Full hybrids like the Toyota Prius aren’t the only type of hybrid vehicle. There are levels of hybridization. Today, you’ll find many gas-powered cars adding some level of electrification to help boost fuel economy. Let’s understand a little bit more about the hybrid technologies we see today.
Parallel and Series Hybrids
Most hybrids use a parallel design where the electric motor or the gasoline engine alone can drive the wheels, or both can work together. In a series setup, only the electric motor drives the wheels while the gas engine is used to charge the battery.
These hybrids have large battery packs that need to be plugged in and charged. They usually have a range of 15 to 55 miles and tend to use that up first before switching to normal hybrid operation. These can be parallel or series hybrids. And some parallel hybrids can also act as series hybrids if the conditions would make them more efficient.
Parallel and series hybrids of both plug-in and non-plug-in varieties are best known to most people. These are full hybrids. Several manufacturers like Ford, Hyundai, GM, and Toyota make examples of these.
Micro and Mid Hybrids
You may have heard of cars employing a start-stop system. Cars with this are micro-hybrids. Some have larger battery packs that provide extra torque and power driver-assist and active safety systems. These cars have 48-volt batteries that also provide near-full hybrid fuel efficiency at a fraction of the cost.
Engines and Economy
The engines in most hybrids are small, efficient four-cylinder gas power plants. There are SUVs, sports cars, or luxury car hybrids where the battery boosts the V6 or V8 engines. When driven, hybrids are quieter, smoother, and feel less strained than their gas-powered counterparts. They usually use continuously variable transmissions, but there are some with conventional automatics or dual-clutch automated manual transmissions.
Front-, rear-, and all-wheel drive – hybrids can have all of them. Smaller and midsize cars are often front-wheel drive, while luxury hybrids have rear-wheel drive. There are some hybrid SUVs with all-wheel drive too.
Hybrids today mainly use lithium-ion batteries that are small, light, and efficient. They also come with extended warranties because they’re durable.