Hybrid Cars: What is a Hybrid Car? Advantages, Disadvantages and History.
Many car manufacturers see them as a great stepping stone into the "all-electric" future.
Everyone obviously knows the Toyota Prius - the hybrid car which pretty much kick-started the whole craze, but there are a lot more options available out there for someone interested in taking a small step towards becoming more green.
They recently had a whole South park episode dedicated to mocking them, so you know they’re pretty big at the moment!
Here are some of the topics that I've decided to look into about them:
What is a Hybrid Car?
If you were to consult a dictionary, you would probably get an answer like:
"a hybrid electric car combines a conventional internal combustion engine with an electric motor propulsion system. The addition of the electric propulsion system is intended to achieve either better fuel economy OR better performance - as well as lower CO2 emissions than a conventional combustion-engined car"(that's my own definition summarised from those pesky dictionaries).
The thing is, I'm sure that this definition just makes you want to ask lots of other questions.
Hybrid Sports Cars.
A hybrid sports car! Why bother? Well, lots of car manufacturers are beginning to "bother" at this stage. People like Toyota, Honda, BMW and a lot more have hybrid sports cars in production already - or plan to over the next couple of years. The argument "for" is a little similar to the reason for having hybrid SUVs.
Take a vehicle that is currently a "gas-guzzler" and green it up with lower emissions and higher mpg - BUT - also ADD to the horsepower with the extra oomph from those electric motors.
Sounds like hybrid sports cars (and soon to come plug in hybrid sports cars) are going to provide petrol-heads everywhere with a good excuse to keep up the cool looks and the speed habit!
Read more about Hybrid Sports Car.
Advantages of Hybrid Cars.
Probably a good idea to start with the advantages!
Why on earth would you want to (usually) pay more for this type of car? How is it going to make you drive better, feel better, look better?
Well, there are three main advantages that people look for when they buy a hybrid:
Read more about Advantages of Hybrid Cars.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Cars.
Are there disadvantages? There are always two sides to the same coin. Let's start off with the most obvious one: Price! Hybrids are packed with all sorts of new technology which has been developed for just a few cars. And those relatively few car owners have to pay for all this stuff. For all you savings on MPG and so on - you are still typically paying a big price premium.
Looks! Think of the Prius - you may like it or hate it. In the past, if you hated it you didn't have much of another choice.
They are the top two general disadvanges as far as I can see. Other disadvantages are more apparent on a model by model basis.
Read more about Disadvantages of Hybrid Cars.
History of the Hybrid Car.
The electric/petrol hybrid car has a long history going back all the way to 1900 - which might be a bit of a shock for all of you who thought it just came out of nowhere in the last few years with the Prius. Although I have to admit I thought that too!
After a while it started to disappear along with the electric car because of the emergence of cheap oil. It wasn't until people started realising the damage that the use of oil does to the environment - and the fact that it's a real posibility that we could run out of it - that people started looking for alternatives like hybrids again.
Over the past 10 years we have seen the emergence of Hybrid Technology in cars such as the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight and many of the Lexus luxury models. We now seem to be at a major turning point in the history of the Hybrid as most manufacturers seem to have a plan in place for Hybrid technology in the new model ranges.
See more History of the Hybrid Car
Pictures of Hybrid Cars.
Let's face it. The first thing we normally want when we read a review on a car is a picture! So here’s a look at some pics of many of the hybrids out now and as well as some coming out shortly.
See more Pictures of hybrid cars
Hybrid Car Statistics.
What are the real hybrid car facts and figures? We're told they’re "economical" all the time but are they really that much better than standard petrol or diesel cars?
So, what are the relevant facts and statistics when it comes to Hybrids? How do we look at the right measurements so that we are REALLY comparing "Apples with Apples"?
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Who makes hybrid cars?
So, how about a list of hybrids for sale at the moment - what is really out there? And what's coming soon? Which are the best hybrids?
There are actually quite a few big-name companies building hybrid cars at the moment. Toyota make the Prius, Lexus have three different types of hybrid vehicles out and Honda is another big company their Insight hybrid. Even Ford has a hybrid out.
