You have probably heard about hybrid cars hitting the locomotive market in recent years. Even though it is not the first time mankind is experiencing an electric car, the comeback sounds to be a transition from the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to fully electric models. The technological advancement comes with numerous advantages including greater economic positivity, tax benefits, and fewer emissions than the traditional ICE counterparts by supplementing their petrol or diesel engines with electric power. However, as a first-time buyer of an electric car, the first question that might ring in your mind is;
Are Hybrid Cars Self-Recharging?
Since the arrival of the Toyota Prius as the first self-charging hybrid car in 2000, the number of car buyers looking for self-charging hybrids has increased rapidly. This is because the option seems economical and eco-friendly to most people looking to own vehicles. However, before thinking about if all-electric vehicles are self-charging, you need to understand the three main types of hybrids and their unique differences.
A fully or parallel hybrid car uses both electric motors and a combustion engine to drive. This is the most common type of hybrid vehicle that holds a certain amount of electric charge that provides extra power to the combustion engine, thus improving fuel efficiency.
With electric motors built into the drivetrain means that full hybrids can switch to electric-only drive mode, although at lower speed and on limited distances since the batteries are relatively small. Moreover, the smaller batteries mean they can be charged quickly to a full capacity by the running engine; hence no need to stop the car and seek battery charging services.
Fully hybrids, therefore, are the self-charging category of electric vehicles. But, how do they self-charge?
Self-charging is a phrase mostly used by Toyota, Lexus, and sometimes Kia to describe a hybrid model that combines fuel engines and electric power to move. The reason for calling them self-charging is because you don’t need to plug into the mains, instead the battery tops up while driving. The self-charging batteries recover energy lost while the car is moving, or during braking. Just like the dynamo powering up the light on an old bicycle, the petrol or diesel engine powers up the battery whenever it runs low.
The batteries take a shorter time to be charged to a full capacity. This is because of the smaller sizes, which are less efficient than a plug-in battery. When fully charged, fully hybrids cover less than a mile on electric-only drive mode, which automatically switches to fuel mode when the battery runs low.
Mild hybrids use both electric motors and combustion engines to move. However, each power source cannot work independently without the other. Instead, this type of hybrids has a small battery and a two-way alternator that acts as a starter-generator. Mild hybrid is the cheapest way to enter into the electric cars market with a simpler powertrain that offers modest power and efficiency.
The electric power in the mild hybrids does not drive the car. It only feeds up the car with a start-stop system, saving on fuel combustion when driving around the town. With the help of a belt alternator, batteries in the mild hybrids system regain energy through braking. The energy is then used to coast and smooth off the engine for short bursts. The good thing is that the driver may not notice the electric bits as the car remain in normal driving mode.
Suzuki Ignis, Swift Supermini, Mercedes, and Audio models offer various cars with these hybrid systems. However, some manufacturers also produce systems that do not help the fuel engine to drive the car but work to save on fuel by recovering the kinetic energy to power the car’s electric systems. The technology is therefore referred to as mild hybrids.
The last type of hybrids, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid that needs to be plugged into the mains to charge the batteries. Although the vehicles have both fuel combustion engines and electric motors, plug-in hybrids can run entirely on electric motors for longer distances without charging the batteries. Once the battery batteries run low, the regular fuel combustion engine can be used just like a full hybrid version.
So, how does a plug-in hybrid charge?
Plug-in hybrids (PHEV) are charged by an external power source. You can charge it overnight or at your various destinations when going on a long journey. A fully charged battery can cover up to 300 miles since the larger and broader batteries provided can last for long. Owners who rarely cover their car’s electric-only limit of 30 miles a day can theoretically drive on electric motors without using the fuel engine for long.
PHEVs also allow zero-emissions driving, even though there is an increased weight of the car. However, many PHEV drivers are not utilizing the technology and end up driving their vehicles on regular fuel combustion without charging the batteries. This results in higher fuel consumption due to the added weight of the plug-in hybrid systems. Therefore, PHEV owners are encouraged to ensure their batteries are at least 80% before driving and should not let them run out completely.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are currently flooding the market, with the leading brands like Toyota, SUV, Mercedes, BMW, and Volvo offering their buyers affordable options. The rapid increase is attributed to the fact that PHEVs are more economic and eco-friendlier than mild and fully hybrids.
Are you thinking about buying a self-charging hybrid? First, remember that ‘self-charging is a phrase used by Toyota, Lexus, and other top brands to promote their models that can run on both electric power and fuel combustion engine. Although some people believe that the terminology may be somehow confusing, others believe that the self-charging mechanism is efficient, especially if they have smaller batteries, and don’t like the idea of stopping every time to recharge them. Therefore, instead of hustling to get the best hybrid vehicle that is self-charging, the vital point is to understand all the types of EVs and how they are charged.
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