Unlocking the Power of Hybrids & EVs: Your Ultimate 5-Step Beginner’s Guide

Performance Mild Hybrids – When Speed Meets Efficiency

These systems are often associated with flashy F1 marketing campaigns and have the most powerful electric motors in the mild hybrid category. Although they can’t solely drive the wheels, they do provide a performance boost by keeping the turbochargers spooled for improved throttle response. One example of this is the Mercedes-AMG C43.

Traditional Hybrids – The Tried and True

But first, we pay tribute to the OGs. The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight “pioneered” the traditional hybrid space back in the late ’90s. While Honda Insight faded away, Toyota dominated the market with its beloved Prius.

Traditional hybrids are the most common on the market. They are simply mild hybrids with more powerful technology and bigger (much bigger) batteries. Also, unlike plug-in hybrids, you don’t have to worry about plugging them into the wall, and they don’t boast about their electric-only driving range. These vehicles can give you a 30-50% reduction in fuel consumption compared to similarly powered petrol engines without any change in your driving habits. Sounds like a win-win, right?

There are three main types of traditional hybrid automobiles:

  1. Series hybrid
  2. Parallel hybrid
  3. The Series-Parallel hybrid

Series Hybrid – The Energy-Efficient Wonder

This powertrain might be the simplest in design, but it’s the less common type among hybrids. So, what’s the deal with a series hybrid? It means that the wheels are powered exclusively by an electric motor, and the combustion engine – usually running in the Atkinson cycle – is used as a generator to top up the battery. That’s why some people refer to it as a “range-extender electric vehicle.”

An electric motor is significantly more energy-efficient than a combustion engine. It roughly operates at 85-95% efficiency compared to 30-40% in the latter. The electric motor also provides instant torque, making the ride more responsive. In addition, since the combustion engine doesn’t need to power any driveshafts or fluctuate RPMs, it can run more efficiently. Plus, it doesn’t need to be solidly mounted, which reduces noise and vibration.

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Examples of Series Hybrids

  1. Nissan X-Trail e-Power
  2. BMW i3 REx
  3. Nissan Qashqai e-Power

Parallel Hybrid – The Familiar Feel

To put it simply, a parallel hybrid uses both an electric motor and a combustion engine to power the wheels. This means the car can run on either the electric motor, the combustion engine, or both simultaneously.

In a parallel hybrid, the electric motor and combustion engine work in tandem to provide power to the wheels. For example, in the all-wheel-drive Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid, each wheel is connected to a typical driveshaft via a centre differential, with the electric motor mounted between the engine and the automatic transmission.

One advantage of the parallel hybrid is that driving feels very natural. A traditional torque converter automatic transmission makes it familiar to anyone who has ever driven a regular petrol car. The downside is that the packaging can be challenging. Smaller electric motors typically lead to less electric-only driving ranges and worse fuel economy than other hybrids.

Examples of Parallel Hybrids

  1. Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid
  2. Kia Niro hybrid

Series-Parallel Hybrid – The Best of Both Worlds

The series-parallel offers the best of both worlds, making Toyota and Honda the hybrid geniuses they are known to be. The series-parallel hybrid boasts a unique powertrain that allows electric motors to power the driveshaft in series mode, with the option for the petrol engine to kick in when maximum power output is needed. While this setup offers excellent efficiency levels, it also demands carefully programmed electronics to seamlessly switch between modes based on the current situation.

When it comes to packaging, the series-parallel hybrid offers more freedom than the parallel hybrid. With larger motors and a multitude of motors on both axles, this system typically offers extended electric operation and lower fuel consumption than parallel hybrids. Additionally, it also provides greater total outputs than a series hybrid.

But as with all things in life, there are some downsides to the series-parallel hybrid. For example, accelerating hard can be more complicated and noisier than the other hybrid options on this list.

