A hybrid vehicle features one or more electric propulsion engine in addition to the conventional internal combustion engine, and use the power from these two distinct engines to move the vehicle.
The higher petrol prices relative to electricity result in considerable savings when running hybrid cars. However, even otherwise, regardless of such power source price differentials hybrid cars have a better mileage and result in considerably lower cost of operations.
Hybrid cars attain better fuel efficiency owing to many factors.
Dual motors do away with the need for larger size engines catering to peak power needs. Smaller sized engines result in lesser loss of internal energy and low weight. It also improves the shape of the car, for better aerodynamics. Similarly, the batteries of hybrid cars weigh less compared to the batteries in conventional gasoline powered cars, further reducing weight and improving fuel efficiency.
Electric motors have huge storage capacity that allows storing the energy generated in the car and reusing it. The absence of such capacity in conventional cars means that potential energy sources such as heat generated while breaking is lost.
Conventional cars power auxiliaries such as air-condition and power steering continuously. The electric motor in a hybrid car allows powering such auxiliaries only as and when needed, further reducing mechanical losses.
Hybrid cars with electric engine incorporate either nickel metal hydride battery or lithium ion battery. When compared to the lead starter batteries of conventional internal combustion engine cars, such batteries weigh less, are more environmentally friendly and boost vehicle power. Moreover, the life of such battery almost match the vehicle life cycle itself.
Overall, hybrid cards emit less pollutants. It reduces smog causing emissions by about 90 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by about 50 percent less, when compared to a conventional fossil fuel car.
However, such advantages notwithstanding, hybrid cars need not necessarily be a good buy always. The higher procurement cost means that the operational cost savings resultant from better fuel economy and efficiency would result in overall savings only after a minimum of five to ten years, depending on usage and future petrol prices. Heavy vehicles such as pick up trucks that hit the road almost always may recover the higher investment within a few years, but many cars may not recover the higher initial cost even after expiry of the vehicle’s life cycle.
The high cost of hybrid cars is owing to the low adoption rate and expensive of technology. Manufacturing electric motors and batteries require rare earth materials such as dysprosium and Neodymium, which are costly and hard to get.
With time, when learning and scale benefits reduce incremental costs and technological developments result in low cost alternative to expensive inputs, the price differential of hybrid cars and conventional fossil fuel car would come down. At that time, or when fossil fuel prices witness a sharp hike and stay there, hybrid cars make a good buy. Until such time, the only clear advantage of investing in a hybrid car is reducing carbon emissions.