What is a hybrid? The advantage and disadvantage of a hybrid

What is a hybrid? Hybrid vehicles have existed for more than a century, but modern versions all have the Toyota Prius to thank for popularizing the technology in the 2000s. These days, this fuel-saving feature is offered in a wide variety of vehicles, including the Ford F-150 pickup, the Honda CR-V compact crossover, and the Toyota Highlander mid-size SUV.

Shoppers looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle that won’t break their budget may want to consider a hybrid as a less-expensive alternative to plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

What Is a Hybrid?

Quite simply, a hybrid combines at least one electric motor with a gasoline engine to move the car, and its system recaptures energy via regenerative braking. Sometimes the electric motor does all the work, sometimes it’s the gas engine, and sometimes they work together. The result is less gasoline burned and, therefore, better fuel economy. Adding electric power can even boost performance in certain instances.

What is a hybrid

With all of them, electricity comes from a high-voltage battery pack (separate from the car’s conventional 12-volt battery) that’s replenished by capturing energy from deceleration that’s typically lost to heat generated by the brakes in conventional cars. (This happens through the regenerative braking system.)

Hybrids also use the gas engine to charge and maintain the battery. Car companies use different hybrid designs to accomplish different missions, ranging from maximum fuel savings to keeping the vehicle’s cost as low as possible.

Type of Hybrid Vehicles

Parallel Hybrid

In this most common design, the electric motor(s) and gasoline engine are connected in a common transmission that blends the two power sources. That transmission can be an automatic, a manual, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). One very popular hybrid transmission is a power-split CVT, which is used by the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt.

Transmission type and the size of the gasoline engine are the main factors that determine how a parallel hybrid will accelerate, sound, and feel. Brands that use the parallel design include Toyota, Lexus, Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Honda, Lincoln, Nissan, and Infiniti.

Series Hybrid

In this design, the electric motor(s) provides all the thrust, and there is never a physical mechanical connection between the engine and the wheels. The gasoline engine is just there to recharge the battery. This results in a driving experience that’s more indicative of an electric car, with smoother, powerful acceleration. There’s typically less vibration when the gasoline engine engages.

However, that engagement doesn’t always happen in concert with what your right foot is doing (remember, the battery is making the demands), so the engine might be revving up while the car is cruising at a steady speed. Some find this behavior disconcerting. The BMW i3 with the range extender is an example of a series hybrid.

Plug-In Hybrid

A plug-in hybrid enhances the conventional hybrid concept with a much larger battery pack that, like an electric car’s, must be fully recharged using an external electricity source—from your home, office, or public charging station.

This greater amount of energy storage is like a larger gas tank: It allows for extended all-electric driving (between 15 and 55 miles depending on the model) and can significantly reduce fuel consumption.

In fact, if you have a short commute and recharge nightly, you’ll be running on electricity most of the time. Should you deplete the all-electric range, the car basically reverts to being a conventional parallel hybrid. The Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid (shown above) is an example of the plug-in breed.

Plug-in hybrids can be either a series or a parallel hybrid. No one said this wasn’t complicated.

Variations on the Hybrid Theme

Twenty years of advancement is making it even more complicated to answer “what is a hybrid?” Honda’s new hybrid design, for instance, doesn’t fall neatly into the series or parallel bucket. In this design, the engine turns a generator most of the time, like a series hybrid, but at other times, the engine can also directly drive the wheels, like a parallel hybrid.

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Then there are the so-called through-the-road hybrids, like the plug-in hybrids from Volvo that use a fairly conventional front-wheel-drive engine and transmission paired with an electrically powered rear axle. The Acura NSX, BMW i8, and Porsche 918 Spyder supercars are similar, except their electric-only axles are at the front.

Mild Hybrids

All of the above are considered “full hybrids,” which means that the electric motor is capable of moving the car by itself, even if it’s for a short distance. In a “mild” hybrid, it cannot.

Just as in a full hybrid, a mild hybrid’s electric motor is there to assist the gasoline engine for the purposes of improving fuel economy, increasing performance, or both. It also serves as the starter for the automatic start-stop system, which shuts down the engine when the car comes to rest in order to save fuel.

A Brief History of Hybrids

Hybrids have been on sale in the U.S. since the 2000 model year, when the tiny, teardrop-shaped Honda Insight first hit North American dealerships. Its debut was closely followed by the Toyota Prius, which had been on sale in Japan since 1997. Soon, “hybrid” was shorthand for small, fuel-efficient hybrid sedans.

What is a hybrid

Since then, hybrid technology has become commonplace, with many common models offering a hybrid powertrain. Most of the time, vehicles are “hybridized” to improve their fuel economy, but some hybrids—such as the Ford F-150 Hybrid pickup—use their hybrid powertrains to provide additional electric power for towing or quicker acceleration.

To recap, today’s hybrids can cost the same as or less than a comparable gas-powered vehicle—or at least save you money over time. Most are reliable and have high owner satisfaction ratings, and many drive better than their nonhybrid counterparts. They don’t need to be plugged in, and they can be filled up at any gas station.

