The Hybrid Question: The Marriage of Electricity and Gas

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Hybrid means a combination of two distinct parts that result in a third. The key element of this third is that the characteristics of the two initial parts remain constant. In the case of a Hybrid, the two distinct things are Gas and Electric power systems that combine to form a unique gas/electric engine.

The hybrid engine uses the power of electrical current from the electric motor, and the explosive chemical reaction from the gas engine.

What is So Good About a Gasoline-Electric Engine?

The great thing about the hybrid engine is its ability to switch power sources without any input from the driver. In other words, the driver doesn’t even notice when the car is using electricity or gas to drive – unless it’s visible on a dashboard display.

In fact, designers aimed to build hybrid cars that switched imperceptibly to maximize the comfort of the driver and passengers, so as to come as close as possible to driving a non-hybrid car. The goal was to introduce the technology in a way that was not intrusive to the driving experience that engineers had spent billions on creating with non-hybrid vehicles

Environmental Advertising

But there is something that is perceivable everywhere a hybrid drives – the badge that says “hybrid”. Given the public’s fascination with so-called “green” technologies”, a hybrid badge stands out from the crowd, and automatically labels a consumer and manufacturer as environmentally conscious.

Why do Hybrids Save on Gas?

Hybrids use battery technology to store electrical energy. Their electrical energy is generated by either plugging the vehicle into an electrical socket, using the braking of the vehicle to generate a charge, (similar to getting a light to run of a moving bicycle tire), or a combination of both.

This electrical energy can be sent directly to the motor to drive the wheels, allowing an almost silent movement of the vehicle. The battery and motors are powerful enough to move passengers with the same speed and acceleration as a gas engine – all without using a drop of gas.

Limits of Electric Engines

There are limits to electrically driven motors, the primary one being range. Even with current technology, the range of the battery driven motor on a hybrid is far less than a simple gas engine. Gas engines are part of the hybrid equation to take over when the batteries have lost their charge.

A Clear Green Choice?

Even with a fully functioning gas engine, the addition of the electric drive system to create a hybrid has a significant impact on the total amount of gas burned. Hybrids allow a reduction in emissions at the tailpipe per distance traveled.

Hybrids do save on gas, but the extra price charged to have a combined gas/electric drive system can cut into those savings. One thing is for sure, a hybrid engine will produce fewer emissions on average per kilometers driven than a gas-only engine, making it a good choice for the “green’ conscious consumer.

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