[Infographic] The Anatomy of a Hybrid Car
Hybrid cars are interesting beasts. Not quite gas-guzzlers, not quite electric cars, but something in the middle. For some, they’re a great compromise, offering lower fuel consumption without the limited range of electric cars. For others, they’re an imperfect solution that doesn’t go far enough in reducing emissions. After all, they do still run on gas. After you become a mechanic, you’ll get to see the benefits and drawbacks of these kinds of cars first-hand.
Central to hybrid cars are a few pieces of specific technology that allow them to use, and even generate, electrical energy that can be used for transportation. Future automotive maintenance technicians who want to be able to work on all kinds of cars will need to familiarize themselves with these special components.
Here’s a look at the anatomy of a hybrid car.
The Anatomy of a Hybrid Car
There are more than 33 different hybrid models available today.
Though some hybrids differ in how they mix electric and gas power, all use both to get moving. Here are some of the main varieties.
Green: Mild hybrid
- Uses electric motor and other hybrid technologies to assist combustion engine
- Never operates in a fully electric mode
- Benefits to fuel economy not as pronounced as other kinds of hybrid cars
Greener: Full Hybrid
- At low speeds, can run purely on its electric motor
- At high speeds, uses electric motor to assist combustion engine
- Offers better fuel economy than regular cars
Greenest: Plug-in Hybrid
- Runs entirely on its electric motor until battery depletes
- When battery is too low, runs entirely on combustion engine
- Offers amazing fuel economy; no gas required if you charge frequently!
Fun fact: Toyota sells more hybrids than any other company. Between 1997 and 2016, it sold more hybrids (over 10 million) than the total number of Mustangs sold by Ford since the 1960s!
No matter what kind of hybrid you’re looking at, there are a few components you’re likely to see. Here’s what it takes to make a hybrid car run:
- Draws power from the hybrid battery to propel the car
- Can help create power for the battery to store
- Hybrid cars can have 1-3 of these! More electric motors = better efficiency.
Electric Battery Pack
- A collection of lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride batteries
- Stores electricity for powering the electric motor
- With a large, 14.1 kWh battery, a car can travel 50 km on electricity!
- Burns gasoline to create power for the car to move
- Can hold enough fuel for huge (over 800 km) range
- Hybrid cars will use around 20-35% less gas than regular cars
- Use the force of the car stopping to generate energy
- Are supplemented by regular brakes to stop fast-moving cars
- Are estimated to help reduce fuel consumption by 10-25%
- Decides whether the car will use electric or gas power, or both
- Determining factors include speed, level of battery charge, and more
- Will usually have 30 or more microprocessors at work calculating
Bonus: Noise generator
Hybrids and electric cars can be very quiet at low speeds. To reduce the odds of people being struck by a car they can’t see, noise generators are now required on all new hybrids.