Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are a type of vehicle that combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) system with an electric propulsion system. The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy or better performance than a conventional vehicle.
In this article, we will explain what are hybrid electric vehicles, how they work, what are their benefits and drawbacks, and what are some of the popular models available in India.
What are hybrid electric vehicles?
A hybrid electric vehicle is a vehicle that has two power sources: an ICE and an electric motor. The ICE can run on petrol, diesel, or other fuels, while the electric motor is powered by a battery pack. The battery pack can be charged by the ICE, by regenerative braking, or by plugging into an external power source.
There are different types of hybrid electric vehicles, depending on how the two power sources are used and how much they contribute to the vehicle’s performance. Some of the common types are:
- Series hybrid: In this type, the ICE is used only to generate electricity for the battery pack, which then powers the electric motor that drives the wheels. The ICE does not directly drive the wheels. This type of hybrid has a high fuel efficiency, but also a high cost and weight.
- Parallel hybrid: In this type, both the ICE and the electric motor can drive the wheels independently or together. The ICE can also charge the battery pack when needed. This type of hybrid has a lower cost and weight than a series hybrid, but also a lower fuel efficiency.
- Series-parallel hybrid: In this type, both the ICE and the electric motor can drive the wheels independently or together, but there is also a power-split device that allows the ICE to generate electricity for the battery pack or for the electric motor. This type of hybrid has a high fuel efficiency and performance, but also a high complexity and cost.
- Plug-in hybrid: In this type, the battery pack can be charged not only by the ICE or by regenerative braking but also by plugging into an external power source. This allows the vehicle to run in electric mode for longer distances and reduces fuel consumption. However, this type of hybrid also has a higher cost and weight than a conventional hybrid.
How do hybrid electric vehicles work?
The basic working principle of a hybrid electric vehicle is to use the ICE and the electric motor in an optimal way to achieve the desired performance and fuel economy. Depending on the driving conditions and the driver’s input, the vehicle’s control system decides when to use each power source and how much power to deliver.
For example, when starting from a stop or accelerating at low speeds, the vehicle may use only the electric motor to save fuel and reduce emissions. When cruising at high speeds or climbing hills, the vehicle may use both the ICE and the electric motor to provide more power and torque. When braking or decelerating, the vehicle may use regenerative braking to capture some of the kinetic energy and store it in the battery pack for later use.
The control system also monitors the state of charge of the battery pack and decides when to charge it using the ICE or an external power source. The control system may also use other strategies such as idle stop-start, cylinder deactivation, variable valve timing, etc., to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid electric vehicles?
The main benefits of hybrid electric vehicles are:
- Better fuel economy: Hybrid electric vehicles can achieve higher fuel efficiency than conventional vehicles by using less fuel for driving and by recovering some of the energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat or friction.
- Lower emissions: Hybrid electric vehicles can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants by using less fuel and by running in electric mode when possible.
- Better performance: Hybrid electric vehicles can provide better acceleration, torque, and handling than conventional vehicles by using both power sources together or by using only the electric motor when needed.
The main drawbacks of hybrid electric vehicles are:
- Higher cost: Hybrid electric vehicles have a higher initial cost than conventional vehicles due to their complex powertrain components and larger battery pack.
- Higher weight: Hybrid electric vehicles have a higher weight than conventional vehicles due to their additional powertrain components and larger battery pack. This may affect their handling and braking performance.
- Lower range: Hybrid electric vehicles have a lower range than conventional vehicles due to their limited battery capacity. This may limit their usability for long-distance trips or in areas with scarce charging infrastructure.
What are some of the popular hybrid electric vehicles in India?
According to CarTrade.com, some of the popular hybrid cars available in India in 2023 are:
Maruti Suzuki Invicto: This is a 7-8 seater hybrid SUV that has a 1.5-litre petrol engine and a 48V mild hybrid system. It has an automatic transmission and a fuel efficiency of 23.24 kmpl. It costs between ₹ 24.79 – 28.42 Lakh.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: This is a 5-seater hybrid SUV that has a 1.5-litre petrol engine and a smart hybrid system with an electric CVT. It has a fuel efficiency of 27.97 kmpl. It costs between ₹ 10.57 – 19.90 Lakh.
Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder: This is a 5-seater hybrid compact SUV that has a 1.5-litre petrol engine and a self-charging hybrid system with an electric CVT. It has a fuel efficiency of 27.97 kmpl. It costs between ₹ 10.86 – 19.99 Lakh.
Toyota Innova Hycross: This is a 7-8 seater hybrid MPV that has a 2.4-litre diesel engine and a self-charging hybrid system with an electric CVT. It has a fuel efficiency of 21.6 kmpl. It costs between ₹ 18.82 – 30.26 Lakh.
Lexus ES: This is a 5-seater hybrid luxury sedan that has a 2.5-litre petrol engine and a self-charging hybrid system with an electric CVT. It has a fuel efficiency of 22.37 kmpl. It costs between ₹ 56.53 – 67.95 Lakh.
Hybrid electric vehicles are available in different types and models in India, catering to different segments and preferences of customers.
If you are looking for a vehicle that can save you money on fuel, reduce your environmental impact, and provide you with a smooth and comfortable driving experience, you may consider buying a hybrid electric vehicle.
- Are hybrid electric vehicles more expensive to maintain? While the initial purchase cost of hybrid electric vehicles may be higher, their long-term maintenance costs are often lower due to reduced fuel consumption and less wear on certain components.
- Can hybrid electric vehicles be charged at home? Most hybrid electric vehicles do not require external charging since they charge their batteries through regenerative braking and the internal combustion engine. However, some plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) can be charged at home using a standard power outlet or a dedicated charging station.
- What is the range of a typical hybrid electric vehicle on electric power alone? The electric range of hybrid electric vehicles varies depending on the model and battery capacity. Generally, it can range from a few miles to around 50 miles.
- Do hybrid electric vehicles produce any emissions? While hybrid electric vehicles produce fewer emissions than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, they are not entirely emissions-free. Emissions may still be generated during the operation of the internal combustion engine.