How Do Hybrid Cars Work? - Should I Buy a Hybrid Car?

Real World Hypermiling  |  Hybrid Autos  |  Alternative Fuel Cars

How Does a Hybrid Car Work?

hybrid carThe key feature of a hybrid vehicle is its ability to use energy lost in braking and convert much of that energy into generated electricity. In a non-hybrid car, brakes slow the vehicle down by applying friction to the wheels. This friction converts energy of motion into heat energy. In a hybrid vehicle, however, the vehicle is slowed down by engaging the generator. The generator then converts that energy of motion into generated electricity. The generated electricity can then be used to power the electric motor. In slow speed stop and go travel, the electric motor can furnish much of the assistance needed for travel and the repeated braking generates electricity. This is why hybrid vehicles actually get better gas mileage in the city than on the highway!


Advantages of Hybrid Cars

Disadvantages of Hybrid Electric Cars

Should I Buy a Hybrid Car?

If you are driving in low mileage stop and go traffic, then a hybrid will probably be an economically justifiable purchase. Doing the math, if you drive 12,000 miles per year at 26 MPG with a conventional vehicle, you are spending about $1850 per year using a gas price of $4 a gallon. If you can get 55 MPG with a hybrid, you spend about $850 and you save $1000 per year. In 8 years time, that's $8000 saved in fuel costs, thus justifying the extra cost of the hybrid. And, you are doing your part in reducing urban pollution and greenhouse gas emmisions!

If you are driving in nearly all high mileage highway-commuting situations, a hybrid is perhaps not your best option. You will burn up your battery warranty quickly, and your gas savings will not be as high, if much at all, since you will be relying more on the gas engine of your hybrid for this higher speed driving. And even with potentially lower future battery costs, if your gas savings are minimal, the benefits of a hybrid are still minimal compared to initial cost.

For those driving both city and highway, future reduced battery replacement costs may make hybrids an attractive option, with gas savings offsetting initial costs. And a Toyota Prius is a lot nicer vehicle to drive around, with much more room, than a tiny sub-compact non-hybrid.

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