Types of Hybrids: What are Hybrid Cars

BMW 7 ActiveHybrid mild hybrid: electric motor helps internal combustion engine work

Complete hybrid concept: BMW X6 ActiveHybrid fully relies on its electric motor

The word "hybrid" comes from the Latin language and means something that has a mixed origin or combines heterogeneous elements. For automotive technology, it refers to a car with two types of powertrain. Usually it is an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

In lightweight hybrid plants, the electric motor is used only as an auxiliary for an internal combustion engine (ICE). But in a full-fledged hybrid installation, ICE is more efficiently paired with an electric motor. Moreover, the electric motor is used quite powerful, capable of independently driving the car at low speeds.

For modern automakers, a “hybrid car” means more than just integrating an electric motor into a power plant. This is an “intelligent” control of energy flows in the car. An effective combination of internal combustion engines with electric motors reduces fuel consumption, exhaust emissions, improves dynamics and driving comfort. A good example of this is the luxurious BMW 7 ActiveHybrid, which we talked about in the Active Hybrids article. Today, car designers are developing five major varieties of hybrid cars.

Sequential . In such a hybrid system, the internal combustion engine operates in the most economical mode, solely in order to charge the battery of the electric motor. The car itself is driven by an electric motor.

Parallel . In this hybrid, the internal combustion engine and the electric motor operate independently of each other, and, depending on the type (soft or full hybrid), can set the car in motion simultaneously or in turn.

Soft . Here, the traditional starter and alternator are completely replaced by an electric motor, which is used to start the engine and support it. This helps to increase the dynamics of the car and reduce fuel consumption by about 15%. The electric motor and batteries are not designed to independently set the vehicle in motion. But this makes it possible to significantly facilitate and reduce their cost, in comparison with the components of a full hybrid. The BMW 7 ActiveHybrid uses the concept of a soft hybrid.

Full . In fully hybrid systems, a car can be driven by an electric motor at any stage of movement: both during acceleration and in motion at a constant speed. For example, in a “city cycle” a car can use only one electric motor. The system components of such a concept are noticeably larger, more massive, they are much more difficult to install than in the case of the “soft” hybrid. However, they can significantly improve the dynamics of the car. In addition, using only electricity when driving in the city can reduce fuel consumption by 20%. The full hybrid is the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid.

Rechargeable . The capacity, size and weight of the battery depend on its purpose. In recent years, new developments in this area have greatly expanded the possibility of using batteries in automobiles. High capacity and durability make Li-Ion and Ni-MH power supplies fully suitable for use in hybrid vehicles.

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