After the initial hate of the car world for the first-gen Prius, the popularity of hybrid cars has been growing steadily. Nowadays, they are almost as common as their counterparts with an internal combustion engine only and definitely here to stay.
However, the fact that we have grown accustomed to them is not the only reason why hybrids are more popular now. Over the years, they simply became a lot better in almost every respect. Moreover, the industry is developing incredibly quickly and we can only expect more improvements.
Should You Buy A Hybrid Car?
This depends on your needs and preferences, as well as your budget. We are here to give you all the information you need about the pros and cons of hybrid cars, your buying options and the stage of development the industry is in right now so that you can make an informed decision.
1. Kinds of hybrid cars
Although there are exceptions, most hybrid cars fall into one of the three following categories:
Parallel hybrids offer the most versatility when it comes to what propels the wheels. The power can come from both the engine and the electric motor(s) at the same time, from the engine alone, or from the motor(s) alone. Popular models like the Honda Fit Hybrid or Honda Shuttle Hybrid would be using this technology.
Algorithms that control these functions vary greatly, depending on the desired result. For example, the Prius uses the electric motor for most of its city stop and go traffic, which makes it very efficient in these conditions. In some options, the motor serves only to help the engine which usually operates on the Atkinson cycle, which makes it more efficient, but it also limits power.
Instant torque of electric motors is of great help for acceleration and it provides the push in those sections when the engine is least efficient. This is the most common type of hybrids today.
Series hybrids are also called range-extending hybrids and they are closer to electric-only vehicles as the wheels are directly propelled only by the motor. The engine is used only to help produce more electric power for the motor.
Plug-in hybrids are very similar to parallel hybrids, but they can be plugged in and charged. Their batteries are usually larger and heavier, they usually cost more, but they can also cover greater distances on electric power alone. They are like parallel hybrids on steroids – more capable, but also more expensive and heavier.
2. Batteries are heavy and expensive
This segment of the industry is actually the fastest developing one. Batteries keep getting more capacity in smaller packages but they are still pretty heavy. In many cars, batteries are located low to lower the center of gravity, so even though they add some weight, the car usually feels more planted than bulky.
Of course, this greatly depends on the size of the battery. A smaller battery will add less weight and take up less space but they will also reduce the benefits of driving a hybrid.
In terms of price, batteries are not cheap but most manufacturers offer long warranties. Moreover, in many countries, drivers of hybrids or electric cars usually have lower taxes, road charges or even purchasing discounts, so they can prove to be more cost-efficient even if you have to buy the battery seven to ten years down the road.
3. Range is usually not an issue
Whenever you mention any option of electric powering of a car, most people start complaining about the range. Now, the all-electric range is an issue but having an engine to help usually means that you get very close to the range of cars with internal combustion engines only. However, we should note that some hybrid cars have smaller fuel tanks.
4. They are more efficient in town
This sounds counterintuitive, but most hybrids will have regenerative braking, which means that braking actually charges batteries. When you drive in the city, deceleration is far more common and you have more juice in the battery. This is also why most hybrids on the market are compact cars and SUVs, most often used in the city.
5. They differ among themselves
Even though all hybrids are intended to reduce fuel efficiency and emissions, the way they feel on the road varies greatly from model to model. You may be utterly bored by them or absolutely stunned by performance and responsiveness.
The more power that comes from the electric motor, the more responsive the car, thanks to the instant torque at all revs that is delivered by electric motors. This also means they need bigger batteries and cost more.
Some others are intended to be more affordable and primarily efficient, so they have toned down engines and less powerful electric motors.
Make sure you test out the car to see if it meets your needs. Hybrids are here to stay, they are getting better by the day and there are already some very good options by renowned manufacturers.