October 21, 2008

How Did Hybrid Cars Achieve Maximum Fuel Economy?

How Did Hybrid Cars Achieve Maximum Fuel Economy?

Hybrid cars can run from 20mpg to 60mpg. How do they do it? Aside from using both the electric motor and combustion engine to draw propulsion, hybrid cars have several tricks to squeeze every mile out of each gallon of gasoline. Hybrid electric vehicles have:

Lightweight materials. One of the surest ways to increase the mileage of the car is to reduce its overall weight. The lighter the car is, the higher the fuel mileage will be. So instead of steel, lightweight materials such as magnesium and aluminum or composite materials like carbon fibers are used for hybrid vehicles.

Smaller engine. The weight of the car is directly related to its fuel consumption. And because larger engines are relatively heavier, they require more energy just to propel their own weight, thus consuming more fuel. Also big engines have large cylinder displacement that requires more fuel just to stop.

Since hybrid vehicles utilize other sources of power, they do not require large engines. Instead, the smaller and lighter engine equates to better fuel mileage. The Honda Civic Hybrid, for example uses a 1.3 L iVTEC 4-cylinder engine as opposed to the typical 1.8 L or 2.0 L engine for the non-hybrid counterpart.

Improved aerodynamics. When you are driving at a high speed, most work of the engine goes into pushing the car through the air. Hybrid cars are designed in such away that its frontal area chops through the air, reducing drag and increasing fuel economy. The Honda Insight is the best example of how a car can increase its fuel mileage by using a smoother aerodynamic design.

Energy conservation. Since hybrid cars do not rely solely on internal combustion engines that run continuously even at stops, they can shut off the engine temporarily whenever do not need it. It will automatically turn on when you step on the gas pedal.

Energy recovery. Much of the energy is lost when braking, more so at high speeds. Hybrid vehicles are designed to recapture this lost energy and store it back in the battery to be used later.

Special tires. Tires are specifically used to minimize noise, provide a smooth ride, and give good traction in different weather conditions. But tires are rarely used to optimize efficiency. They cause a great deal of drag while driving. Hybrid cars on the other hand use low-rolling resistance tires. They are inflated to a higher air pressure and are stiffer which result in reduced drag and better fuel efficiency.

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