Hybrid Cars

With the cost of gasoline hovering around the $4.00 per gallon mark at one point, it cost $50 or more to fill up at a gasoline station.  Just as fuel economy became more worrisome for many consumers, the automotive industry introduced a new technology with a promise to lower those monthly gasoline bills:  hybrid cars.

What is a Hybrid Vehicle?

On the one hand the highways of America are full of cars that run on gasoline.  On the other hand there are fuel cell cars and other electric vehicles that are slowly moving from the research labs to the automobile manufacturer's production lines.  In between there is a hybrid car; a vehicle that offers consumers a compromise between these two ends of the spectrum.

One of the important features of a hybrid vehicle is that it does not require any shift in infrastructure or normal operating procedure.  That is, hybrids meet the basic requirements that everyone's come to expect when buying a new car:

  • The car can be driven 300 miles or more before refueling is required.
  • The car can be refueled quickly and conveniently.  That is, a widespread refueling infrastructure exists.
  • The car performs like other cars on the road today in terms of safety, handling, and acceleration.

Currently, fuel cell cars do not meet any of these three criteria completely; however, hybrid cars do.

Hybrid Vehicle Design

The theory behind a hybrid car is simple:  overcome the limitations of today's electric cars by leveraging the power of gasoline driven engines.  In fact, hybrid technology has been around for years, and individuals that are familiar with the workings of today's diesel powered locomotives understand this point.  Hybrids use a traditional fuel, such as gasoline, to produce electricity that drives an electric motor.

Putting together a hybrid car is a somewhat complex engineering feat, which utilizes the following closely-integrated vehicle components:

Gasoline Engines

The power plant of a hybrid remains the internal combustion gasoline engine.  To achieve some of the engineering goals of these vehicles, the engines utilize advanced fuel efficient technologies to both lower emissions and increase the car's fuel economy.

Fuel Tank

The batteries found in today's electric vehicles are just not able to match the efficiency of gasoline in terms of energy stored per pound.  That is, it's possible to store a lot more energy in gasoline compared to batteries on a pound for pound basis.  That's just one of the reasons hybrid cars still depend on gasoline and traditional fuel tanks.

Electric Motor / Generator

The electric motor on a hybrid car is sophisticated, and can work in one of two ways, parallel or series, which will be described in detail later on.  Essentially, the electric motor(s) drive the wheels of the car, and the motor can act as a generator that captures energy when slowing down.

Batteries

Right now, batteries in a hybrid car are used to store supplemental energy that can drive the electric motor.  For example, the supplemental energy stored in batteries could be used to move the vehicle up a steep hill or incline.  Energy can be stored to the batteries as well as drawn from them as the car moves along the roadway.

Electric Motor Vehicle Technologies

As mentioned, hybrid electric vehicles, or HEVs, depend on both electric motors and internal combustion engines.  Hybrid cars use energy stored in a battery to move an electric motor, which then moves a car in one of two ways:

  • Parallel Hybrid Motor Design:  with the parallel design, the internal combustion engine and the electric motor are connected directly to the vehicle's wheels.  The internal combustion engine is used for highway driving while the electric motors add power during periods of high demand such as acceleration.
  • Series Hybrid Motor Design:  with the series design, the engine is connected to a generator that produces electricity, which is used to drive the electric motor powering the wheels of the car.  With all wheel drive (AWD) vehicles, such as the Toyota Highlander SUV, two electric motors power the vehicle.

Of course car manufacturers can also use combinations of the above two designs to achieve even greater savings.

New Hybrid Cars, Trucks and SUVs

New hybrids on the road today fall into the three major categories of non-commercial vehicles:  cars, trucks, and SUVs.  Listed below are hybrids (2015 and 2016 models) that can be found on the road today, grouped by these categories:

Small Cars

  • 2015 Honda Civic Hybrid 1.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 45 MPG, MSRP $24,735-$27,435
  • 2015 Honda CR-Z 1.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S7), Regular Gasoline, 37 MPG, MSRP $20,145-$24,140
  • 2015 Toyota Prius 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 50 MPG, MSRP $24,200-$30,005
  • 2015 Toyota Prius c 1.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 50 MPG, MSRP $19,540-$24,475
  • 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid 1.4 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM-S7), Turbo, Premium Gasoline, 45 MPG, MSRP $31,670
  • 2016 Honda CR-Z 1.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S7), Regular Gasoline, 37 MPG, MSRP $20,295-$25,090
  • 2016 Toyota Prius 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 52 MPG, MSRP $24,200-$30,000
  • 2016 Toyota Prius c 1.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 50 MPG, MSRP $19,560-$24,495
  • 2016 Toyota Prius Eco 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 56 MPG, MSRP $24,700
  • 2016 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid 1.4 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM-S7), Turbo, Premium Gasoline, 44 MPG, MSRP $31,670