There are many more companies in the process of bringing out hybrid versions of their cars and SUVs (Porsche, Volkswagen, Volvo). Some smaller companies are starting to make a big name with their hybrids - companies such as Fisker and Aptera.
One of the most interesting hybrid on the horizon is the Chevy Volt from GM (also known as the Opel Ampera). This is due in 2011 and aims to be the first mass-market plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.
See more on Who makes hybrid cars
How do Hybrid cars work?
We know they're supposed to be more environmentally friendly and that theres some electricity in there somewhere but I certainly want to know more - do you?
Well here are some of the basics: The typical hybrid vehicle like the Toyota Prius works by using the electric motor to move the car when it's going below a certain speed and when it gets above that the petrol/diesel engine kicks in (which recharges the electric motor also).
You can also get another type of hybrid like the soon-to-come Chevy Volt which works by using the electric motor exclusively at all speeds until the battery is run down. The drive is then powered by the petrol/diesel engine which also recharges the batteries for the electric motor.
Still even more hybrids (like the Lexus vehicles) use the electric motor to assist the acceleration of the vehicle and so give a boost to performance (a bit like a turbo-booster).
See more How do Hybrid Cars Work?
Plug In Hybrids.
Now, these creatures are really a step in the right direction towards all-electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids give you the option to charge up from an electrical outlet. The problem with many of the present hybrids is that driver has no real control over the battery and electric motor. These components are buried deep in the car somewhere.
However, plug in hybrids are a different sort of animal. They are really aiming to be be Electric Vehicles - that run primarily on electric power, but have the back up of a standard combustion engine.
I personally think that this approach is going to be the real leading technology over the next decade or so while all-electric technology comes of age. Fisker are an example of one company making a name for themselves with their exotic sports car plug-in - Coming out in late 2010 or 2011. The Toyota Prius should also be available as a plug-in in late 2010.
Read more about Plug-in Hybrids
Hybrid SUV Comparison.
Well, if All-electric cars are the "Angels" of a greener environment, then I guess SUVs must be the "devils". Or, is that still true???
Almost every SUV maker is taking off after Lexus in an effort to produce "greener" SUVs through lower CO2 emmissions by using hybrid technology. And - people are beginning to fall for the offer! After all, there are a lot of people out there in love with their SUVs - the height, the room, the power, the prestige!
So, what is really available in the Hybrid SUV market at the moment? And what's in the pipeline?
Well, by my count - there are presently (early 2010) about 10 Hybrid SUV models on the market at the moment - and it seems like this number will multiply over the next 12-18 months. You can read more about Hybrid SUVs currently available at hybridsuv.com
Now, I wonder when the first real all-electric SUV will be available? That would be a REAL test of electric transport technology!
Hybrid Minivan (or "People Movers").
Shifting a big box around the place while keeping your family safe can cost a lot in terms of petrol and emmissions. So, what is the state of the hybrid minivan (people mover) market?
They seem to make sense. However, as it stands there are many rumours about upcoming releases for minivans - but none on the market at the moment. The closest you can get are 7-seater SUVs like the Toyota Highlander.
Toyota had the Estima Hybrid minivan on sale in Japan up to recently, but even that has been dropped. Seems like the car companies can't make up their minds about "hybriding" this sector!
Hybrid Car Rental.
So, where can you rent a hybrid car? Hybrid car rentals are becoming more and more popular with people who want to know more about hybrid cars before they make an expensive decision like buying a car.
They are becoming increasingly available from bigger car hire specialists nowadays and a few car hire companies have sprung up recently that are dedicated solely to them.
An excellent way to "try before you buy" (or don't buy!).
Read more about Hybrid Car Rental
So, in summary, I’m still not fully decided on hybrids yet but they do have some advantages over standard combustion-engined cars as well as all-electric vehicles.
A hybrid car, especially a plug-in, could be a step in the right direction for my needs while I wait for one of the many big company electric cars coming out in the next 2 or 3 years.
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