The term “hybrid” means “of mixed origin,” which covers hybrid and plug-in hybrid automobiles. Hybrid cars get their power from both gas engines and electric motors. This share, and sometimes trade-off, the task of sending power to their drive wheels as needed to give the highest fuel economy in all driving conditions—in the city, on the highway, and at variable speeds and rates of acceleration.
As well as hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), the electrified vehicle universe (cars with an electric motor in their powertrain) includes full-electric vehicles (EVs) that are powered completely by a massive battery pack and do not have a gasoline engine. The degree of electric assistance and electric-only range these cars provide is determined. They might be small-battery “mild” hybrids (with electric motors that increase acceleration, recover energy during braking, and supply juice for stop-start systems) or large-battery, long-range EVs. Those are the two extremes of the spectrum. HEVs and PHEVs are in the center and will likely comprise the bulk of electric cars for the foreseeable future. Here are the similarities and differences, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
HEV, How they work
Although the bullet-shaped, two-seater Honda Insight was the first modern HEV to hit the market in 2000, the Toyota Prius quickly surpassed it, becoming as synonymous as a hybrid from Google Searchterm. Conventional hybrids do not require charging since gasoline engines can keep their comparatively tiny batteries charged while driving. Almost every major automaker sells HEV versions of their cars, SUVs, and trucks. Because they can recapture energy while braking, these HEVs all provide much greater fuel efficiency than their nonhybrid, gas-engine equivalents in stop-and-go city driving (in exchange for the disadvantages of added complexity and a somewhat higher price) when going the same speed on the highway, hybrids, on the other hand, don’t usually get much better gas mileage.
HEVs cannot recharge their battery packs and frequently have just a fleeting ability to drive on electric power alone. HEVs cannot be plugged in.
PHEV , How they work
Several manufacturers have gone one step further and added larger batteries to their hybrid vehicles. These batteries may be recharged by plugging them into a regular household outlet that operates at 120 volts or a charging device that operates at 240 volts. A typical plug-in hybrid car, like the Prius Prime, which can go 25 miles on electric power alone, takes about 5.5 hours to charge when plugged into a 120-volt household outlet and about 2 hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger.
Because of the capacity to charge the batteries in advance, a plug-in hybrid can travel solely on the power of its electric motor without consuming any gasoline. Some plug-in vehicles range more than 25 miles (see the list below). However, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) needs to have a larger battery pack to save money on fuel. This allows the PHEV to go further on electric power alone before the internal combustion engine kicks in to help share the load. Because of this, and because it has more hardware and software than a regular hybrid, it costs more than a regular hybrid.
A plug-in hybrid, on the other hand, never needs to be plugged in. As long as the gas tank stays full, it will always run in “hybrid” mode, using both the gas engine and the electric motor or motors.
Hybrid, Pros and Cons
The last consideration in hybrid ownership is the cost of the vehicle. You’re going to want to get your calculator out for this one. Compared to vehicles with equivalent specifications powered by traditional gas engines, does it make sense to purchase a hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicle at a price that is fundamentally higher? (Some manufacturers offer a gas-powered and a hybrid version of the same model, making it possible to make a direct comparison.) The numbers typically do not work out in favor of purchasing a hybrid vehicle in this day and age when gasoline prices are so low. If you own a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and want the ability to charge it quickly at home, you will need to invest in 240-volt chargers and pay to have them installed. The charger alone could cost several hundred dollars.
On the other hand, you can have additional motivations besides wanting to acquire a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid vehicle. For some of us, driving purely electric power is exciting. In contrast, for others, the concept of using less fuel, making many fewer stops at the gas station, or doing something nice for the environment is more appealing than the idea of saving money. The answer to such a question lies with the individual purchaser. You are aware of the benefits and drawbacks, however.