Hybrid cars are now becoming more and more popular, aside from releasing low carbon emissions, hybrid or electric cars also improve gas mileage. They are more fuel-efficient because they can run on electric power for several miles.
If you're one of those people that is looking to take the plunge on a new hybrid, it's important to understand a bit about the pros and cons of owning and operating one. So, read on to learn all the pros and cons of hybrid vehicles. Based on this information, you can decide for yourself whether a hybrid vehicle is suitable for you or not.
What Is a Hybrid Car?
Quite simply, a hybrid combines at least one electric motor with a gasoline engine to move the car, and its system recaptures energy via regenerative braking. Sometimes the electric motor does all the work, sometimes it's the gas engine, and sometimes they work together. The result is less gasoline burned and, therefore, better fuel economy. Adding electric power can even boost performance in certain instances.
Because hybrid cars often have lower CO2 emissions than conventionally engined cars, their owners may also get extra benefits in the shape of lower first year road tax and less costly company car tax, as well as possibly avoiding congestion charges.
Types of Hybrid Vehicles
While nearly everyone has heard of hybrid vehicles, most people are actually unaware of the various types out on the market.
1. Parallel Hybrid Cars
These are the most common type of hybrid, and the Toyota Prius is the most widely known example. The car's wheels can be powered in three different ways: directly by the engine, by the electric motor alone, or by both power sources working together.
When pulling away and at speeds up to 15mph, the Prius only uses the electric motor for power, making it very economical for stop-start city driving. The petrol engine cuts in as speed increases and is used most during hard acceleration.
Whenever you decelerate or use the brakes, a regenerative braking system produces electricity and stores it in the battery for use later on. The battery is small, though, so the electric motor can only power the car for up to 1.25 miles.
2. Range Extender Hybrid Cars
These only use their conventional engine to produce electricity for a generator that recharges the batteries. The engine never drives the car, it only produces energy for the electric motor. The BMW i3 with Range Extender (now available only as a used car) is one of the most popular examples.
Hybrids are also categorized as either strong or mild depending on the amount of battery power they have. With more battery capacity, strong hybrids can drive further than mild ones on electric power only.
3. Plug-in Hybrids
As the name implies, this type of hybrid can be plugged into an electricity outlet to recharge its batteries, as well as being charged on the move.
Effectively, plug-in hybrids are a halfway house between conventional hybrids and full electric vehicles. Although they have a conventional engine, they also have larger batteries than regular hybrids and can drive longer distances on electric power alone – up to 50 miles in some cases.
Pros of Hybrid Cars
It would be nice to say that hybrid vehicles are 100% eco-friendly, but they are not because they still use gasoline. However, they are better for the environment than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles because hybrid vehicles produce fewer carbon emissions. This is one step closer in the right direction toward fighting global warming.
2. Less Reliance on Gas
Because hybrid cars are more efficient, you will be less dependent on gasoline to keep your vehicle going. Over the life of your vehicle, you will save a significant amount of money compared to a gasoline engine vehicle of the same model. Less reliance on gas also helps to reduce our society's overall oil consumption, something that will have a compounding effect as more and more people make the switch to hybrid vehicles.
3. Less Air Pollution
Another benefit of hybrid cars is that the use of those cars also implies less air pollution. In fact, since fewer amounts of fossil fuels have to be used, also our emission levels will be much lower. This can be especially beneficial in big cities where air quality is often quite bad since by replacing conventional cars with hybrid cars, we could greatly improve the air quality in many big cities all over the world.
4. Hybrid Cars Are Very Quiet
The first few times you drive a hybrid car, you may find it a little disconcerting to start the car and not hear a large gasoline-powered engine kick into life. You may even wonder if the car is on at all. Sure, the engine will kick in as your driving, but even then, it will be a lot quieter than in a conventional car.
5. Regenerative Braking System
Each time you apply the brake while driving a hybrid vehicle, it helps you to recharge your battery a little. An internal mechanism kicks in that captures the energy released and uses it to charge the battery, which in turn eliminates the amount of time and need for stopping to recharge the battery periodically.
6. Reduced Maintenance Costs
When you are driving a hybrid vehicle, particularly in and around the city, you'll find that for much of the time your gasoline engine won't be running at all. As a result, over the life of the vehicle, there will be a lot less maintenance required. You won't even need to change the oil as often.
7. Additional Warranties
When you buy a new car, you gain access to several warranties. When you purchase a hybrid car, you'll get additional warranties. For example, all hybrid cars come with a 10-year/150,000-mile hybrid battery warranty that’s only offered with hybrid models.
8. Potentially Higher Resale Value
As gas prices rise and hybrid cars grow in popularity, more people are opting for fuel-efficient vehicles. In effect, hybrids have begun to increase in resale value. Should you decide to trade or sell your hybrid car, it's possible that you may receive a higher return on your initial investment when compared to that of your vehicle's standard counterpart.
