Pump Less, Charge More: The Basics of Hybrid Cars

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You’ve probably noticed that more and more hybrid cars are popping up on roadways across the United States.

Many car manufacturers that market to U.S. drivers have heeded the rising popularity of hybrid vehicles and designed models to meet the growing demand. This type of automobile has been around for many years, but only widely available as a reasonable means of transportation for about a decade. Since Toyota released the Prius in 2000, hybrid cars have boomed in popularity for cost-conscious commuters, environmentally-minded young drivers, and hip soccer moms. Even though hybrid cars are now quite common, many drivers are still in the dark about the technology behind these vehicles and how they compare to traditional gasoline powered cars.

Here are the basics of how hybrid cars functions:

  1. 1

    Hybrid cars are a blend of gasoline-powered vehicles, which have a fuel tank and internal combustion engine, and electric cars, which operate by a set of batteries and electric motor.

  2. 2

    Hybrid cars combine the positive characteristics of gasoline and electric cars. The gasoline component of a hybrid allows the car to be refueled quickly and drive for a long distance before needing to be refueled. The electric component reduces emissions and the driver’s fuel budget.

  3. 3

    There are two types of hybrid car designs. A parallel hybrid vehicle has two separate power systems that can work together or independently. A series hybrid uses a gasoline engine to turn a generator. The generator either charges the electric batteries or powers the electric motor. In both types of hybrid cars, either gasoline or electric power turns the vehicle’s transmission which in turn causes the vehicle to move.

  4. 4

    Many hybrid cars have smaller gasoline engines than comparable all-gasoline cars. Because the electric motor can create additional power when accelerating or driving up an incline, hybrid vehicles can produce the same type of handling as a more powerful vehicle with an engine of fewer cylinders and less bulk.

  5. 5

    Many hybrid cars employ something called regenerative energy to charge the battery as the vehicle decelerates. As the driver applies the breaks, the electric generator kicks in and begins to charge the batteries as it simultaneously works to slow the car.

  6. 6

    Since hybrid car owners are typically concerned about fuel efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint, the exteriors of many hybrid cars are designed to optimize their gas mileage. Aerodynamic body designs, special tires, and super lightweight materials all contribute to the effectiveness of the concept of the hybrid car.

If you are looking for your first car or a replacement vehicle and are concerned about fuel efficiency and the environment, why not consider a hybrid? Hybrid owners have a community all their own and usually grow very fond of their unique vehicles. If you decide that a hybrid car best suits your driving needs, here is a list of some of the most popular and affordable hybrid models on the market in the United States:

Most Affordable Hybrid Cars in the USA

  1. 1

    As mentioned before, the Toyota Prius is widely considered the original mass-market hybrid. This car’s unusual body-style has remained almost exactly the same in the last decade and is easy to recognize on the road. The Prius is the first thing that comes to mind when the topic of hybrid cars enters conversation. The Prius is only available in hybrid form.

  2. 2

    Honda’s Insight is another hybrid that has achieved success and longevity in the highly competitive auto market. The Insight is similar in size, appearance, and performance than the Prius while being slightly less expensive. Like the Prius, the Insight is not available in a gasoline-powered version.

  3. 3

    Two of the most popular mid-sized cars in America, the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry, have been available in hybrid form for several years. These are dependable and traditional fuel efficient models that have been super-charged with hybrid technology to give drivers extra efficiency and the best handling possible.

  4. 4

    While Ford and Chevrolet joined the hybrid bandwagon later than other auto manufacturers, they now offer several hybrid models that are quickly gaining popularity. Ford’s hybrids include the Fusion, Escape, and C-MAX. Chevrolet offers the Malibu-Eco and Volt as well as the Silverado, a full-sized pick-up, and the Tahoe, a large SUV.

  5. 5

    Many luxury auto-makers have released hybrid vehicles. A sampling of the most popular luxury hybrids is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Lexus LS, and the BMW 5-Series.

Driving a hybrid car is the epitome of twenty-first century travel.

Now that you understand how hybrids work and have been introduced to several popular models, you’re ready to test-drive your first hybrid car and see exactly what all the hype is about.

Andrei Zakhareuski, Driving-Tests.org Founder
Andrei is a driver with 11+ years of experience and the founder of Driving-Tests.org.

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