What is a Hybrid Car Anyways? A Crucial Drivetrain Explained

What is a hybrid

The minute gas prices start to rise, people start talking about trading in their current car for a hybrid. You’ll see hybrids everywhere these days, but what is a hybrid car and why do so many people want one parked in their driveway? Here’s what you need to know.

Toyota Prius Cutaway

What Makes It Work?

In its simplest form, a hybrid is distinguished by its powertrain. Instead of using one source of power to move your car, a hybrid uses two different sources of power that work together to make your car go. It could be any two or more sources, but usually it’s a gas engine paired up with an electric motor. The gas engine recharges the electric motor when it’s not in use, so you never need to plug in a hybrid.

There are some models, like the Toyota Prius, that are solely available as hybrids (with a plug-in variant), but an increasing number of non-hybrids are getting a hybrid variant added to the lineup to entice buyers. Fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility make them attractive cars.

The combination of a gas engine and an electric motor means you’re not using as much gas. At lower speeds, the electric motor operates independently, with the car emitting zero exhaust and burning zero gas. At higher speeds, the gas engine is generally used. Computerized controls determine when to use the gas engine or electric motor to make a hybrid both an efficient and environmentally conscious car to drive.


Are They Really More Efficient?

For the most part, yes they are. As mentioned above, the combination of a gas engine and an electric motor allow the car to expand less energy, and generally be more efficient. Cars like the 2015 Toyota Prius, for example, can achieve 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway—that’s a significant improvement over modern-day gas-powered vehicles.

Mclaren P1 Hybrid

Can Hybrids Be Exciting?

Absolutely. One common misconception with owning a hybrid is that you’re going to be stuck with an unexciting, uninteresting piece of engineering. While the Toyota Prius may not be the most exhilarating car on the planet, many high-performance car manufacturers are using hybrid technology in their hypercars.

McLaren, for example, released the P1 hypercar in 2013 with a hybrid drivetrain that returned 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. It may not sound like much, but when the total output of the car is somewhere near 1,000 horsepower, that fuel economy is a highly impressive number.

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