9. High Durability of Hybrid Cars
In contrast to many beliefs, hybrid cars actually also have quite high durability. In fact, hybrid cars can be used up to 15 years or even more. Yes, chances are that you will have to change the battery over the course of the lifespan of your hybrid car. Yet, the overall durability of the hybrid car itself is quite high.
Cons of Hybrid Cars
1. Hybrid Cars Are Only a Temporary Solution
Hybrid cars can only be considered as temporary solution. In fact, since hybrid cars also use certain amounts of fossil fuels, hybrid cars will not help us to slow down global warming in a sufficient manner in the long run. Hence, while this technology can help us during the energy transition period, it will likely become obsolete in a few decades.
2. Slower Driving
You won't be able to drive as fast as you might want with a hybrid vehicle. Although the car allows you to drive at high speeds, you will be using more of your gasoline power if you do. This would defeat the whole point of getting a hybrid car in the first place because it's supposed to be about using more electrical power and less gasoline power. Therefore, you are always encouraged to drive slower in order to utilize the electric motor power more.
3. More Expensive
While the price of hybrid vehicles has come down over the years, they are generally still two to three thousand dollars more expensive to buy new than a conventional car of the same make and model. Sure, you will save more than this in running and maintenance costs over the life of the car, but for some people, this increased purchase price may take a hybrid car out of their budgeted price range.
4. High-voltage System Repairs Can Be More Expensive
Although hybrid vehicles may require less regular maintenance, they can get a little pricey when they need repairs -- especially i fthe issue is your car's high voltage system. Replacing a dead or damaged high voltage battery can cost thousands of dollars depending on the battery type and specific make and model of your ride.
In addition to the standard tech installed on ICE vehicles, hybrid vehicles are jam-packed with complex components -- from large high voltage battery packs and inverters to electric motors and improved cooling systems. Not only can these complex mechanisms make hybrid repairs more expensive, but not all mechanics have the equipment and knowledge to fix them properly.
5. Hybrid Vehicles Are More Expensive To Insure
It will generally cost you more for insurance with a hybrid vehicle than a conventional gasoline-powered car of the same make and model. This is the case for two reasons. Firstly, they are more expensive to buy and thus more expensive to replace: and secondly, the parts also tend to be more expensive. Insurance companies know this, and these additional expenses are factored into your insurance premium.
6. Accident from High Voltage in Batteries
In case of an accident, the high voltage present inside the batteries can prove lethal for you. There is a high chance of you getting electrocuted in such cases, which can also make the task difficult for rescuers to get other passengers and driver out of the car.
7. Battery Replacement Can Be Expensive
Battery replacement of hybrid vehicles is currently rare. However, if a battery needs to be replaced, it can get pricey. Those batteries are not cheap at all and can cost many thousands of dollars. Consequently, before you decide to buy a hybrid car, make sure that you take those additional expenses into account in order not to experience unpleasant financial surprises in the long run.
8. Performance May Be Lower Than Conventional Cars
On average, the performance of hybrid cars may also be lower compared to the performance of conventional cars. While technology progresses and the performance of hybrid cars will likely improve in the near future, they have a rather limited performance right now and you should take this into account when it comes to potential buying decisions.
What Can Affect Your Hybrid Battery's Life?
As with any other components of your car, many factors affect the life span of your hybrid battery. The way you drive, your maintenance routine, how you charge the battery, and even where you live can all have an effect.
Regular maintenance is essential to the smooth performance of your car. The gas engine and electric motor are somewhat reliant on each other, and if one is not working efficiently, it can affect the performance of the other. At regular service intervals, along with other maintenance, the battery should be tested. If one or more weak battery cells are found, the battery can be reconditioned to prolong its life. Skipping the check-ups can shorten your battery's life.
Your charging routine is important. To maximize the life of your hybrid battery pack, it is important to follow all of the manufacturer's charging guidelines. It is always best not to let your battery fully run down and to fully charge it when it runs low. Avoid lots of short top-ups and driving on a near-dead battery.
Temperature fluctuations can have a detrimental effect on your battery. It's designed to operate efficiently within a specified temperature range. Driving in extreme cold or heat for prolonged periods can result in damage to your battery. In hot temperatures, an auxiliary battery system helps to keep the battery pack cool. As part of your maintenance routine, clean the auxiliary fan regularly to keep the cool air flowing.
As we have seen before, there are many advantages and disadvantages of hybrid cars. In my opinion, while hybrid cars can be useful during the energy transition process, those hybrid technologies will have no bright future since there are simply better alternatives out there.
Deciding whether or not a hybrid car is right for you involves more than just a desire to be environmentally friendly. You have to look at the resources in your area that can help you maintain and sustain the car. Depending on the type of car you purchase, you may need mechanics that are familiar with it or an alternate fuel source. You should also look into any credits or discounts that may be available to help you lower the cost of purchase of the car.