All hail to battery power! But, not just simple battery power alone, mind you. No, I’m not talking about the “D” cell batteries found in your flashlight or the lithium batteries that power so many of today’s electronic devices including your laptop computer, your smartphone or your favorite tablet. Rather, those batteries that are found underneath your car, but not underneath your hood.
Car batteries underneath your hood help your car start and send much needed power to operate your audio system, your car’s navigation system, lights and more. Every car comes equipped with at least one. However, not every car comes equipped with a battery system that actually helps provide energy to run a car. When accompanied with a gasoline engine these cars are known as hybrids, vehicles that derive energy from battery cells, from regenerative braking and from its traditional gasoline engine.
You’re familiar with hybrids if the Toyota Prius name rings a bell. And it should: more hybrids are built by Toyota than any other manufacturer with the Prius name synonymous with hybrid. Indeed, Toyota offers five Prius models, a collection sometimes referred simply as Prii. Here are the Prius C offers.
The technology behind hybrid vehicles is rather amazing and has come a long way since America set its eyes on the Honda Insight, the first hybrid car to make it to the market in the United States. That model was quickly followed by the first Toyota Prius, with subsequent models rolled out by Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, Nissan, GMC, Honda, Mercury, Lincoln and others.
So, how does a hybrid vehicle system work? Essentially, a hybrid car works by storing electric energy in its battery system. Today’s battery packs are typically of lithium-ion (li-ion) or lithium-polymer (li-poly) construction, replacing older technologies such as the nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries originally used. Li-on batteries are lighter than Ni-MH and store more energy. They’re also smaller, but currently more expensive. Still, when it comes to operating a hybrid vehicle, lithium batteries typically offer the longest electric-only range.
From the battery pack, energy is sent to a pair of electric motors that drives the front wheels. Additional power is secured when a car breaks with that energy sent to the battery pack for use later. So-called regenerative braking is what provides energy to replenish the batteries although if braking isn’t enough, the battery system can derive power from the gasoline engine. Now about that gasoline engine: it comes into play at certain times typically at highway speeds, when optimum horsepower is needed and when the battery pack is depleted.
An Effective Combination
Together, electric batteries and gasoline engines may be the most effective combination for today’s vehicles. Gasoline or diesel power engines alone are fine, but they are not nearly as efficient as a hybrid vehicle. Take Ford’s Fusion sedan as one example. This vehicle, when equipped with a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission gets an EPA-rated 23 mpg city, 33 mpg. This same vehicle, when sold as the Fusion Hybrid, is rated at 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway. The big jump in around town fuel economy is attributed to the battery system that allows this vehicle to drive without using gasoline, relying nearly exclusively on the battery pack to send energy to the electric motors to turn the front wheels.
Another advantage of a hybrid vehicle over a standard gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle is that fewer harmful emissions are released by a hybrid. That’s because electricity does not emit pollutants while an internal combustion engine does. You still need a tail pipe with a hybrid as it requires a place to release pollutants when the gas engine is at work.
There is some similarity between hybrid systems, especially in layout and effectiveness. Each vehicle comes with a transmission, usually a single speed transmission that also helps turn the wheels. Some models, such as the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, makes use of a 6-speed automatic transmission, particularly useful for delivering a wider range of gearing on the highway. Others are paired with a continuously variable transmission to allow for similar gearing changes.
A Winning Combination
Hybrids may also come equipped with a generator. Like an electric motor, it is useful for producing electrical power that can be sent to the wheels to move the hybrid or to the battery system for storage. Regardless of the layout a hybrid vehicle features a battery system that provides energy to the vehicle. Hybrids cost more than comparable gas-powered vehicles, but deliver much better fuel efficiency and emit fewer pollutants, a winning combination for today’s drivers.
FuelEconomy.gov: Find A Car -- http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.shtml
Ford Hood: 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid Specs — http://www.fordhood.com/2012/02/24/2012-ford-fusion-hybrid-specs/
Alternative Fuels Data Center: Hybrid Electric Vehicles — http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_basics_hev.html
George Zeed is an Oregon native residing in Grants Pass. Here is where he works for Impact Battery. George is big on outdoor activities and enjoying the environment. His favorite things to write about include things related to recreational vehicles and their accessories.