Are you confused with different types of hybrid and electric vehicles available on the market today? This article explains in simple words the most important concepts that you need to understand.
In the beginning, a hybrid car as popularised by Toyota Prius is simply a conventional vehicle with an additional electric motor added on. The electric motor is powered by a relatively small battery pack that is automatically charged through a variety of means during the operation of the car.
For the purpose of later discussion, just keep in mind that that the normal Prius is powered by a 1.3 kwh battery pack weighing about 53 kg.
The good thing about this setup is as far as the user is concerned, it is just a normal car but with a much better fuel consumption. The latest generation of Toyota Prius routinely delivers 50 mpg (US).
Using a similar concept, the Porsche 918 Hybrid sports car claimed to achieve north of 60 mpg while still capable of 0-60 mph accelaration in 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 199 mph. The only downside: it costs $850,000.
Plug In Hybrid
A plug in hybrid takes the concept further in that instead of relying solely of the operations of the car, you can actually recharge the battery using electric power outlets. Due to the fact that in most countries, the electrical power is much cheaper than its gasoline equivalent, you will get even more savings.
Under the all electric operation, a Plug In Prius has a range of 15km and can easily achieve 110 mpge (the equivalent in the cost of electricity used to charge the battery). Once the battery ran out of juice, the car will revert to the normal gasoline mode like a conventional Prius.
The operation of the car is still transparent to the user with the added option of saving even more on gasoline by recharging the battery from power outlets.
The downside of the approach is that it requires a bigger and heavier battery. The Plug In Prius user a 4.4 kwh battery pack that weighs about 80kg.
Extended Range Electric Vehicle
Extended Range Electric Vehicle, as popularised by Chevrolet Volt can be considered as another variation of the plug in hybrid.
Under this arrangement, instead of having two separate drivetrains, the gasoline engine actually functions a generator to recharge the battery. It is basically, an electric vehicle with a backup gasoline generator to recharge the battery, thus extending its range.
Chevrolet Volt has an all electric range of up to 50 miles and rated at 94 mpge
This approach requires an even bigger battery. The Chevrolet Volt uses a 16 kwh battery pack weighing about 197 kg.
The All Electric Vehicle (EV)
With the EV, the only way to extend its range is by recharging at recharge stations. Users who go for EV tend to limit their daily use to within a single recharge range. The car is then recharged overnight, so it can have the full range to be used the next day.
While all electric vehicle uses even bigger batteries, it can finally ditch the internal combustion engine and drivetrain altogether, opening up possibilities for a totally different driving and ownership experience.
The best known of the latest generation EV is probably the Nissan Leaf. Nissan Leaf uses a 24 kwh battery pack weighing about 300 kg. On full charge, it can run for up to 117 miles and rated at 99 mpge.
At the top end of the scale, the Tesla Roadster EV, with its 450 kg, 53 kwh battery pack claims a range of 225 miles at 120 mpge. It can also do 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and have a top speed of 125 mph.