Hybrid vs. Electric Cars- What are the Differences?

For starters, you should know that these two types of powertrains were invented a century ago. Yes, you read that right. People tend to see it as a modern phenomenon, but they are way too old. The primary reason they couldn’t make it to the masses was because of the capital required. The only type of cost-effective engine that was left among the inventors was the internal combustion engine (ICE).

Interestingly, it was Ferdinand Porsche who designed the first-ever hybrid vehicle in the world, the Semper Vivus (which means “always alive” in Latin). However, at the same time, it was Toyota Motor Corporation that introduced the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius, in 1997. Ever since its introduction to the mass-market, several other Hybrid cars entered the market. But, it is worth mentioning that several car manufacturers were again planning to create less or zero-polluting vehicles in response to the oil crises in 1973 and growing climate change concerns.

Now, electric vehicles, which were also introduced at the beginning of the 20th century, also regained their popularity not long ago from now. It was William Morrison, an American inventor, who is credited for creating a practical electric vehicle.

So, as far as the emissions are concerned, electric vehicles have zero emissions as compared to hybrid vehicles with less emissions. There are, however, several technical differences between these two types of engines, which is why we are here to list those differences. Let’s begin, then.

Key Difference

The most notable difference between these two types includes the mechanical layouts. A hybrid engine, as the name suggests, is a combination of an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. A hybrid vehicle is categorised under electric vehicles. Further, there are several types of hybrid engines that you will learn more about in the following context.

On the other hand, a full-fledged electric vehicle runs on a set of battery packs. Different EVs have different sets of battery packs, as a result, their costings and range are determined accordingly. This one also comprises two types of electric vehicles.

Three Main Types of Hybrid Technologies

There are mainly three types of hybrid vehicles: a mild hybrid, a full hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. It should be worth noting that all types of hybrid vehicles have a combination of an electric motor and an internal combustion engine.

Mild Hybrid: A mild hybrid vehicle runs on both electric and combustion engines. They work parallelly. Such vehicles mostly recharge their batteries through regenerative braking. A mild hybrid vehicle marginally helps in increasing fuel economy. In India, most luxury cars have this technology.

Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV): As the name indicates, a plug-in hybrid vehicle has a plugging system, which fully recharges the battery. Such vehicles can be solely run on electric mode as well. Currently, as of June 2023, there are no plug-in hybrid vehicles available in India.

Strong Hybrid: A strong hybrid, as the name suggests, can impressively increase fuel efficiency. Such vehicles can be run on an electric motor or a combustion engine or both. Notable examples in India include all Lexus cars, Toyota’s Hyryder HyCross and Camry, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, and Honda City eHEV.

Two Main Types of Electric Vehicles

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): These vehicles are fully powered by electric motors. They are fuel-economical but require a lot of initial investment. They, however, have lower running costs (long-term) than hybrid and ICE-powered vehicles. Several full-fledged EVs are available in India, such as Tata’s Nexon, Tiago and Tigor, and Citroen eC3.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV): A vehicle with this technology is powered by fuel cells. In other words, electric energy is derived from chemical energy, and this technology is currently found in hydrogen-powered vehicles. The most notable example is the Toyota Mirai.

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Ways to Charge Full and Mild-Hybrid Vehicles

There are several factors in full and mild hybrid vehicles that elevate fuel economy.

Auto Start/Stop

If you aren’t aware of this feature, the start/stop system automatically shuts off the engine (goes into ignition) after the vehicle stops. It often happens at traffic signals. Further, the vehicle re-comes to life upon pressing the accelerator or moving the steering wheel (left-right simultaneously). You can witness improved fuel economy when this feature is enabled.

Regenerative Braking 

In this technology, the release of kinetic energy is what helps the battery to recharge. Cars with this tech have a Y-shaped infrastructure under the chassis. So, such cars have a battery at the rear end, connected by a bar placed at the centre, and flanked by two ends of an electric motor placed between the front wheels.

Further, the front ends of the electric motor receive and transfer it to the rear after the brake pads are heated upon braking.

Note: Improved fuel efficiency of a hybrid vehicle can also be achieved by the optimised tuning of the engine and transmission. For instance:

Atkinson Cycle: Strong hybrid vehicles commonly use this type of engine. It is typically a four-cylinder engine operating cycle, which is designed for achieving increased fuel efficiency. It releases less power as it shortens the intake and compression strokes. It will feel underpowered in the absence of an electric motor, but it doesn’t in hybrid vehicles as electric motor(s) help in pumping out more power.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT): This is the most cost-effective yet fuel-efficient type of automatic gearbox. It enables the engine to run on efficient speed-to-RPM ratios.

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