If you’re considering buying a hybrid, check out our full ratings of hundreds of new and used vehicles to find the right one for your needs.

How Do Hybrids Work?

How a hybrid works depends on the hybrid type we’re talking about. We’ll start with the conventional full hybrid.

A full hybrid receives power from a gas engine and an electric motor but doesn’t plug into the wall. The popular Toyota Prius is an excellent example of a full hybrid. It can run solely on the gas engine, the electric motor alone, or a combination. It has a built-in generator capable of charging its battery pack via regenerative braking or the gas engine.

The car can run on just the electric motor at low speeds, cruising, idling, or reversing. Full hybrids switch between power sources in mixed driving, resulting in improved fuel economy compared to a regular ICE-powered car.

A plug-in hybrid is a bit different. Plug-in hybrid cars have larger lithium-ion battery packs onboard, which you charge up by plugging into the wall. Plug-in hybrid models like the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid have varying all-electric ranges. For example, the Pacifica can go up to 32 miles on electricity alone before the gas engine kicks in. When the battery is drained, it works like a conventional full hybrid.

A mild hybrid like the Ram 1500 with the eTorque system uses a small electric motor to take care of accessories and functions like starting the engine. The electric motor doesn’t do much, if anything at all, to help propel the vehicle in a mild hybrid. But it takes some of the strain off of the gas engine. The result is slightly improved fuel economy but less efficient than a full hybrid.

Hybrid Technology

Hybrids combine a gasoline engine, an electric motor, and a battery pack. The electric motor drives the car at low speeds (typically up to 30 mph, depending on how much charge the battery has) or under low power demands, while the gas engine kicks in at higher speeds where it’s more efficient and makes most of its power, or when you need to accelerate quickly or climb hills.

Hybrids can drive on electric power alone for short distances, but often the engine and motor(s) operate together. There’s no need to plug the car in, because the gas engine recharges the car’s battery.

What is a hybrid

Hybrids are also equipped with regenerative brakes that capture momentum to create electricity as the car slows down or coasts. That electricity is also used to recharge the battery. By comparison, a regular car’s brakes just create friction that turns into unusable heat.

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By supplementing the engine with an electric motor, the gas engine doesn’t need to be as big in order to achieve an overall combined horsepower rating that’s comparable to a gas-only car, which further increases efficiency.

“Hybrids are so fuel-efficient because they utilize energy that would otherwise be wasted,” says Jake Fisher, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center. In fact, hybrids’ emissions are up to a third lower than comparable nonhybrids, according to CR’s calculations.

Although hybrids are more efficient overall than their gas-only counterparts, you can expect to see higher fuel economy in city driving (where the electric motor has more of an impact) than on long highway stretches at higher speeds. This is the opposite of what we’re accustomed to with conventional vehicles.

Hybrids Have Few Drawbacks

In older hybrids, drivers might have felt a slight shudder when the gas engine kicked in, and the regenerative braking system may have made it hard to ease into a stop. Most of those issues are gone now, and our exclusive vehicle testing shows that most of today’s hybrids tend to drive more smoothly and have more power than their nonhybrid counterparts.

A small consequence is that hybrids often use an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT), a form of CVT, which contributes to improved fuel economy but can also exhibit a monotone “droning” sound from the gas engine. In addition, drivers might notice a “flaring” sensation—where the engine suddenly seems to rev loudly and freely during highway merging or climbing a hill.

Despite the addition of all that extra technology, many hybrids cost about the same as their nonhybrid versions. If the hybrid does cost more, our analysis found that in many cases the monthly fuel savings will outweigh any increase in monthly payment, saving you money from day one.

Hybrid batteries in many long-running models have proved to be reliable over decades and hundreds of thousands of miles. Consequently, hybrids tend to do well in our reliability ratings, too.

Hybrids vs. EVs

Fully electric vehicles do not have a gasoline engine, and they need to be plugged in to recharge the battery. They can often go more than 200 miles on a charge and can be recharged at home or at public chargers.

What is a hybrid

However, recharging an EV takes much longer than gassing up a car—anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours, depending on how many miles you need and how fast the charger you’re using is—and finding a charging station on the road isn’t as easy as finding a gas station. That makes hybrids more convenient for people who don’t live near EV charging stations, who can’t charge at home, or who often take long road trips.

CR’s analysis shows that pure electric vehicles are more efficient than hybrids, and often cost less to maintain and repair. They’re also often eligible for tax credits that hybrids can’t get. However, in some cases, a hybrid can cost less to own and operate than a similar electric vehicle. That’s especially true for small SUVs and compact cars, and even more so if you live somewhere with high electricity costs. A key reason: They cost less to purchase.

What About Plug-In Hybrids?

Unlike pure EVs or conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) operate like a hybrid but can be plugged into a wall outlet or EV charger, too. Fully charged, they can run on mostly electric power for about 20 to 40 miles (depending on the vehicle) until they switch back to regular hybrid operation.

