October 10, 2008

How Does Hybrid Electric Vehicle Work?

How Does Hybrid Electric Vehicle Work?

You probably own a gasoline- or diesel-engine car. You may have heard of electric vehicles too. A hybrid vehicle or hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a combination of both. Hybrid vehicles utilize two or more sources of energy for propulsion. In the case of HEVs, a combustion engine and an electric motor are used.

How it works depends on the type of drive train it has. A hybrid vehicle can either have a parallel or series or parallel-series drive train.

Parallel Hybrid

The parallel hybrid car has a gas tank, a combustion engine, transmission, electric motor, and batteries.

A parallel hybrid is designed to run directly from either the combustion engine or the electric motor. It can run using both the engine and the motor. As a conventional vehicle, the parallel hybrid draws its power from the combustion engine which will then drive the transmission that turns the wheels. If it is using the electric motor, the car draws its power from the batteries. The energy from the batteries will then power the electric motor that drives the transmission and turns the wheel.

Both the combustion engine and the electric motor are used at the same time during quick acceleration, on steep ascend, or when either the engine or the motor needs additional boost.

Since the engine is directly connected to the wheels in a parallel drive train, it eliminates the inefficiency of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy and back. This makes a very effective vehicle to drive on the highway.

Series Hybrid

The series hybrid car also has a gas tank, a combustion engine, transmission, electric motor, and batteries with the addition of the generator. The generator can be the electric motor or it can be another separate component.

The series configuration is the simplest among the 3. The engine is not connected to the transmission rather it is connected to the electric motor. This means that the transmission can be driven only by the electric motor which draws its energy from the battery pack, the engine or the generator.

A hybrid car with a series drive train is more suited for city driving conditions since the engine will not be subjected to the varying speed demands (stop, go, and idle) that contributes to fuel consumption.

Series-Parallel Hybrid

The series-parallel configuration solves the individual problems of the parallel and series hybrid. By combining the 2 designs, the transmission can be directly connected to the engine or can be separated for optimum fuel consumption. The Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape Hybrid use this technology.

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