Rewind the clocks and go back in time to the late 1990s and early 2000s when hybrid cars were first introduced, back to when most people - inventors included - thought that the only resource to power cars was petrol. Since then, hybrid cars have come a long way in development and have grown hugely in popularity amongst road users.
Studies show that the sales of hybrid cars peaked in March 2018 with nearly 15 thousand units sold. You can only expect this number to grow over the next couple decades. But if you’re unsure as to what exactly a hybrid car is and how it operates,you’ve clicked on the right guide.
What is a Hybrid?
Hybrid cars are simply cars that use two energy resources for power. A common type of hybrid is the petrol-electric hybrid. This is a term most people are familiar with.
Some examples of hybrid cars:
- Ford Mondeo Vignale Saloon
- Toyota C-Hr Hatchback
- Toyota Prius Hatchback
- Toyota Prius + Estate
- BMW i8 Coupe
- Kia Niro Estate
- Suzuki Swift Hatchback
‘Self-charging hybrid’ however is a term less commonly used. So what does it mean? Put simply, a ‘Self-Charging Hybrid’ is a hybrid that charges itself, and does not require a plug-in - which means these are always ready to go.
How does a hybrid work?
A Hybrid’s main objective is to give you the best of both worlds. It combines the power and range of a traditional engine with the environmental benefits of an electric motor. From the moment the car starts, and at lower speeds, the car will operate on electric power only, which means zero fuel consumption and zero exhaust emissions.
When more speed is needed, or when the battery runs low, the petrol engine automatically kicks in, and takes over the job of moving the wheels.
The petrol engine also sends power to a generator, which recharges the electric motors battery power. This is another better benefit of the electric motor. It allows the driver to have more acceleration and torque while at the same time reducing fuel consumption.
Once the car begins braking and comes to a halt, the system collects the kinetic energy from the turning wheels and brakes and converts into electrical energy, then transfers it back to the battery.
What are the pros of a hybrid car?
It depends on how you use your hybrid car and where you source the electricity you need to charge your hybrid car. If you drive in heavy city traffic, a hybrid or plug-in electric vehicle could cut your greenhouse emissions in half while also saving money. But, if you spend most your time cruising on the highway, a plug-in or hybrid vehicle offers little environmental benefit as these cost more.
Hybrid cars give the same emissions as a normal petrol or diesel vehicles, but hybrid cars give us more option in terms of how we would like to re-fuel our vehicle. This, in turn, minimises our dependency on using up fossil fuels such as oil.
Regenerative braking system
Every time you apply the foot-brake while driving a hybrid car, it helps recharge the battery of the car. There is an internal mechanism, which converts electrical energy into mechanical energy to help recharge the battery power.
This contrasts with the conventional braking system in normal cars, which use brake pads to slow or stop the vehicle. The friction caused between the brake pads and the brake rotor then turns the car's kinetic energy into heat, which, as we all know, is not always a good thing!
While any vehicle can be constructed with lightweight materials, these are extremely important for hybrid vehicles.Using lightweight materials in hybrid cars reduces a cars overall weight, which means less energy is required to run it.The use of lightweight materials also improves the car's efficiency and increases the cars electric range.
Higher resale value
With fuel prices in the UK constantly rising, more and more people seem to be ditching their traditional petrol vehicles for a hybrid or an electric plug-in vehicle. Since there is a strong demand for hybrid cars in the used car market, you will always be able to sell your vehicle for a higher resale price. When combined with potential tax credits, maintenance savings, and lower fuel costs over time, it's become more possible to recover the money it took to purchase a hybrid car when compared to investing money on a fuel-only car.
What are the cons of hybrid vehicles?
Higher purchase cost
A hybrid vehicle is always going to be more expensive when compared to models without hybrid features. However, you might be able to recuperate that cost with lower running fuel costs, and tax exemptions.
Hybrid cars need can be costly to repair, just like any other traditional internal combustion car, however it's unlikey that they'll need any major service. The shortage of relevant equipment and the changes in technology can make it difficult for mechanics to repair the car. Bear in mind, that if there’s a lack of equipment in garages, then it will also be difficult to find a mechanic who has the expertise and skills to repair a hybrid car.
However, if you keep your car in good condition you will significantly reduce the amount you have to pay towards running and maintaining it, meaning it will be easier to sell when you no longer want it. And because they have less moving parts and aren't as complicated in terms of how they operate, they are usually cheaper to service and only require gear oil change once a year.
Whether you’re planning to buy or lease a hybrid vehicle, you’ll need to consider whether its worth investing in a vehicle with a low battery life span. Of course, all batteries wear out over time, but you need to be extra careful with hybrid batteries, which is why it’s important to not drain your battery by leaving the lights on. Otherwise, you’ll wake up in the morning, fully expecting to drive your vehicle to work, until you realise that your battery is discharged to nearly 0 percent.