The world of the gas electric hybrid car might seem a mystery. With an increasing focus on green vehicles, it seems likely that gasoline hybrids, diesel hybrid cars and electric vehicles will become more common with each passing year. For that reason, it is a good idea to become familiar with the workings of the typical hybrid car engine. The beauty is that, for the most part, these systems are simply combinations of two things that should seem familiar, electric motors and internal combustion engines. When you look at it from that perspective, understanding the concepts becomes fairly simple.
What makes a hybrid engine a hybrid engine is the melding of two different types of power sources to produce one system. While we most often think of hybrid engines on cars, there have been examples of this concept for a long time. A moped is a combination of an internal combustion engine with a manually powered vehicle system (the pedals producing the manual power). Diesel electric hybrid systems have been in use on trains for a long time. The most common combination in cars and trucks is the gasoline electric hybrid car, but diesel hybrid cars exist, too.
While there are variants within these categories, there are really two main types of hybrid systems. The first is a parallel system. This refers to a hybrid where both power sources typically run simultaneously, both providing power for the same purpose. In other words, the gasoline engine and the electric motor both work all the time (or nearly all the time) to provide power to the transmission to turn the wheels.
Sequential hybrids are the other main type. These differ from the parallel systems in that one power source is used to supplement the first system (which provides all the real power). The most common usage for this type of hybrid operation is a vehicle where the electric motor provides the power that drives the wheels. The gasoline engine is then used to charge the battery and power the motor when the battery doesn’t have enough stored electricity.
There are several variations on these two types of systems. In some cases, one power source or the other will shut down when not in use. In other cases, additional power (like the force you press on the brake pedal) is used to further augment the charging of the battery. The one refinement that’s becoming the most common is the “plug-in hybrid.” These vehicles operate like a typical serial hybrid. The difference is that when the vehicle is stopped you can plug it into an electrical outlet and charge the battery. That means less dependence on the gasoline engine for battery charging.
Hybrids and electric vehicles are really the coming wave of the future. Just like with gasoline powered cars and trucks, the more you know about these vehicles, the better. Knowledge allows you to make better purchase decisions and use the vehicles more effectively. Since the hybrid vehicles use systems that are just a combination of better-known units, they are not that difficult to understand.