Unlike regular hybrids, a PHEV may be eligible for federal tax credits. Considering that the average American drives less than 40 miles per day, that means that some drivers will be able to do most of their daily travel on electric power, as long as they plug in first, while reserving the gas engine for longer trips.

However, because of the added weight of their larger batteries, motors, and onboard charging equipment, PHEVs tend to cost more and get worse mileage than a conventional hybrid once that electric charge has run dry.

If you charge daily and have a short commute, you’d consume hardly any fuel. In all other situations your fuel consumption could be higher than the regular hybrid counterpart. A pure EV might be a better choice if you can charge at home and rarely drive long distances.

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Benefits of a Hybrid Vehicle

The most significant benefit of a hybrid vehicle is fuel economy. For example, the Toyota Corolla Hybrid has a combined fuel economy rating of 52 mpg, making it 57% more efficient than the non-hybrid Corolla sedan with the base engine. According to EPA estimates, that results in fuel savings of $550 per year. An efficient plug-in hybrid has even lower annual fuel costs.

What is a hybrid

Another benefit of hybrid cars is a reduced carbon footprint. Simply put, a car that burns less gas is better for the environment. This is especially true if you have a plug-in hybrid and live in an area that gets a lot of energy from renewable resources like solar and wind.

This might come as a surprise, but another benefit of hybrids is improved performance. These performance enhancements specifically apply to plug-in hybrids with plentiful electric torque. Plug-in hybrid models ranging from the Toyota RAV4 Prime to the Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring and many others have more power and more torque than their non-hybrid counterparts on top of being more efficient.

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Hybrid Car

The advantages of a hybrid car are:

  • Environmental friendliness: Hybrid cars house a gasoline engine and an electric motor, resulting in less dependence on fossil fuels, and producing low CO2 emissions.
  • Financial benefits: Many tax credits and incentives are available to make hybrid cars more affordable.
  • Regenerative braking system: The energy from the motion of applying the brake is captured and used to recharge the battery. Such a system allows you to eliminate the amount of time for regularly recharging the battery.
  • Higher resale value: With the growing popularity, hybrids’ resale value is higher than the average.

The disadvantages of a hybrid car are:

  • Higher costs: A hybrid car is comparatively expensive than a regular gasoline car, and its technology requires higher costs for maintenance.
  • Less power: The power of a combination of a gasoline engine and an electric motor in hybrid cars is less than that of a gas-powered engine in many cases.
  • Poorer handling: Hybrid vehicles have more machinery than regular cars do. Manufacturers’ attempts to avoid extra weight in vehicles result in smaller motor and battery in addition to reduced support in the suspension and body.
  • High voltage batteries: In case of an accident, the presence of the high voltage increases the risk of the passengers being electrocuted and makes the rescuers’ task more difficult.

Do You Need to Charge a Hybrid?

You don’t need to worry about charging a full hybrid or a mild hybrid, but a plug-in hybrid needs to be plugged into a power source if you want to take full advantage of its hybrid engineering. You can plug it into a regular wall outlet, a dedicated charging station in your garage, or a public charging station.

Hybrid vehicles use some clever tricks to charge their batteries while driving. For example, regenerative braking captures the energy created using the brakes and routes that energy back into the battery. It’s a small thing that adds up over time.

Is A Hybrid Car Worth The Cost?

Several automakers now offer hybrid options for around $1,000 to $2,500 more than the non-hybrid option and can improve fuel economy by about 10 to 30%.

For example, an all-wheel-drive Toyota RAV4 LE averages 30 mpg in the EPA’s combined city/highway cycle, while the comparable RAV4 Hybrid costs $1,150 more and is rated at 40 mpg. Over 15,000 miles and with gas at $4 per gallon, the hybrid saves $500. After roughly 35,000 miles of driving, the hybrid will cover the initial price premium with fuel savings.

Hybrids work best in suburban and city traffic where the vehicle slows down, stops, and accelerates regularly. While gas vehicles generally are more efficient driving long distances at high speeds, a hybrid’s fuel economy will decline on long highway trips. A hybrid should, however, still deliver better mpg than a conventional gas vehicle, all other conditions being equal.

Is a Hybrid Right for You?

To recap, today’s hybrids can cost the same as or less than a comparable gas-powered vehicle—or at least save you money over time. Most are reliable and have high owner satisfaction ratings, and many drive better than their nonhybrid counterparts. They don’t need to be plugged in, and they can be filled up at any gas station.


Are hybrids expensive?

Hybrid vehicles range from affordable compact cars to expensive luxury cars. Generally speaking, a hybrid doesn’t cost much more than a similar non-hybrid car.

Do hybrid cars use gas?

Yes, a hybrid car uses a gas engine assisted by an electric motor.

Do you charge hybrid cars?

The kind of hybrid that plugs into the wall is called a plug-in hybrid. A conventional hybrid like the Toyota Prius does not need to be plugged in.

Above is information about What is a hybrid? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of Type of hybrid vehicles. Thank you for reading our post.

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