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Hybrid Car Buying Guide


Part 1 - How Hybrid Cars Work

Most cars are inefficient in terms of energy conversion, using on one-third of the fuel's energy; the rest being lost as heat and noise.

Hybrid technology improves that efficiency by combining a small gasoline engine with a high-torque electric motor and a battery. The result is 50 percent more miles per gallon miles and greener, more sustainable, operations. And, these cars drive as well, if not better than their gasoline-only counterparts.

A hybrid vehicle uses a smaller than normal petrol engine coupled to a battery-powered electric motor. Energy normally wasted in braking is captured to charge the battery. This stored energy is then used to supplement the petrol engine for driving.

Hybrid cars are most effective in city driving - where they stop and start the most. The more they brake, the more energy is captured and reused.

Video - How Hybrid Cars Work


Hybrid cars use different systems to capture wasted energy:

Full hybrids - Lexus GS 450h, both power plants shut off during traffic stops. When the accelerator is depressed, the electric motor pushes the vehicle to about 15mph or 20mph for fuel-free driving. After that speed, the gas engine takes over. And for passing power, both power plants kick in.

Mild hybrids - may only use the electric motor to add power during acceleration. These are less robust models, that work by using a strong motor/generator. During traffic stops the engine is turned off, then quickly and seamlessly started up again when it's time to accelerate. The motor doesn't actually move the car.

There are variations between Hybrid Car Models

Toyota Lexus GS450h uses a motor connected to the power train through a special gear set, allowing for more flexibility in power use. This full hybrid system can drive the car under electric power during low-speed cruising and heavy traffic.

Honda Civic Hybrid has a motor integrated between the engine and the transmission. This system is less robust, using the motor to assist the gas engine. It is only able to run the car under electric power for very short bursts.

Contrary to opinion, you do not need to plug in a hybrid in to charge its batteries, electricity is provided by the engine and brakes. When the car cruises or slows down, regenerative brakes automatically harness the cars speed and converts it to electricity to charge the batteries.


Components of Hybrid Car

The main components [other than standard car components] of a hybrid car include:

  • Continuously Variable Transmissions
  • Power Control Module


Continuously Variable Transmissions

Many hybrids also run on advanced continuously variable transmissions. This equates to an infinite number of gear ratios, rather than the standard 4 or 5.

Power Control Module

The power control module is a computer that controls the power distribution. It monitors throttle, battery charge, and other running parameters, then channels energy to the wheels or battery, from the engine or the motor, as needed. It also shuts down and restarts the engine during traffic stops and starts.

Next: Hybrid Cars 2007

Hybrid Car Guide | Hybrid Cars 2007 | Comparing Hybrid Cars | Toyota Prius vs. Honda Civic Hybrid | Best Green Cars



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