What is a hybrid car and how do they work?

There has been quite a lot of discussion online and in the media about electric vehicles (EVs) vs traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) cars.

How much do you really know about different types of vehicles and the various options available to you if you’re thinking of buying a car?

To help you understand all of this better, let’s take a closer look at hybrid cars.

How do hybrid cars work?

A hybrid car, quite simply, is a hybrid between an ICE vehicle and an EV. Hybrid cars have both an internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor.

An ICE vehicle needs petrol or diesel to fuel the engine. An EV needs electricity and a battery to power the motor. A hybrid, then, uses fuel and/or an electrical source to power the motor.

Do you need to charge a hybrid?

There are different types of hybrid vehicles. They both have a battery that needs to be charged, but there are differences:

  • Self-charging hybrid: The battery is charged by the car itself, either by the engine acting as a generator or through a process called regenerative braking. You don’t plug in this type of hybrid car.
  • Plug-in hybrid: These are also known as PHEVs, which stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. As the name implies, the battery can be charged by plugging the vehicle into a socket. It can also be charged by the engine and brakes, as above.

Can you charge a hybrid car at home?

You can charge a hybrid car or EV at home. In theory, you can even charge one from a standard 240-volt wall outlet. This will take a long time and, therefore, add more to your electricity bill than needed. It’s sometimes referred to as level 1 or trickle charging.

If you’re going to charge a hybrid car at home, a smarter alternative would be to charge it from a level 2 charger, which is a dedicated AC fast charger.

Another option is to charge your hybrid vehicle at a public charging station or a petrol station. Some companies even have specific charging spots in their parking lots for their employees or visitors.

How long do hybrid car batteries last?

How long a hybrid car battery will last depends on how old the car is, how old the battery is, how much you drive, what type of driving you do (e.g. city vs motorway) and the driving conditions (e.g. cold, snowy winter driving vs dry, warm weather).

A general rule of thumb is that a hybrid car battery will last approximately ten years if you look after it and keep your vehicle regularly maintained.

How do hybrid cars perform in comparison to traditional vehicles?

Self-charging hybrids can run on battery power for a limited time or short distances. Plug-in hybrids can go a bit longer as they usually have larger battery packs and more powerful motors.

Up to now, traditional vehicles have been able to accelerate faster and maintain higher speeds over longer distances. But hybrid vehicles are improving quickly. Many hybrid vehicles now provide performance that is very similar to a regular ICE vehicle.

Are hybrid cars good for long-distance driving?

Most hybrid cars these days are great for long-distance driving. Generally, the battery and electric motor will be used for shorter trips, especially urban driving; and the petrol engine can power the car over long distances.

Do hybrid cars save money?

Depending on the model of vehicle you’re looking at, a hybrid vehicle may be slightly more expensive to buy initially. But they’re usually cheaper to run over the long term.

With a hybrid car, you will save money on fuel, as you’re not using petrol 100% of the time.

Do hybrid cars last longer?

This depends on the make and model of the vehicle, and how much you drive. Like any vehicle, if you keep up with regular maintenance, it will last longer.

The battery of a hybrid won’t last forever and will need to be replaced. But an ICE vehicle will also need parts replaced over the span of owning it as well.

The history of hybrid vehicles

The first hybrid car was built in 1899, with not much happening in that sector until the 1960s. There was then renewed interest in the late 1990s by Toyota and Honda.

We’re not sure if any of those original Insight or Prius models are still on the road, but hybrid vehicles are designed to last as long as traditional ICE cars.

What to look for when buying a hybrid car?

The three main things to look for when buying a hybrid car, or any vehicle in general, are:

  1. Safety: What safety rating does the car you’re thinking of buying have?
  2. Efficiency: Is the model you’re considering the right one for your driving habits? Do you do a lot of motorway driving versus inner-city stop/start driving?
  3. Price: You need to consider whether you can afford the sticker price, of course. But you should also bear in mind value-for-money (saving money on fuel, possibly needing to replace the battery, etc) as well as the resale value of your vehicle.

We suggest the first thing you do when thinking about buying a new vehicle is to start by making a list of things you need in a car, what type of driving you’ll be doing, and how much you can afford (upfront and monthly on running costs).

This will make it much easier to compare and assess the different options available between traditional ICE vehicles, hybrid vehicles, PHEVs and EVs.

If you need any more information about the maintenance required for a hybrid vehicle, please feel free to get in touch with the experts at Mt Roskill Collision Centre.

Call us on 0800 227 762 or email [email protected] for professional and friendly car servicing advice.

We’re always happy to help!

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