Hybrid plug in vehicles, also known as a plug in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), provide improved fuel economy and reduced carbon emissions. Electric cars, like the Toyota Prius hybrid, are designed to give a driver the feel of operating a conventional vehicle. But these cars operate quite differently from a standard combustion engine.
Hybrid plug in vehicles use batteries to store electrical energy. These batteries can be lead-acid, Lithium-Ion (L-Ion) or, in certain cases, Nickel Metal-Hydride (NiMH). All batteries perform the same basic task. Energy is built up, and stored, based on chemical reactions. The energy stored in the batteries is used to drive an electric motor.
A PHEV uses both a small internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Hybrid plug in vehicles can use these two motors singly or in combination depending on driving conditions and available electric charge. A Series Hybrid vehicle, such as the Chevrolet Volt, uses the internal combustion engine to drive a generator that provides electricity to the electric motor driving the wheels. A Parallel Hybrid, like the Honda Insight, can transfer power to the drive wheels via the internal combustion engine or the electric motor. The Toyota hybrid plug in has the ability to work in either mode, sometimes called a Series-Parallel configuration.
By most estimates, fuel costs for driving a non-hybrid vehicle can cost from about 10 cents to 20 cents a mile depending on the vehicle model and the price of fuel. The cost of operating a plug in averages 2 cents to 4 cents per mile. This means the initial added cost for buying a hybrid plug in vehicle will be quickly offset by the decrease in operating costs.
The obvious benefits of improved fuel economy and operating costs make a PHEV an attractive alternative to conventional automobiles. Understanding the basics of how hybrid plug in electric cars work will help when comparing the cost differences to conventional cars.