What is a hybrid car?

hybrid carHybrid cars were thought of as a futuristic thing that would never happen only a few years ago, but already we are seeing more and more of them on the roads.

The word hybrid essentially has two distinct meanings. Not surprisingly, both meanings are related. The first meaning refers to its biological association whereby it is the term used to describe the offspring of two plants or animals of different species. An example of this would be a mule, which is a hybrid of a donkey and a horse. Its more general meaning is in things, words or objects and again is the term used to describe things that are made by combining two different elements to create a mix. This could refer to an object, a word or indeed a vehicle made with two different power sources eg. fuel and electricity.

The main benefits of hybrid cars are that they are extremely efficient from a fuel point of view and emit much less CO2 than their fuel counterparts. Introduced initially to the mass market in the years 1999-2000, the notion of (part) electric cars has taken a while to catch on, but suddenly, there seems to be significantly growing interest in this style of vehicle.

As we explained above, a hybrid vehicle is simply a vehicle that is manufactured with the ability to use more than one form of energy to make it move. Typically, this combination involves a fuel tank, an electric motor and a battery pack. It’s important not to confuse hybrid cars with electric cars because they are completely different. At the moment, while diesel hybrid cars are available, the cost of producing a diesel hybrid is currently prohibitive, so the option is petrol and electric with a battery pack.

There are various types of hybrid vehicle currently available and these include motor-generator; stop-start, parallel hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric drive, all of which function slightly differently, but rely on a combination of fuel power and electric power to drive the car. Car manufacturers across the board are keen to exploit their potential share of the hybrid car market and are seeking to launch models that appeal to different segments of the market. And if you think that hybrid cars are all small, with little power, it’s time to think again. When Porsche launched its Cayenne hybrid, with its 3.0 litre, V6 Engine, it became crystal clear that hybrids weren’t intended only for the school run or for tootling along to a Saga meeting.

In the UK alone, there are a whole host of hybrid models available in petrol options and some diesel options are starting to appear. Currently, the most popular model is the Toyota Prius hybrid, with Honda also featuring in the top five list. Volkswagen and Porsche, not surprisingly want a share of the action and as already outlined, are making it clear that the hybrid market isn’t just for people who want economy and environmental results at all costs.

So where do we go from here? The next big thing is tipped to be the plug-in hybrid that will take fuel even further out of the equation. Presumably the infrastructure has quite a way to go before that becomes possible, but like all things, it could be here before we know it.