Family Sedans

  • 2015 Buick LaCrosse eAssist 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (S6), Regular Gasoline, 29 MPG, MSRP $33,635-$35,725
  • 2015 Buick Regal eAssist 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (S6), Regular Gasoline, 29 MPG, MSRP $29,015-$32,045
  • 2015 Ford C-MAX Hybrid FWD 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 40 MPG, MSRP $24,170-$27,170
  • 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid FWD 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 42 MPG, MSRP $26,575-$32,330
  • 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 47 MPG, MSRP $29,305-$35,055
  • 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM6), Regular Gasoline, 38 MPG, MSRP $26,000
  • 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM6), Regular Gasoline, 37 MPG, MSRP $29,500
  • 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM6), Regular Gasoline, 38 MPG, MSRP $25,990
  • 2015 Kia Optima Hybrid EX 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM6), Regular Gasoline, 37 MPG, MSRP $32,150
  • 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 41 MPG, MSRP $26,790
  • 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE/SE 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 40 MPG, MSRP $27,995-$29,980
  • 2015 Toyota Prius 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 50 MPG, MSRP $24,200-$30,005
  • 2016 Buick LaCrosse eAssist 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (S6), Regular Gasoline, 29 MPG, MSRP $33,635-$35,725
  • 2016 Buick Regal eAssist 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (S6), Regular Gasoline, 29 MPG, MSRP $39,810
  • 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 46 MPG, MSRP $27,770
  • 2016 Ford C-MAX Hybrid FWD 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 40 MPG, MSRP $24,170-$27,170
  • 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid FWD 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 42 MPG, MSRP $25,675-$31,430
  • 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM6), Regular Gasoline, 41 MPG, MSRP $26,000-$30,100
  • 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid SE 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM6), Regular Gasoline, 42 MPG, MSRP $26,000-$30,100
  • 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM6), Regular Gasoline, 38 MPG, MSRP $25,995
  • 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid EX 2.4 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AM6), Regular Gasoline, 37 MPG, MSRP $32,195
  • 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 41 MPG, MSRP $26,790
  • 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE/SE 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 40 MPG, MSRP $27,995-$30,140
  • 2016 Toyota Prius 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 52 MPG, MSRP $24,200-$30,000
  • 2016 Toyota Prius Eco 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 56 MPG, MSRP $24,700

Luxury Sedans

  • 2015 BMW ActiveHybrid 3 3.0 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S8), Turbo, Premium Gasoline, 28 MPG, MSRP $50,150
  • 2015 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 3.0 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S8), Turbo, Premium Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $61,900
  • 2015 BMW ActiveHybrid 7L 3.0 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S8), Turbo, Premium Gasoline, 25 MPG, MSRP $84,300
  • 2015 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S7), Premium Gasoline, 31 MPG, MSRP $44,400
  • 2015 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S7), Premium Gasoline, 30 MPG, MSRP $46,200
  • 2015 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S7), Premium Gasoline, 30 MPG, MSRP $46,800
  • 2015 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S7), Premium Gasoline, 28 MPG, MSRP $48,600
  • 2015 Infiniti Q70 Hybrid 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S7), Premium Gasoline, 31 MPG, MSRP $55,900
  • 2015 Lexus CT 200h 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 42 MPG, MSRP $32,200
  • 2015 Lexus ES 300h 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 40 MPG, MSRP $40,580
  • 2015 Lexus GS 450h 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S8), Premium Gasoline, 31 MPG, MSRP $61,330
  • 2015 Lexus LS 600h L 5.0 L, 8 cyl, Auto(AV-S8), Premium Gasoline, 20 MPG, MSRP $120,440
  • 2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid FWD 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 40 MPG, MSRP $35,190
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic 7-spd, Premium Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $57,100
  • 2016 Acura RLX Hybrid 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AM7), Premium Gasoline, 30 MPG, MSRP $59,950-$65,950
  • 2016 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 3.0 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S8), Turbo, Premium Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $62,100
  • 2016 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S7), Premium Gasoline, 30 MPG, MSRP $44,400-$48,600
  • 2016 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S7), Premium Gasoline, 28 MPG, MSRP $46,200
  • 2016 Infiniti Q70 Hybrid 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S7), Premium Gasoline, 31 MPG, MSRP $55,900
  • 2016 Lexus CT 200h 1.8 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 42 MPG, MSRP $31,250
  • 2016 Lexus ES 300h 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 40 MPG, MSRP $41,020
  • 2016 Lexus GS 450h 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S8), Premium Gasoline, 31 MPG, MSRP $63,080
  • 2016 Lexus LS 600h L 5.0 L, 8 cyl, Auto(AV-S8), Premium Gasoline, 20 MPG, MSRP $120,440
  • 2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid FWD 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Regular Gasoline, 40 MPG, MSRP $35,190-$45,605

Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs)

  • 2015 Audi Q5 Hybrid 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (S8), Turbo, Premium Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $51,900
  • 2015 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid AWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S7), Supercharger, Regular Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $46,800
  • 2015 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid FWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S7), Supercharger, Regular Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $45,400
  • 2015 Lexus NX 300h 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 33 MPG, MSRP $39,720
  • 2015 Lexus NX 300h AWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 32 MPG, MSRP $41,310
  • 2015 Lexus RX 450h 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Premium Gasoline, 30 MPG, MSRP $47,620
  • 2015 Lexus RX 450h AWD 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Premium Gasoline, 29 MPG, MSRP $49,020
  • 2015 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid 2WD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Supercharger, Regular Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $35,300-$42,950
  • 2015 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid 4WD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (variable gear ratios), Supercharger, Regular Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $36,900-$44,550
  • 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid AWD 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 31 MPG, MSRP $25,995-$29,295
  • 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 28 MPG, MSRP $47,850
  • 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD LE Plus 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 28 MPG, MSRP $50,340
  • 2015 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid 3.0 L, 6 cyl, Automatic (S8), Supercharger, Premium Gasoline, 21 MPG, MSRP $66,995
  • 2016 Audi Q5 Hybrid 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Automatic (S8), Turbo, Premium Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $52,500
  • 2016 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid AWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S7), Supercharger, Regular Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $49,050-$53,450
  • 2016 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid FWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S7), Supercharger, Regular Gasoline, 26 MPG, MSRP $47,050-$52,050
  • 2016 Lexus NX 300h 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 33 MPG, MSRP $39,720
  • 2016 Lexus NX 300h AWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 32 MPG, MSRP $41,310
  • 2016 Lexus RX 450h 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Premium Gasoline, 30 MPG, MSRP $52,235
  • 2016 Lexus RX 450h AWD 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Premium Gasoline, 30 MPG, MSRP $53,635
  • 2016 Nissan Murano Hybrid AWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S7), Supercharger, Regular Gasoline, 28 MPG, MSRP $38,650
  • 2016 Nissan Murano Hybrid FWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S7), Supercharger, Regular Gasoline, 29 MPG, MSRP $38,650
  • 2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid AWD 2.0 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 31 MPG, MSRP $26,395-$29,995
  • 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 28 MPG, MSRP $47,870
  • 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD LE Plus 3.5 L, 6 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 28 MPG, MSRP $50,485
  • 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD 2.5 L, 4 cyl, Auto(AV-S6), Regular Gasoline, 33 MPG, MSRP $28,370-$33,610

Driving Hybrid Vehicles

Since ybrids utilize advanced systems to generate and recapture energy, there are certain driving habits that can maximize the fuel economy of these vehicles.  Some of these methods also apply to gasoline powered vehicles:

  • Slow Down:  As speed increases, so does the wind drag on the car.  The drag force at 70 miles per hour is roughly double that of a car traveling at 50 miles per hour.  By reducing the vehicle's speed, it's possible to increase gas mileage.
  • Maintaining Speed:  Engines run most efficiently when they are operated at a constant speed.  Speeding up or slowing down decreases efficiency and fuel economy.
  • Stopping the Car:  Hybrid cars are able to recapture energy either through magnetic braking systems and / or via the engine acting as a generator.  The more time an electric hybrid is given to slow down, the greater the amount of energy recaptured by these systems.

About the Author - Hybrid Cars - (Last Reviewed on May 25, 2016)