A Crash Course on Hybrid Vehicles

If you’ve been following automotive trends, you’ve probably noticed the increased popularity of alternative fuel vehicles, especially Hybrids. You’ve also probably noticed that there are different types of hybrids and wondered, “What is a hybrid vehicle?” Don’t worry, at Kenny Ross, we’ve got you covered by showing you the difference between different types of hybrids.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV)

Technically, the first mass-produced example of an HEV rolled off the line in 1997 — The Toyota Prius, but it didn’t make landfall in the U.S. until 2000. Since then, the Hybrid Electric Vehicle market has boomed. Hybrids combine traditional gas powered engines with battery-powered electric motors, which allows the gas engine to be smaller and more efficient.

With an HEV, the gas engine is only active when substantial power is needed, like at higher speeds or going up hills. At low speeds, the electric motor helps pick up the slack. To save extra gas, many HEVs automatically shut the engine off while you’re stopped, then they turn back on when your foot comes off the brake. This helps prevent fuel waste from idling at a stop light.

In High School, we all learned that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. So, when you hit the brakes in a conventional vehicle, the brake pads create friction. Sure, this slows the car down, but all that energy from the movement of the vehicle gets turned into heat and goes to waste. In an HEV, the energy from braking gets transferred back into the battery, recharging it. This is why you see many HEVs that actually get better gas mileage in the city than they do on the highway.

Now, we get to the big question. Can a hybrid save you money? Well, the U.S. Department of Energy has developed a calculator to show your potential savings behind the wheel of a hybrid.

Available Hybrids

Since HEV technology has been on the market for a while, most manufacturers have come out with their own Hybrid models. You have a huge selection of makes and body styles at your disposal, like:

  • 2018 Toyota Prius 5-Door Two Hybrid
  • 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE Sedan
  • 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid
  • 2018 Chevy Malibu Hybrid

Is an HEV right for me?

Unfortunately, the HEV may be on the wrong side of history at this point. Newer, more advanced types of hybrid electric vehicles are already gaining steam. However, an HEV may be the right fit for you if you’re reluctant to part with the more robust gas engine, or if you want the option of driving long distances without having to find a power outlet.

Fun Fact:

Ferdinand Porsche debuted the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid at the 1900 World Fair in Paris.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

In 2010, Chevrolet took hybrids into a new direction by taking the best aspects of HEVs and electric vehicles and mashing them together. The result was the Chevy Volt, and the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle was born.

Like HEVs, PHEVs have both a gas-powered engine and a battery-powered electric motor. In a PHEV, however, the battery is much larger and does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to your day-to-day driving. In fact, the gas engine doesn’t even kick in until the battery has been completely drained. In the case of the 2018 Chevy Volt, that range is about 53 miles. With regular charging, Chevy hopes to get up to 1000 miles out of a single tank of gas.

Recharging a PHEV requires access to a charging station, usually around 240 volts. Your standard home outlet can work in some models, but recharging usually takes longer.

Will you save money? Yes. On average, it costs about $1 worth of electricity for a full charge on a PHEV. At $3 per gallon of gas, that equates to about 120 MPG. Luckily, you don’t have to do the math yourself, the Department of Energy has a PHEV calculator as well.

Available PHEVs

Since PHEVs are a newer addition to the automotive world, selection is still growing. But here are some great options:

  • 2018 Ford C-MAX Energi
  • 2018 Ford Fusion Energi
  • 2018 Chevy Volt
  • 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Is a PHEV right for me?

If you’re only driving short distances every day, then it is totally possible that you could drive months in a PHEV without using any gas. That makes the PHEV an ideal commuter car. However, if you don’t have access to charging stations, or you lack your own dedicated parking spot at home where one could be installed, you may need to look elsewhere for the time being.

Fun Fact:

According to the UCS, most people drive less than 40 miles per day.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV)

The future is here! Or, at least, coming near you very soon. FCEV vehicles are already arriving in Southern California, and they represent a new age of fuel efficiency.

FCEVs use Hydrogen, pumped from a station similar to any gas pump. That hydrogen gets stored in the fuel cell. An air intake captures oxygen from the outside as you drive. When the oxygen mixes with hydrogen, a chemical reaction takes place and voilà, you get electricity. The only byproduct? Water, which leaves through a traditional tailpipe. That’s it.

Don’t forget, Kenny Ross has the largest selection of vehicles in Western Pennsylvania, so if you’re looking to save more money at the pump with the best hybrid vehicles, we’ll save you even more on the sticker price.