Let’s talk about Hybrids, also known as hybrid electric vehicles. These vehicles have been on the roads in Canada for about a decade now, and they’re really popular.
Hybrids increase the efficiency of a vehicle AND lower CO2 emissions and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, too.
Let’s get under the hood.
Hybrids use both fuel and electricity, with both internal combustion and electric motors driving the wheels, and batteries that store and distribute energy.
The essential idea of a hybrid electric vehicle is that these two types of propulsion systems work in harmony.
First – a gasoline or diesel or bio-fuel internal combustion engine. It has two jobs – to provide motive power, and to help charge the batteries of the vehicle.
Second - one or more electric motors. These motors are located in different places in the vehicle depending on the manufacturer.
BOTH motors are connected to a transmission… and out to the driven wheels.
The third component is a battery or series of batteries, which store and send out electricity.
Batteries in hybrid vehicles don’t ever need to be plugged in because their charging needs are met by the management system of the vehicle, and so they are never a draw on the electricity grid or your home electricity bill.
Hybrid vehicle batteries generally last for the entire lifespan of the vehicle.
Now, the way hybrids manage all of this technology is through a kind of “mission control specialist”, which is, in fact, a computer or series of computers.
They make decisions about where power is coming from, and where it’s going.
Thousands of times per second, they analyze the state of the charging system, and figure out what you are asking the car to do.
So… while you’re driving along, using steering, brakes, and accelerator, listening to music from your mobile device, there’s a lot going on.
Here’s a theoretical example of the kinds of decisions that your car might make as you drive in different conditions.
If you’re driving along at 20 km an hour, the car might ask the battery if there is enough power on hand for the electric motor to be your motive power.
If the answer is “yes”, the internal combustion engine turns off.
You are now running on electric power, and depleting the battery resources.
If the battery resources get too low, the engine comes back on to power the vehicle and to recharge the battery.
If you encounter a hill, or need to accelerate quickly and go at a high rate of speed, the system may allow both internal combustion and electric motors to give you the speed and power you need.
When you coast, your engine shuts off, saving more fuel. And whenever you brake, power goes back to the batteries.
That’s called regenerative braking: energy from the rotation of your wheels while you brake works like a power station, feeding the battery so it can store the charge for future use.
And when you come to a full stop, the system turns off your engine, saving even more fuel.
All systems and accessories continue to function.
Lots of technology – all working in harmony, all very reliable.
And by the way, hybrids also use a number of other design features and technologies to run at peak efficiency, including a highly aerodynamic, low-drag shape, weight savings, and a much smaller and lighter internal combustion engine.
Hybrids are like having the best of both worlds: on-demand power, significant fuel savings and lowered emissions, and smooth, quiet, emission-free electric motive power as well.
So if you are looking to improve the fuel efficiency of your vehicle, want to lower your CO2 emissions,
AND if you want to lower the fuel costs of your vehicle, consider a hybrid electric vehicle.