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With all the discussions regarding environmental policies and climate change going on right now, ‘hybrid’ is a buzz word. Many say that hybrid vehicles are better for the environment and that generally, all cars are heading towards becoming more electric. But while everyone is discussing why hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs) are such a great idea, no one is discussing what they actually are or how they get you where you're trying to go.

To make a complicated explanation simple, hybrid cars are vehicles that rely on two different sources of energy. The vast majority of hybrids in North America are electric hybrids, meaning that they run partly on gas and partly on electricity. This means that the vehicle has both an electric motor and a conventional engine. Depending on the situation, the car may solely run on the electric motor or the engine, but in most cases, the two would work together to power the vehicle.

Midway Nissan in Whitby - How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

The term hybrid basically covers all vehicles that are not solely electric or solely gas-powered, meaning each hybrid varies in how often it actually uses the electric motor. Some mostly use the engine with the electric motor only kicking in when the vehicle is speeding up or slowing down, while others almost exclusively use the electric motor, and only use the engine to recharge the motor’s battery as the car is being driven.

Hybrids are thought of as environmentally friendly because, like electric cars, they save on gas by using the electric motor instead of the internal combustion engine, and as a result, manufacturers are able to improve the car's fuel economy. Decreasing the amount of fuel the car uses is better for the environment because it cuts down on your use of fossil fuels (which are already being rapidly depleted) and limits the emissions of CO2, a major contributor to climate change.

Hybrids also save on gas and energy through regenerative braking. In a hybrid, when you press down on the brake pedal, it sends the electric motor in reverse. By doing this, not only do the wheels slow down, but the motor actually acts as an electric generator and creates energy for the car. This means that instead of the car using energy to stop itself, it recharges the motor’s battery while braking.

Midway Nissan in Whitby - How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

Types of Hybrids

Vehicles that have both electric motors and gasoline engines usually fall into one of two categories: traditional hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

  • Hybrids (HEVs): A conventional hybrid mostly uses its gasoline engine as the main source of fuel, while the electric motor only really kicks in during acceleration. Traditional hybrids don’t need to be plugged in because the engine usually generates electricity for the motor.
  • Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs): A plug-in hybrid runs mostly using its electric motor and only uses the engine to provide additional power to the motor when its battery is dying or if the car is speeding up/slowing down.
Midway Nissan in Whitby - How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

While traditional hybrids and plug-in hybrids do divide the work up differently between their electric motor and internal combustion engine, the only difference between the two that will ever really affect your daily life is the way they charge their batteries. Traditional hybrids charge the motor’s battery using the energy created by the engine so that the vehicle doesn’t ever have to be plugged into a charging station, in fact, these types of hybrids usually don’t even have a way to plug it into an electrical source. Plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, have a much smaller engine that the car only uses when absolutely necessary. Since the engine doesn’t create enough energy to power the motor, the car must be plugged in, either at home or at a charging station, to recharge the motor’s battery pack.

This is the main difference between the two types of hybrids: traditional ones use more gas than plug-ins but don’t need to be recharged at a charging station, while plug-ins use less gas than traditional hybrids but need to be plugged in to charge the battery. It’s important to take this into consideration if you’re thinking about getting a hybrid. With that being said, both hybrids still use less gas than conventional gas-powered cars and that plug-ins don’t take as long to charge as a fully electric vehicle does.

Midway Nissan in Whitby - How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

Hybrids can be a great option since they’re both environmentally friendly and help you save money on gas. They may be slightly pricier than their gas-powered counterparts, but the rebate offered by the Canadian government on plug-in hybrids and electric cars (which is up to $5000) can definitely level the playing field. Overall, getting a hybrid is definitely something to consider if you’re in the market for a new vehicle.