An electric vehicle is a vehicle that uses an electric motor as a means of propulsion. The motor derives its electric energy from an array of battery packs on the vehicle. Some examples of electric cars include Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, etc. When people talk of hybrid vehicles, they refer to vehicles that combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor. Some popular examples of hybrid vehicles include Toyota Prius, Honda Accord Hybrid, and the Porsche Panamera.
How Hybrid Vehicles Work
Traditional automobiles use an internal combustion engine (ICE) that burns gasoline to generate propulsion power, while hybrid vehicles combine both an internal combustion engine with an electric motor for vehicle propulsion. Hybrid vehicles use both petrol and electricity to power the engine. Also, for hybrids, the battery is not charged by connecting the battery to an external electric power source. The internal combustion engine charges the battery while driving.
There are times of excess power in an internal combustion engine, usually during braking and cruising. When you press the brake, the energy generated by the engine is generally wasted as heat. But in hybrids, the energy is not wasted. It is converted to electric energy and used to charge the battery. An electric motor will then use the stored energy to contribute to the propulsion of the car.
Combining an internal combustion engine with an electric motor leads to higher fuel efficiency. The higher fuel efficiency means that hybrid cars can cover longer distances per gallon of fuel than their internal combustion engine counterparts.
Electric vs. Hybrid
So you want to know more about electric and hybrid vehicles, well, you are in the right place! Further on, I will compare electric and hybrid cars using different metrics.
Before we start the comparison, let me mention a third type of vehicle called the plug-in hybrid vehicles. They are a special case of hybrid vehicles because their batteries are large enough to require an external electrical source for charging. So, as the name suggests, you plug them in to charge. They offer more fuel economy than the hybrids since they can go longer distances using energy from their batteries.
Electric vehicles have only one type of engine, which is made up of electric motor(s). The number of motors can be more than one. Battery packs are carried in the car, and they provide electrical energy for the electric motors. The motors then convert the electrical energy from the batteries to mechanical energy to turn the car’s tires. Whenever the battery is exhausted, you plug it into an electrical source to charge for the next battery cycle.
On the other hand, hybrid cars combine an internal combustion engine that uses gasoline to generate mechanical energy for propelling the car; and an electric motor with a small battery charged during regenerative braking and cruising. When the battery is charged through any of the above processes, it then powers the electric motor that contributes to the hybrid car’s propulsion.
The purchase price of an electric vehicle is higher than that of a hybrid of similar performance. The price difference is due to the high cost of batteries, and since electric cars carry bigger batteries, they are more expensive to produce. An example is the Ford Focus Electric, which starts at $29,995 and its hybrid counterpart, Ford Fusion Hybrid, which starts at $28,000.
Although the initial purchase price is slightly higher, the extended benefits of using an electric car outweigh the cost of a hybrid electric vehicle with an internal combustion engine. And when you add the reduced damage to the environment, you realize that it pays better to go for an electric car than to go for a hybrid.
Generally, the range of hybrids is more than that of electric cars since hybrids combine both battery and an internal combustion engine. However, for city usage, where there are many charging stations, the difference in range does not matter as you can quickly charge your car while shopping or while eating at a restaurant. Hybrids have the advantage when you travel outside the city where there are fewer charging stations, as you can easily fill up your gas tank from any of the numerous gas stations.
Hybrid vehicles have lots of moving parts and, therefore, are more prone to failure. They require more regular servicing, which includes changing engine oil, transmission fluid, coolants, and belts. But for electric vehicles, since they do not have as many moving parts; they do not require such regular maintenance. Maintenance of electric vehicles is usually with general things like tires, bodyworks, wheel alignments, etc.
Another maintenance cost for both electric and hybrid vehicles is battery replacement. This does not happen often, but batteries do degrade and will eventually need replacement. The cost of replacing the battery of an electric vehicle is higher than that of a hybrid.
Hybrid cars are good in their own way, but they will eventually be phased out in favor of electric vehicles. Personally, I’d purchase an electric vehicle since I will be reducing my carbon footprint and also saving costs in the long run.