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Examples of Series-Parallel Hybrids

  1. Toyota RAV4 hybrid
  2. Honda Civic e-HEV
  3. Toyota Corolla hybrid

(Note: We also have Plug-in (PHEV) hybrids. However, they are on a level of their own and deserve a separate feature. Read about the fantastic world of Plug-in Hybrids.)

All Electric (EV vehicles) – The Clean and Quiet Future

All-electric vehicles have been on the rise, and they’re all about simplicity. Instead of burning gasoline and emitting harmful fumes, they utilize electric motors powered by a large battery pack that can be charged either while driving or at a charging station.

At first, all-electric vehicles suffered from range anxiety with shorter driving distances, but as technology has advanced, so has the range of these vehicles. For example, the 2019 BMW i3 had a range of only 260km on a full charge, but now the BMW iX can go up to 630km, and the Jaguar I-Pace can travel up to 470km.

One of the perks of all-electric vehicles is the cheaper running costs compared to traditional ICEs, and owners can charge their car’s batteries at home overnight.

Public fast chargers are also becoming more common and accessible, allowing for faster charging times. For instance, charging a BMW i4 M50’s 83.9kWh battery pack from 20% to 90% at an 80kW fast-charger takes about an hour and adds 400km of driving range.

Additionally, BMW even provides owners with a BMW charging card, which grants access to various fast-charging stations, a flexible fast-charger capable of charging up to 11kW, and a charging cable for use at home.

However, one may wonder about load-shedding and power outages. Fortunately, there are ways to work around these issues, such as using a backup generator or charging the car during off-peak hours when there’s less strain on the power grid.

As more and more manufacturers have mastered the technology, the range of all-electric vehicles available today is vast. They offer a quiet and smooth driving experience without the need for gasoline. All-electric vehicles genuinely are the future of transportation!

Conclusion

Hybrids and all-electric vehicles have come a long way since the days of the Lohner-Porsche Mixed Hybrid. Today, we have an exciting array of options to choose from, each offering unique benefits to suit different preferences and needs.

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Whether you’re interested in dipping your toes into the world of hybrid technology with a mild hybrid, embracing the efficiency of traditional hybrids, or going all-in with an all-electric vehicle, there’s something for everyone. The future of transportation is greener, quieter, and more sustainable – it’s a win for both us and the planet.

So, are you ready to embark on your hybrid or EV journey? Remember, it’s not just about choosing a car; it’s about choosing a greener and more environmentally-friendly way to get around. The road ahead is electrifying, and it’s time to join the movement!

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Are hybrids more expensive to maintain than traditional cars?

Not necessarily. While hybrids may have a higher upfront cost due to their advanced technology, their maintenance costs can often be comparable or even lower than traditional cars. The regenerative braking systems and reduced wear on the petrol engine can lead to less frequent brake pad replacements and longer engine life.

Can I charge my all-electric vehicle at home?

Yes, you can! Most all-electric vehicles come with charging cables that you can plug into a standard household outlet. However, for faster charging and more convenience, you may want to consider installing a dedicated charging station at home.

How do plug-in hybrids differ from traditional hybrids?

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) have larger battery packs that can be charged by plugging them into an electrical outlet. This allows PHEVs to drive longer distances solely on electric power before the petrol engine kicks in. In contrast, traditional hybrids do not typically have the option to charge externally and rely on regenerative braking and the combustion engine to charge the battery.

Can hybrids or EVs really save me money on fuel?

Absolutely! The combination of electric power and petrol engines in hybrids allows for improved fuel efficiency, resulting in savings on fuel costs over time. As for all-electric vehicles, their running costs are significantly lower than those of traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, as electricity is generally cheaper than petrol.

How does the driving experience differ between hybrids and all-electric vehicles?

Hybrids offer a more familiar driving experience, similar to traditional ICE vehicles, with the added benefit of occasional electric-only driving. All-electric vehicles provide a quiet and smooth ride, with instant torque from the electric motor, making acceleration feel effortless and responsive. The driving experience largely depends on personal preference and the specific model of the vehicle.