Understanding How Hybrid Cars Work

By Lonnie Whitcher
Updated January 5, 2015
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Understanding How Hybrid Cars WorkA lot of people in the past have driven their car up to the gas pump and, while the dollars ticked away, considered trading their old motor vehicle in for something capable of better mileage. Maybe the price of gas isn't the thing that's troubling you now, but instead you're worried that your car is having a significant impact on the poor health of our current environment. Whatever the reason, the automobile industry has developed the technology to address your concerns, in the form of the hybrid car. Chances are that you've heard of vehicles like these before, but you might not be sure how hybrid cars work.

A lot of people find themselves wondering what exactly goes on underneath the hood of a hybrid car to provide the extra miles per gallon in comparison to a standard automobile. Figuring out how hybrid cars work can be something of a complex concept, but this article may be able to help.

The Conventional Engine

Perhaps the best way to understand how hybrid cars work is to think about how a car simply travels down a highway at the given speed limit. In this instance, the engine will be doing three things. First of all, it will be overcoming air resistance, then it will be overcoming rolling resistance in the drive train, and it will be powering different accessories within the car, including the air conditioner and the power steering pump.

To get everything done efficiently, the engine may not have to produce any more than 10 to 20 horsepower. However, the reason that most cars come with 100-200 horsepower is to handle the strain of accelerating from a dead stop, as well as climbing hills. Generally, we will only use the maximum horsepower of our vehicle 1% of the time that we are driving. The rest of the time, your vehicle is simply carrying around excess weight for a large engine, wasting energy.

The Hybrid Engine

In a conventional hybrid car, you will have all the makings of a complete electric vehicle. Within your hybrid, you will have an electric motor that is capable of generating all of the power delivered to the wheels, as well as powerful batteries used to direct electricity towards the motor. At the same time, understanding how hybrid cars work, means recognizing the fact that there is a completely separate gasoline engine involved too. This engine powers a generator, and is generally quite small, capable of perhaps 10 or 20 horsepower. The gasoline engine of a traditional hybrid car is designed to run at a single speed, leading to the best possible level of efficiency.

The purpose of the smaller, more efficient gasoline engine is to offer enough energy within the hybrid car to keep the car moving at a cruising speed. Throughout times of acceleration, the batteries within the car will provide any excess power that is necessary. When the car is standing still, on the other hand, the batteries will be given a chance to recharge. Essentially, this form of hybrid car is simply an electric car with a built in re-charge station for extra range.





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