What is a hybrid car? Is it the same as an electric car? And why is it becoming so popular? The rise of hybrid cars in the mainstream auto market might have you asking these types of questions. Before you go car shopping, it's a good idea to get more familiar with these increasingly popular alternatives to traditional all-fossil fuel cars.
The Definition Of A Hybrid
A hybrid car uses more than one type of energy to move. The mass-market hybrids contain a battery-powered motor, as well as a traditional car engine. Many people mistakenly think that hybrids run exclusively on electricity, but, in reality, the electric motor and gas-powered motor work together under the hood to use energy efficiently and propel the vehicle.
The first commercially workable hybrid car engine was produced by Ferdinand Porsche of the Lohner-Porsche company, in the early 1900s. While many people mistakenly believe that hybrids are a recent invention, inventors and engineers were tinkering with combined electric-combustion engines for well over a century. However, the commercial demand for hybrid cars did not influence the market until the late 1990s.
How It Works
An electric motor starts the vehicle by using energy stored in the vehicle's battery, and the natural process of braking the car as you drive keeps the battery charged. Working together, the electric motor or motors and the engine send their output to the transmission, while a computer monitors the driving conditions to determine which propulsion method is best at that time. The power and speed generated by a hybrid engine depends on many factors: the automotive aerodynamics, the size of the battery and the number of electric motors, which varies between one and three. Whether the vehicle is used primarily on the highway or in town will also have an impact on how the engine runs.
The Hybrid Car Market
Today, most major automobile manufacturers make and sell hybrid cars across the world. They are also spending millions in research and development to improve the performance of hybrids and expand the technology to encompass even better results. The top-selling hybrids in the US are the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight, the Cadillac Escalade, the Nissan Altima and the Ford Escape. For consumers, the United States was the top market for hybrid vehicles until the summer of 2009, when Japan surpassed it in hybrid sales.