Hybrid Cars

      

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How Do Hybrid Cars Work? - Find Out How Hybrid Cars Work

So, you’re wondering “how do hybrid cars work?” Hopefully after reading this article you will have a good idea as to how a hybrid car works. First, you need to understand what a hybrid car is. A hybrid car is one that is powered by more than one fuel source. There are actually several different kinds of hybrid cars in the world today. To name a few; there are solar and electric hybrid cars, gasoline and propane hybrids, vegetable oil and diesel hybrid vehicles, and of course there are gasoline and electric hybrid cars. The most common type of hybrid car in existence today is the latter.

Since a majority of hybrid cars are a combination of gas and electric, that will be the center of this discussion. These hybrid cars utilize a small gasoline engine along with an electric motor. Generally speaking, when one is engaged, the other is disengaged. There is one other very important component that is essential for this car to operate properly. That part is a battery pack. This battery is being charged when the gas engine is running. The current that provides power to the electric motor is then from this battery pack.

Hybrid Car Batteries – The most significant component in a hybrid car.

A comparison of hybrid cars VS gas cars shows significant differences. The difference in this battery pack and a regular car battery is quite significant. A twelve volt car battery has six internally connected cells; each providing 2.1 volts for a total of 12.6 volts for a fully charged battery. The regular car battery is used only to start the car and to operate the lights and other electronics within the car. The main difference in a regular car battery and one of these battery packs is the substance the cells are constructed of, and the number of cells they contain. Car batteries are typically a lead-acid type. Many modern hybrid car batteries are a Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery. The Toyota Prius hybrid battery is constructed from NiMH. This battery pack consists of 28 Panasonic prismatic NiMH modules. Each of the modules contains six 1.2 volt cells. When connected together in series, the 168 cells produce a nominal voltage of 201.6 volts. This battery is positioned behind the back seat.

Battery packs in a hybrid car actually have enough energy to move the entire vehicle up to a few miles. That’s in addition to starting the car and powering all the lights and electronics. Included is a picture of a battery pack for you to get an idea of its size. The weight of this battery pack is 117.5 pounds (53.3 kg). It is the most expensive component in a hybrid car. It is possibly the most critical part as well. The battery holds an electrical charge within a rich ion solution which is called electrolyte. There are two electrodes; one has a positive charge and the other a negative charge. This battery pack delivers all of the electrical energy to the vehicle.

When considering the battery back, there are two aspects to keep in mind. The total energy within the battery determines how far the vehicle can be propelled, while the available power determines how much acceleration the car will have. The Prius hybrid battery pack, at a 50% charge, is capable of delivering about 20 KW of power. The battery has to be maintained at a specific temperature. If it overheats, it becomes very inefficient. It has a computer dedicated that very purpose. The cooling system draws air from the cabin of the car to manage the temperature of the battery pack.

Batteries on other hybrid cars are constructed differently. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid contains 240 cells and develops 288 volts. It has an inverter which boosts the voltage to 500 volts. As a result, this battery pack provides 40% more power than the Prius battery. What is interesting is this battery is actually 18% smaller than the Prius battery. The battery for the Highlander is stored under the rear seats.

The Ford Escape hybrid battery pack, which is made by Sanyo, has 50 modules. They also use nickel metal hydride cells. The total voltage of this battery pack is 330 volts. Here is an actual picture of this battery pack so you can see the actual size of these batteries.

The Honda Insight battery is constructed of the same material with a power output of 144 volts. These are located under the cargo compartment floor. The Saturn Vue also has a NiMH battery with 14.5 kW of power. That battery is also located under the cargo area.

The next generation of hybrids and electric cars will most likely contain Lithium Ion batteries. These Li-ion batteries have a much higher energy density than the NiMH battery. These batteries have about two times as much energy per pound as the NiMH batteries. The NiMH in turn contains nearly twice the energy per pound that conventional lead-acid batteries have.

What is the benefit of having the two different motors?

Gas consumption is the one thing that you want to cut down on. This is the main purpose of a hybrid car. Since the battery pack can’t propel the car for very long distances, the gasoline engine is needed most of the time. When you accelerate from a stop, energy is supplied by the battery pack and the electric motor drives the car forward. Once the car is moving, as you speed up, the gas engine engages. If you accelerate too quickly, the gas engine will also kick in. Driving habits can affect your gas mileage substantially. When driving a hybrid car, you need to learn to drive more like your grandmother, and less like your teen age son.

When you are stopped at a red light, rather than having your gas engine idle, it doesn’t run at all. This saves a lot of gas when you have a lot of stop and go type traffic. When you are backing up, the electric motor kicks in, while the gas engine isn’t engaged. When on an open road and traveling at highway speed, the electric motor is not being used.

Several of the hybrids also are equipped with a variable transmission.  This will allow the engine to operate more efficiently, by using an optimal RPM at all times.

When is the electric motor used?

As stated earlier, the electric motor on a hybrid car isn’t used most of the time. When you are parked, typically you have to back up before pulling out of the parking space. When backing up the electric motor does all the work. Then, when accelerating from a stop, the electric motor once again does the work. Once the car reaches a certain speed, the gas engine takes over and the electric motor stops running. Any time you stop your car, both motors stop running, so essentially you are using no power.

How does the battery pack get charged?

There are some misconceptions about how most hybrid cars get their batteries charged. You don’t plug in your hybrid car like you would an all-electric car. One way a hybrid car battery is charged is through what is called regenerative braking. This is a system where the electric motor, which normally drives a hybrid car in essence, operates in reverse, electrically speaking. This happens whenever the car is braking. Rather than consuming energy, as the electric motor does when propelling the car, the motor acts like a generator, which charges the battery with electrical current. It is now converting kinetic energy into electric energy as a generator. This energy would normally be lost in heat energy through mechanical friction of the brakes. The electric motor actually runs in reverse to slow the car while generating a charge for the battery. This action also assists the normal brake pads in overcoming inertia, which slows the vehicle down at the same time. So your brakes are saved as well.

Are there hybrid cars that you can plug in to charge the battery?

The answer is yes. There is such a thing as a plug-in hybrid car. This kind of hybrid has a larger high-capacity battery pack that can be recharged using AC current. This car also has the same on-board charging capabilities that normal hybrid cars have.

How much gas can I save with a hybrid car?

It all depends on the type of driving you do.  Overall, hybrid cars save at least 15% on the amount of fuel that is used.  In some driving environments, you may not save anything.  For example, trying to accelerate while going up hills will decrease your efficiency, as it can with any vehicle. The most important thing to remember with a hybrid car is to not accelerate too quickly. Keep in mind, when you use heavy acceleration, this draws power from both the electric motor and the gas motor.  If you do a lot of this type of driving, you may not save that much with a hybrid car.

Hybrid cars are fairly popular today. Depending on your driving habits, they can save you on gas. To get the most benefit from this kind of car, you may need to change some driving habits. If you are looking to buy an SUV, you will probably find that a hybrid is what is the most fuel efficient SUV. You came to this site wondering “how does a hybrid car work?” Hopefully this information has been helpful and you now understand how a hybrid car actually works.