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Hybrid vs Electric Cars: Which is more eco-friendly?

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20231108 - electric car and gasoline car concept. hand holding gas pump and power connector for refuel

Comparing hybrid vs. electric cars has been going on in recent years: Car enthusiasts debate which one is more environment-friendly, energy-efficient, and cost-effective in the long run.

Let us look further at the differences and similarities between hybrids vs. electric cars. This article will also tackle some types of the new emerging hybrid cars.

What are electric cars?

Electric cars have electric motors instead of an internal combustion engine (ICE). The ICE is the engine of conventional cars that run using gasoline or diesel as fuel. Electric cars or electric vehicles (EVs) run using electricity as their 'fuel'.

Most electric cars have an automatic transmission, so they do not need clutches and many gears.

What are hybrid cars?

A hybrid car or Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) has two engines: a combination of an ICE and an electric motor. The electric motor is similar to an EV, while the other is an engine akin to a gas-powered car. 

The mixed motors set the hybrids apart from EVs and petrol-based vehicles. Each engine of a hybrid car runs interchangeably after one another. However, some models have a "parallel" system: i.e., the electric motor, and internal combustion engine may engage simultaneously. 

The electric motor on hybrids uses energy stored in batteries ranging between 1 and 9kWh and a standard 12-V battery.

What are the differences between hybrid and electric cars?

The table below shows some of the main differences between a hybrid and an electric car:

Description

Electric cars

Hybrid cars

Engine

Electric motor

Electric motor and ICE

Source of fuel/Power

DC battery pack

DC Battery pack & petrol

Emissions

Lower than the ICE and gas-based cars

Lower than gas-based vehicles but higher than EVs

Fuel Efficiency

Depending on the range of battery

The combined efficiency of ICE and EV (but higher than EVs) 

Charging system

EV charger

Not needed

Cooling system

Cooling loop

Split radiator

Price range

Higher than hybrid and ICE cars

Almost the same as petrol-powered cars 

The combination of ICE and electric motors on hybrid cars is the main difference between the two vehicles. In hybrid cars: two engines power the wheels compared to a single electric motor in EVs. The two engines of a hybrid may power the wheels simultaneously (like Kia models) or alternately (like Toyota models).

Moreover, hybrid vehicles are more fuel-efficient than EVs and ICEs. However, the hybrid operation is more complex than electric vehicles. EVs are being touted as the simplest form of the modern automobile without pistons, cylinders, etc.

EVs are powered by a lithium-ion battery and have only two moving parts compared to hybrids’ almost twice the number of ICEs. Gas-powered (ICE) cars have more than one hundred components.

Hybrid car batteries have a smaller capacity compared to EVs. The hybrid batteries are charged through regenerative braking, while electric cars have charging stations or at home. Hybrids and EVs have the same braking system (such as disk brakes) as conventional cars.

Types of hybrid cars

     Simply put, a hybrid car has at least one electric motor combined with a gas engine to move the vehicle. Nowadays, there are three types of hybrid cars discussed below:

  • Series hybrid

    The Series hybrid uses both ICE and electric motor. However, the ICE does not provide the thrust; instead, it recharges the battery pack, powering the electric motor that turns the wheels. Some of the best examples of this type are the Kia Optima & BMW i3.

  • Parallel hybrid

     The design combines the electric motor and ICE in running the vehicle. Each drive train can run together or one as the primary power source. In this case, one may kick in when additional power is needed: as when overtaking or a hill climb. Some of the hybrids with this design are the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

  • Plug-in hybrid

    The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is the level-up version of the two types. It has a larger battery pack that uses 110V of electricity to charge the electric motor. The PHEV runs initially via an electric motor and switches automatically to ICE drive when the battery is nearing depletion. Similar models include Volvo XC40 and BMW 330e.

Comparing hybrid vs. electric cars, which is better?

       If you are more concerned about the environment, the electric vehicle counts. Although hybrids are less expensive than EVs, the lifetime cost of maintaining them is higher. You can factor out the price, refueling cost, maintenance, range, and driving experience: you will decide that an EV is a better investment.

Conclusion

Electric vehicles continue to provide more satisfaction for the drivers of today. Although a hybrid car is also a better alternative for gas-powered vehicles: the choice remains with you.

In comparing hybrid vs. electric cars through this article: you are provided with meaningful insights on the necessity of each. But understanding both types of vehicles, electric automobiles are more eco-friendly.
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