is low and is propelled by the gasoline engine, the hybrid system will recharge it through regenerative braking or coasting.
Hybrid vehicles are boring to drive. This is another unfounded fear. Compact batteries and the electric motor allow the gasoline engine to be smaller and lighter. If you compare a hybrid with a diesel vehicle with similar power characteristics, you will find that its weight is very similar. In addition, the combination of the gasoline engine and the electric motor generate an instant response, increasing the amount of torque sent to the wheels, which is what gives us the feeling of acceleration from an engine. Technology that is capable of achieving the advantages of a diesel power plant with such low consumption can never be boring.
I can’t take long trips in a hybrid. This isn’t a problem: although fuel consumption won’t be as low as when driving in the city, you can travel long distances with a hybrid, which is exactly the same as if we were driving a traditional combustion vehicle. The only difference is that you spend less money on fuel because the system will take advantage of any occasion to operate in electric or regenerative mode (which doesn’t need the gasoline engine or electric motor to power the drive wheels).
I have to constantly recharge the vehicle and it’s more expensive to use the combination of electricity and gasoline than only gasoline or diesel. This is false: Toyota’s series-parallel hybrid system operate with both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine and will switch to one or the other automatically according to the driving conditions, resulting in improved efficiency.
The amount of electricity and gasoline I consume is greater than when I just consume gasoline or diesel fuel. In reality, fuel consumption is significantly lower, because hybrid vehicles use each of the driving phases to generate energy. When in EV mode, it will recharge the battery taking the drive wheel’s kinetic energy and converting it into electricity, while it turns off the electric motor and gasoline engine.