Hybrids

Hybrid vehicles at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show

2014-Honda-Insight-Hybrid-VehiclesWhat’s a hybrid? Quite simply it is a vehicle that uses two different sources of energy to power a vehicle. Currently, that means gasoline engines and electric motors. Utilizing two power sources allows hybrid vehicles to obtain improved fuel economy, increased power, or additional auxiliary power for electronic devices and power tools.

Some of the advanced technologies typically used by hybrids include the following:

Electric Motor Drive/Assist. The electric motor provides additional power to assist the engine in accelerating, passing, or hill climbing. This allows a smaller, more efficient engine to be used. In some vehicles, the motor alone provides power for low-speed driving conditions where internal combustion engines are least efficient.

Regenerative Braking. The electric motor applies resistance to the drivetrain causing the wheels to slow down. In return, the energy from the wheels turns the motor, which functions as a generator, converting energy normally wasted during coasting and braking into electricity, which is stored in a battery until needed by the electric motor.

Automatic Start/Shutoff. A computer automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and restarts it when the accelerator is pressed. This prevents wasted energy when idling.

Many of today’s hybrid vehicles utilize all three of these energy-saving technologies. But that doesn’t mean they are all identical. Each manufacturer adds a unique spin on the coupling of the electric motor(s) and gasoline engine. Some allow the vehicle to be driven for short distances on electric power only and others use the electric motor as an assist to simply make the gas engine more efficient.

Regardless, hybrid vehicles are generally more expensive than a conventionally powered counterpart. In addition, they usually have less trunk space. (You have to put the battery somewhere.) Still, most drive just like a regular automobile and don’t suffer from range anxiety like pure electric vehicles.

You can find the following hybrids on display at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show or at the Vehicles on Display section of the auto show Web site.

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