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Hybrid Vehicles: Fact vs Fiction

Written by  Administrator
 
Author: VISHESH MEHRA is Deputy Manager at Altigreen Propulsion Labs in Bangalore.
 
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In the case of cars, the term ‘hybrid’ refers to vehicles using two different sources of power, or using hybrid fuel. The first case includes vehicles that use an internal combustion engine alongside an electric motor, while the second case includes flexi-fuel vehicles that either use a mix of two fuels (for example, petrol and ethanol), or bi-fuel vehicles that use two separate fuel systems (for example, petrol and LPG/CNG). 
 
Here, we look at some common myths surrounding hybrid vehicles that use a combination of an IC engine with an electric motor, and give you the lowdown on fiction vis-à-vis fact.
 
Myth: Hybrids are the same as electric vehicles and need to be charged every day
 
Many consider hybrid vehicles to be the same as battery operated electric vehicles, which is not correct. A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) with an electric propulsion system (hybrid vehicle drivetrain). The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy as compared to a conventional vehicle, or enhanced power and performance. An electric car, on the other hand, does not have any IC engine and relies only on its battery pack (which requires external charging) to provide power to its electric motors.
 
Hybrids often use a combination of advanced technologies like regenerative braking, which captures and utilises energy that would normally be lost while braking, and electric motor drive/assist, which provides extra power that assists the IC engine while accelerating, overtaking or climbing an incline. This allows hybrids to use smaller IC engines, since overall efficiency is increased due to the use of an electric motor. Automatic stop/start is also used to reduce fuel wastage when the vehicle is idling. Hybrid cars also do not necessarily require external charging every day, since their IC engine is capable of charging the batteries on the move, (1).
 
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Myth: Hybrids are untested technology and may be prone to ‘blow-ups’
 
Many believe that hybrid cars have not been tested sufficiently well and are not very reliable. This, again, is incorrect. Hybrids have been around since the late 1990s and have benefitted from nearly two decades of development work. In fact, there are currently close to 10 mn hybrid vehicles on the roads worldwide and are used daily by their owners, (2). Also, even though these vehicles are fitted with big batteries and powerful electric motors, hybrids are not prone to ‘blowing up,’ and can safely be used in all weather conditions, including usage in wet weather conditions. Modern hybrids also have advanced on-board diagnostics, which alert the driver immediately if any impending problems with the drivetrain are detected.
 
Myth: Hybrids are dull and boring, and are a losing proposition 
 
Style is a matter of personal preference, but there’s a long list of hybrid cars, which we think most people would find stylish. The list includes, to mention just a few, cars like the BMW 330e, Audi A3 E-Tron, BMW i8, Hyundai Sonata PHEV, Mercedes-Benz C350, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, Volvo XC90 T8, Porsche 918 Spyder and even the mighty McLaren P1. All of these cars are very good looking and provide massive amounts of performance – certainly not what most people would call ‘dull’ by any stretch of the imagination.
 
Also, while relatively more expensive to buy, hybrids pay for themselves over long-term use. According to the results of a study undertaken by scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, hybrid vehicles are up to 40 % more fuel efficient than their conventional counterparts. These numbers increase to 48 % for Indian road conditions, given our different driving patterns and traffic density, etc.
 
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Myth: Hybrid cars’ batteries need to be replaced time and again
 
Another thing about hybrids that worries potential customers is the prospect of expensive battery replacements at regular intervals. Most such worries are misplaced. Hybrid cars have sophisticated battery management systems and with years of R&D, manufacturers are now producing long-lasting batteries that can be used for up to 150,000 km of use. 
 
References
 
[1] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plug- in_hybrid_electric_vehicle_(PHEV)_diagram.jpg
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