What is a Hybrid Car

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Just like many of you, I have heard of hybrid cars. All I knew was that they are a half way house between owning a full on gas-guzzling motor and an ultra green, zero emissions battery powered one.

The reason I am interested in this is because I am looking to buy a new green car and I have put a post up about it. One of my wants in my new car, is for it to have great green credentials. A few Hybrid cars made the list and I was excited to drive them but early on, I realised they are not all the same. As I have never considered buying a Hybrid before, I knew very little about them.

Whilst test driving the ten cars on my list, I found that there are more that one type of hybrid car. Discovering that some hybrids are more ‘green’ than others. I never knew there was a choice. I just thought that hybrid cars were half electric and half fuel-powered. I did not even consider how they worked, just that they were ‘green’.

TV adverts tell us cars are FHEV and PHEV models. Erm, OK – let me start there, Full Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicles but there is another bit you need to know. There are three kinds of hybrid car, each one working very differently to the other. The three types are Parallel, Mild and Series.

Parallel Hybrid

Parallel hybrids are what I consider to be the greenest and the most accessible of all the hybrids. These cars essentially run on battery power. They cruise around town, silently and responsive on their electric motor. When more power is required, such as harsh acceleration, driving up a hill, or the battery runs low, the engine kicks in and assists with the power when need. Usually both the electric motor and the fuel driven engine, can drive the wheels of the car.

Cars that I have test drove and use this technology is the Lexus UX.

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Mild Hybrid

Mild Hybrids are what many people buy. They are cheaper than the parallel hybrids but work very differently. It works in the exact opposite way that the Parallel Hybrid does. Mild Hybrids are just like any other car with a fuel driven engine that drives the car. Normally they are small capacity engines and will allow a car to trundle around towns using small amounts of fuel, they are constantly pumping emissions out of the exhaust. Then, when more power is needed, a battery driven electric motor will assist the fuel engine by adding extra power to the wheels when needed. Both motors will drive the wheels.

The fuel engine will also recharge the battery pack when it gets low, especially on long journeys. So not so green as the Parallel.

Cars that I have test drove that uses this type of Hybrid are the Ford Puma.

Series Hybrid

A series Hybrid is the greenest of all, however they are also the most expensive. Their technology is not widely used by major manufacturers. These Hybrids run only on an electric motor. A large battery pack runs the car through motors that engage the wheels. These Hybrids are normally only PHEV models. However they will have a small, ‘generator’ type engine in the bowels of the car. When the battery runs low, the generator starts up and produces a small charge that will trickle charge the battery of the car. The fuel driven motor does not have any connection directly to the wheels, it produces enough power to get home.

The type of car that uses this type of Hybrid technology is the BMW i3.

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