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Hybrid Cars: All You Need to Know Before Buying One

May 6, 2020

You are probably familiar with hybrid cars especially if you live or work in any major metropolitan area. You likely see them every day on the road as you commute to or from your job. 

Today, a hybrid car looks just like any normal car you may see. In fact, you may not even realize that a particular model is hybrid. Most hybrid cars today don’t drive any differently from normal vehicles, they just get far better gas mileage. For those who have to drive a lot, the fuel savings you can get from a hybrid can make a huge difference in a household budget. But what is a hybrid car? How do they work? What are the pros and cons of hybrid cars, and how can you know that a hybrid is right for you? This article will break all that down for you.




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What are hybrid cars?

Hybrid cars are vehicles that use both gasoline and electricity for power. Hybrid cars use both electric motors and gasoline engines to make the vehicle move. In other words, sometimes the car is solely powered by the electric motor, whereas other times it is solely powered by the gas engine. In some cases, it is powered by both the gas engine and electric motor at the same time.

Almost all the automakers in the U.S. offer some form of a hybrid car and they can range from supercars like the Porsche 918 to minivans like the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and pickup trucks like the Ram 1500.

What kinds of hybrid cars are there?

To understand how hybrid cars work, it’s important to learn about the different types of hybrid vehicles. There are four kinds of hybrid cars on the road today. They include:

How do hybrid cars work?

Hybrids work by joining the power of a gasoline engine with the power of an electric motor to drive the wheels. Complex computer systems that vary from manufacturer-to-manufacturer and vehicle-to-vehicle determine the exact way that a particular hybrid works, but they all work off the same general principles below:

Hybrids can be front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive depending on the model. Most hybrid cars also come with what is known as a continuously-variable transmission or CVT. This system is a shiftless transmission that changes continuously through a range of power. 

Most people don’t love CVTs because they often have a strange disconnected feeling. Some luxury brands offer hybrids with conventional automatic transmissions. In addition to specialized transmissions and engines, hybrids also are very efficient. Why? Because:

What are the most efficient hybrid cars?

Many car owners are drawn to hybrid cars due to their fuel efficiency. If this is the reason you are thinking about getting a hybrid, it’s important to understand that some hybrid cars are far more fuel efficient than others. Some of the most efficient cars for 2018 include:

There are some of the most fuel efficient hybrid sedans on the market. But there are also a number of fuel efficient options if you’re interested in a hybrid SUV. 

Some of the most popular hybrid SUVs include the Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Honda CR-V Hybrid, and Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. There are even luxury hybrid SUVs, including the Audi e-Tron, Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, Lexus RX Hybrid, and Tesla Model Y.

What are the pros and cons of hybrid cars?

What are the pros and cons of a hybrid car? Let’s start with the benefits. The pros of owning a hybrid car include:

There’s no question that there are many benefits to owning a hybrid car.

What are the cons of owning a hybrid car?

Keep these pros and cons of hybrid cars in mind when deciding whether or not this type of vehicle is right for you.

What are the pros and cons of hybrid cars vs. electric cars?

When researching hybrids you may also see electric vehicles or EVs listed. Technically these are not hybrids but electric cars. 

Many people think that hybrid and electric cars are the same thing, but that’s not the case. Electric vehicles are powered solely by the electric motor, not a gas engine. To propel these cars you have to plug them in and let them charge. Examples of an EV would include any Tesla or a Chevrolet Bolt.

There are many pros and cons of hybrid cars and electric cars. Electric cars are eco-friendlier than hybrid vehicles since they rely solely on electricity rather than gasoline. However, this means that electric cars can only travel as far as their battery can take them

Once the battery dies, the vehicle must be plugged in to recharge. Many electric car owners plug their vehicles in at charging stations at their homes overnight. But if it loses charge at any point during the day, they need to quickly find a nearby charging station to continue using their vehicle.

So, although electric vehicles are more environmentally conscious, many people view them as a hassle due to their charging needs. This is why most people prefer hybrid vehicles over electric vehicles. Purchasing a hybrid vehicle allows car owners to experience the best of both worlds.

How long do hybrid cars last?

Hybrid cars, just like regular gasoline cars, can last many, many, years as long as they are well-maintained. 

Most hybrids come with warranties that cover things like the electric motor and batteries. In states like California, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont car manufacturers are required to offer battery warranties that last up to 150,000 miles. Those warranties often transfer from owner to owner so if you are buying a used hybrid car you will likely be covered. 

Do hybrid cars require more maintenance?

Most hybrids do not require any additional or different maintenance from regular gasoline cars. In some cases, however, the maintenance can be slightly more expensive because some of the technology is more advanced than it is in gasoline cars. If you are considering buying a hybrid car be sure to do your research on maintenance costs.

Are hybrid cars good for long distance driving?

If you are interested in purchasing a hybrid vehicle, it’s important to learn whether or not it’s a good fit for your lifestyle. This is especially true if you typically drive long distances.

