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Understanding Current Hybrid Vehicle Technology

So, what is a hybrid car in 2022?  What is the current technology ?

A hybrid vehicle combines at least one electric motor with an internal combustion engine (ICE) to move the car.  This system is set up to recapture any energy from regenerative braking.  There will be times when the electric motor can do all the all the work of moving the car, and then sometimes the ICE will do 100% of all the work.  And then there will be times when the electric motor and the ICE work together to move the vehicle along.

The  hybrid system ultimately has the end result of less fuel being burned and, therefore, offering its driver better fuel economy.  In some circumstances, like in a short quick passing manoeuvre, adding electric power to the ICE power will can even boost the vehicle’s performance for performing the task.

All hybrid systems are set up for the electric motor to use electricity coming from a high-voltage battery pack.  This battery pack is separate from the car’s conventional 12-volt battery system that runs the auxiliary car systems (e.g., air conditioning, headlights, coolant fan, etc.).  The high voltage battery pack is replenished by capturing energy from deceleration (typically this energy is lost to heat that is generated by the brakes in a conventional ICE-only vehicle).  So, the regenerative braking system captures this deceleration energy and sends it back to the high voltage battery pack which runs the vehicle’s electric motor.  Hybrid vehicles are also designed to use the ICE to charge and maintain the high voltage battery pack.

The main Hybrid Designs are:

Parallel Hybrid

The electric motor(s) and ICE are connected in a common transmission (automatic, manual, or a CVT) that will blend the two sources of power for moving the vehicle.

Series Hybrid

A Series Hybrid is where the electric motor(s) provide all the thrust, and there is never a physical or mechanical connection between the ICE and the wheels.  The ICE is purely onboard for recharging the high voltage battery pack.

Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV)

The plug-in hybrid system enhances the conventional hybrid concept with a much larger high voltage battery pack.  As this is similar to a conventional electric vehicle (EV), it must be fully recharged using an external electricity source (i.e., charged from your home power supply, your office, or a public charging station).  Because the energy storage is much greater, it allows for extended all-electric driving, thus significantly reducing your fuel consumption.  In fact, short commutes and a recharge nightly means that you’ll be running on electricity most of the time (great for city driving).  Should you deplete the large battery pack, the car simply reverts to being a conventional parallel hybrid, using the assistance of an ICE.  Plug-in hybrids can be either a series or a parallel hybrid system.

Mild Hybrids

When you hear the term Mild Hybrid, don’t start thinking it is anything like the Parallel Hybrid, Series Hybrid, or Plug-In Hybrid (these 3 are considered “full hybrids”) mentioned above.  In a Mild Hybrid vehicle, the electric motor is there to only assist the ICE for the purposes of improving fuel economy, increasing performance, or both.  It won’t ever fully move the vehicle on its own.