How do hybrid cars work?

It’s official: hybrid cars sales are booming! Low emission vehicles are the way forward. It's easy to get bogged down with your everyday petrol and diesel, who knows, a hybrid could be the answer to all your prayers.

BMW i8 Hybrid

What is a hybrid?

Hybrids have been around for donkeys of years and are paving the way for an environmentally friendly future. It's funny how hybrids have been around for years, yet they still remain a bit of a mystery to most of us.

From the engine to charging, we’re ready to clear up any doubts you might have about the hybrid car. The first one is exactly what a hybrid car is. It’s a car made up of electric motors with a diesel or petrol engine. Think about it is like mixing a cocktail. It's this mixing that sets hybrids apart from your everyday engine and the great thing is, it means lower fuel consumption all around.

Hybrids are a different breed, and yes they have an electric motor, but they’re not considered to be electric cars. Even though some hybrids can run on electric power alone, for a short distance anyway, they’re just unreal if you think about it.

BMW Hybrid

So how does a hybrid car work?

Well, it's not by magic that’s for sure. Although it may as well be as it’s only a small battery pack that powers up the engine. This battery pack is powered by the engine along with kinetic energy. All sounds very scientific we know, just wait until we get down to the nitty-gritty.

Where does the kinetic energy come from? This is recuperated when the car is moving, especially when you’re slowing down or breaking. Many like to think of this as ‘self-charging,' which is in some ways. Quite clever when you think about it. Once the car starts moving again, the electric motor will get its power from the batteries and the car will be off again.

Your standard everyday hybrid that the majority of us have heard of is the plug-in hybrid. Often referred to as a PHEV, it’s the closest hybrid that you’re probably going to get to an electric car. The battery on these is just something else. It can be charged by the petrol engine or you can plug it in at a charging station. If only our phones were this good at charging too! Let’s not forget about the size of these bad boys too. You’ve never seen a battery like it. Bigger than your head, it’s bigger than your standard hybrid battery, which means that PHEVS can get you from A to B purely on battery power.

hybrid charging

Charging a hybrid car

This one depends on the type of hybrid that you have. Hybrids can range from a series, parallel, series-parallel, or plug-in, and many of these use the petrol engine to create electricity and charge the battery.

Plug-ins have the best of both worlds and can use the mains as a source too, spoilt for choice really. A built-in socket for charging and cable should only take around 3-8 hours to charge, depending on the speed of your charging point that is. Charging overnight does seem to be a sound option. Of course, not everyone has this luxury if they don't have off-street parking, but fear not as there's plenty of public charging stations these days.

Parallels though are a completely different ball game. They can only charge by using excess energy and converting this to electricity. Fascinating really when you think about it. You don’t need to worry about replacing the battery either, as most hybrid batteries are typically designed to last for a lifetime. Self-charging as well, what’s not to love!

Advanced technologies

Hybrid cars aren't all that. Who said such a thing? People when they realise they don't just need a battery to be able to work. Turns out they need a few other bits and bobs too.

Regenerative braking: this is needed because it recaptures that energy that is normally lost during coasting or breaking. No one likes to lose energy, especially not hybrid cars. So what does it do? It uses the forward motion of the wheels to turn the motor, which generates electricity and helps slow the car down. Still with us? Great, let's talk assist.

Electric motor drive/assist: there's nothing better than being helped along a little bit to get you where you need to go and hybrids are no different. Their electric motor will assist you and your engine in accelerating, passing, or hill climbing. It's got you, and in some hybrids, if you're lucky, your motor could even propel your car at low speeds!

Automatic stop/start: it does what it says on the tine. It automatically shuts your engine off when your car comes to a stop. And hey presto, it starts up again when you press the accelerator. Hybrids aren't a fan of idling and it's all about the energy.

Which hybrid is the best?

You can have the pick of the bunch. Whatever tickles your fancy, with all different body styles to choose from, from saloons and city cars to SUVs and sportscars, have you made your mind up yet?

If you're a city driver and love spending time sitting in traffic, a series hybrid could be a good choice. Parallel hybrids are the ones if you're after something naughty and cheap and if you're a Londoner through and through, a plug-in might be the way forward. We're all about low emissions these days charging your car is just as easy as is your phone.

Howdy hybrid, bye-bye internal combustion? Before you go jumping the gun and getting on the hybrid bandwagon, we can help you to sell your car and get the cash that you deserve. We'll help you find the right deal, whether you've got a car or a van, looking to sell or scrap. Find the best deal for your vehicle right here!

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