From the October 5, 2013, Wheels section in the Dayton Daily News:
Reader Asks About Hybrids
Ralph N. from Springfield asks:
"I have heard many people talk about hybrid vehicles but I do not understand them. Please answer some questions that I have regarding hybrid vehicles. What is meant by a hybrid? Do they have to be plugged in? What happens if the battery goes dead? How much does a new hybrid battery cost? What is the advantage or a hybrid? Thanks for your help."
Thanks for writing and this is a commonly asked question because of all the new terms being used.
The word "hybrid" means that the vehicle can be propelled using two sources of power.
- An internal combustion engine, usually a conventional gasoline engine tuned to provide the highest possible efficiency and fuel economy.
- One or more electric motors that can help propel the vehicle and act as a generator to recharge the high-voltage battery pack.
A hybrid vehicle does not need to be plugged in because the high-voltage battery is kept charged by the motor/generator. The high-voltage batteries are kept to a state -of-charge of between 40% and 80%. Not allowing the battery to be discharged below 40% and not be charged over 80% greatly improves the life and the batteries are lasting the life of the vehicle without needing to be replaced.
There are some new hybrid electric vehicles on the market that add additional battery capacity and these are called plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and can be driven for a short distance (10 miles to 40 miles) on battery power alone and then the gasoline engine starts and the vehicle operates as a conventional hybrid vehicle. While the cost of the PHEV is a lot higher, the advantage is that it can operate on electric power during a short commute. However, a PHEV does have to be plugged in to charge the battery back to the level needed to provide electric-only operation.
Hybrid electric vehicles offer improved fuel economy yet they do cost more than a conventional similar vehicle. The fuel economy improvements come from two major operations of a hybrid electric vehicle.
- Idle stop, also called start-stop. The gasoline engine stops when the vehicle is stopped, yet the air conditioning and heater system continue to operate.
- Regenerative braking. The brakes on a hybrid vehicle use the electric motor and turn them into generators to recharge the high-voltage battery when the vehicle is slowing or when the brakes are applied. The conventional brakes only operate at speeds below 15 MPH so that brakes last the life of the vehicle on a hybrid vehicle.