A hybrid car is one that uses at least two sources of fuel – it’s that simple. However, there’s a lot more to know about the hybrid car concept, especially considering that this decade will see an overwhelming shift to hybrid and electrical cars. Powered by ever-increasing concern about greenhouse warming, and more importantly the rising price of gasoline and diesel, the switch to hybrid vehicles is becoming an everyday reality.
Major automobile brands have rolled out hybrids cars, with a successful response – models like Toyota Prius and Lexus CT are becoming increasingly popular.
While it is obvious that electricity and gasoline/diesel are the two most common fuel sources in a hybrid vehicle, other alternatives include biodiesel, CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). One can conveniently alternate between the two power sources as per fuel availability and personal preference. Electric cars are being supported by relevant infrastructure. The 100% electric Tesla Model S, for example, can be charged, free of cost for the car’s lifetime, at a network of “SuperChargers” – electricity charging stations.
Further, the kinetic energy being produced by the car’s movement can also be harnessed, and converted into electricity, adding to the car’s utility. While one may remark that electric cars should be able to be conveniently charged right at home, the high-speed charging facility at specialized charging stations, that give you about 240 km of drive, in only 20 minutes of charging, using high-speed chargers. Solar cell enabled cars, once only a concept car idea, are now being seriously considered. At the same time, the plug and charge option is being explored among various manufacturers.
It is abundantly clear that conventional forms of fuel are wasteful – not all of it is efficiency utilized. In comparison, electricity is cheap, abundant and power use can be precisely engineered to ensure maximum mileage out of every charge. Developed countries have established certain tax benefits and other incentives to encourage the use of electrical and hybrid cars.
Carbon monoxide emissions are also lowered, and the medium to long term expenses on health consequences on inhaling carbon and other conventional fuel particulate matter (including smog) are negated. Conventional fuels are also flammable and present a considerable risk to the immediate surroundings and the environment.
Product design, both in engine and car chassis is often lighter, using state of the art materials and alloys, and a lighter car is significantly more fun to drive.
Further, hybrid cars tend to feature a lot more technical innovation and software support. For example, the engine can switch off entirely when you pause for a red light, as it doesn’t depend on a liquid fuel engine that can be harmed by persistently switching the engine on and off. While concerns have been expressed in the past about batteries, including their longevity and toxicity, newer models are incorporating NiMH batteries, instead of the previously used nickel cadmium batteries. NiMH technology is environmentally safe and the batteries lasts a lifetime.
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