What is a hybrid car

By George Garza
Info Guru,

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Is a hybrid car the answer to your gasoline price woes
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With gas prices so high now, many people are considering changing to more energy efficient vehicles. Horse and buggy sales are going through the roof in outer Mongolia; and Detroit is really worried that that trend will happen here.


But there is a lot of talk about using hybrid technology to solve this oil dependence problem, and the gas efficiency problem is real. What can be done? What is a hybrid car? Although there are variations, the modern hybrid car or gas-electric hybrid powered vehicle has a combination of technologies such as the internal combustion engine, electric motors, gasoline, and batteries to power the unit. Hybrid cars produced today are driven by electric motors powered by both batteries and a gas engine.

Are Gasoline engines inefficient? When you drive a gas powered car you have two performance issues. The getup and go issue, and the driving down the road issue. A standard gas powered car will always be operating at peak performance. This means that all of its cylinders are firing even if it is not driving at all, like at a stop light. But you only need peak performance when you start to accelerate after a stop, after that you don't need all of the cylinders to be working. Only 1% of the time, on a standard gas powered car, do you need to use all of your power, that is all of the cylinders.

In contrast the engine in the hybrid car uses fewer cylinders. It is powerful enough to move the car along on the freeway, but when it needs to get the car moving in a hurry, or go up a steep hill, it needs help. That comes from the electric motor and battery. This provides the necessary extra power.

Gasoline Power vs. Electric Power The gasoline-electric hybrid car is just what it sounds like - a cross between a gasoline-powered car and an electric car.
  • At one extreme you have a gas-powered car, with a fuel tank, which supplies gasoline to the engine. The engine then turns a transmission, which turns the wheels. There are two issues here: power - good, gas mileage - bad.
  • And at the other extreme you have an electric car, which has a set of batteries that provides electricity to an electric motor. The motor turns a transmission, and the transmission turns the wheels. The issues here are power - bad, mileage - good.

The Compromise The hybrid is a compromise - the guy in the middle. It tries to increase the mileage of a gas-powered car while at the same time reducing the limitations of an electric car.

But to be useful that is to be commercially viable such a car must meet certain minimum conditions. The car should be able to:
  • Be refueled quickly and easily
  • Drive at least 350 miles between re-fuelings.
  • Keep up with the other traffic on the road.
  • Have enough starting pickup to avoid entering or creating dangerous situation.
Are the conditions stacked against the Hybrid car? Let's agree that these conditions are what we expect from a car, so is it fair to expect them from a hybrid car? Well no it is not fair, but that goal is exactly what the hybrid car must meet.

So we expect good power, no pollution, low refueling costs, and long driving expectations between re-fuelings. Can this be done?

What is a hybrid car structure? Gasoline-electric hybrid cars contain the following parts:
  • Gasoline engine - The hybrid car has a smaller than normal gasoline engine. With advanced technology they are more efficient.
  • Fuel tank - A gasoline fuel tank in a hybrid will continue to be used. Why? Because gasoline has a higher energy density than batteries do. That means that if you took one gallon of gasoline (about 7 lbs.) it would take about 1,000 pounds of batteries to store the same amount of energy.
  • Electric motor - The electric motor can be a source of power and a generator. Only in an era of advanced computer electronics could it be possible to create such a motor. It can run the car and create power. It can draw energy from the batteries to accelerate the car. And it can slow the car down and return energy to the batteries.
  • Generator - The generator acts only to produce electrical power. It is similar to an electric motor.
  • Batteries - The batteries can draw energy at crucial times but also put energy back into the batteries.
  • Transmission - The transmission on a hybrid car performs the same basic function as the transmission on a conventional car, it turns the wheels.
How does the gas engine and electric motor combination work? There are two kinds of motor to gas engine operations.
  • In a parallel hybrid the electric motor and the gas engine work together in tandem to turn the transmission.
  • In a series hybrid the gasoline engine operates a generator, and the generator will either charge the batteries or it will power the electric motor that drives the transmission. In the series hybrid, the gasoline engine never operates the vehicle directly.
      Conclusion - What is a hybrid car? Hybrid cars are a compromise between power, efficiency, and no-pollution practices. Much of the technology is possible because of advances in car design, computer operations on the car, better and smaller engines.

      Check out the modern cost to performance table at the Hybrid Center online.

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