Many people assume that hybrids are not ideal for long distance driving because they are limited by the lifespan of their batteries. These people often assume that a hybrid vehicle might suddenly stop working during a long distance drive if the battery goes dead. But this is not the case.

Remember, a hybrid vehicle is not powered solely by electricity. These vehicles are powered by both electricity and gasoline. This means even if a hybrid’s battery were to die during a long distance trip, the vehicle would still receive power from its gasoline engine. 

Similar to other vehicles, hybrid vehicles will continue to drive as long as there is gas in the tank. Therefore, a hybrid vehicle may still be right for your lifestyle even if you typically drive long distances.

How do you charge hybrid cars?

Charging hybrid cars is relatively simple, depending upon the kind of hybrid car you have. 

If you have a regular hybrid car, you don’t need to do anything except fill up the gas tank to keep the battery charged. The gasoline engine in regular hybrid and mild hybrid cars sends power to the generator to keep the battery pack charged. 

If you have a plug-in hybrid car, then you will likely need to plug your vehicle in on a regular basis to keep the batteries charged. In some cases, the gasoline engine will provide some charge to the battery pack, but to top-up the batteries you will likely need to plug in. 

Most plug-in hybrids come with their own charging cable that can be plugged into a household outlet and charged overnight. You can also find public chargers at places like grocery stores and the mall. There, you park and plug your PHEV in while you shop.  You are charged for the amount of electricity that the car uses to charge. Once you’re finished you can unplug and drive away. Most public chargers are run by companies like ChargePoint and you can connect a credit card to your account to pay for the charging.

How do hybrid cars save energy?

Hybrid cars save energy because they are more fuel efficient than their gas-only counterparts, they use technology like regenerative braking, and they generally have a more aerodynamic design. 

Gasoline engines tend to operate better at higher speeds while electric motors are more efficient at low speeds. By combining the two types of power, a hybrid car saves energy and can go longer distances while using less fuel

Regenerative braking is another way that hybrid cars save energy. Most hybrid cars have regenerative braking systems. Regenerative braking systems work by turning the friction caused by braking, into energy. 

Electric motors, when run in one direction, can turn electrical energy into mechanical energy. When an electric motor is run in the opposite direction, the electric motor can turn mechanical energy back into electricity. When the electric motor is reversed, in braking, it sends power back to the battery and charges it. Thus, regenerative brakes save energy by taking the braking power and putting it back into the battery. 

Because efficiency is the name of the game for hybrid cars, they also get a very aerodynamic design. That means that the shape of the vehicle, both on top and underneath, is changed so that air can flow smoothly around and under the car. That helps reduce what is known as aerodynamic drag and makes the car glide through the air much more efficiently.

You’ve probably noticed the weird shape of a Toyota Prius or a Honda Clarity PHEV, right? It’s shaped that way not because a designer thought it looked good, but because it is more aerodynamic and thus more energy efficient.

Do hybrid cars help the environment?

Yes, hybrid cars do help the environment because they emit less CO2 and greenhouse gases that cause everything from health and breathing problems to global warming. 

Today many cars are very fuel efficient and many states like California and New York have made environmental standards tougher for car emissions. Those emission requirements help cut down on the amount of pollution that is released into the air by cars that burn diesel or gasoline alone. Hybrids put out even fewer emissions thanks in a large part to their electric motors. 

It is important to consider that, while a hybrid or plug-in hybrid does offer cleaner technology, it doesn’t have zero impact on the environment. The battery packs that are used in hybrids still contain heavy metals and other elements that are environmentally damaging to mine and dispose of. If you have a plug-in hybrid car, you will need to use electricity to recharge and that electricity could be generated by unclean technologies like coal.

Why should I buy a hybrid car?

There are many reasons to consider buying a hybrid car. They include:

Are hybrid cars worth it?

If you’re considering purchasing a hybrid car you should do your research first and make sure that the car you’re considering meets the needs you have. Consider things like:

If you have a long commute at highway speeds a hybrid might make sense. If you have to drive a mile to work, however, it might not make sense to pay the additional cost for a hybrid.

How much do hybrid cars cost?

In general, hybrid cars tend to cost more than their gasoline-only counterparts though prices can vary greatly. Their cost is often offset by state and federal tax incentives. 

Hybrids can sticker for anywhere from several thousands of dollars less to $13,000 more than their gasoline versions and it really depends on the type of hybrid and brand of vehicle you are purchasing. 

There are many catches to getting the tax incentives for owning a hybrid car and it may make sense to chat with an accountant or tax professional to get the real scoop on whether or not you’ll qualify for any tax offset.

Should I buy a hybrid car?

By taking into consideration your own needs, how hybrids work, the pros and cons of owning a hybrid car, and the cost considerations of owning a hybrid, you will certainly find the right hybrid for you.