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The Working Principles of Hybrid Cars

by Robert Alley

Hybrid cars, the combination of an electric and gasoline powered car, function based upon certain principles that govern their operation. All gasoline vehicles utilize a battery, and the hybrid is no different except for the type of battery and its purpose. While the gasoline car's battery starts the car and powers certain systems like the lights, the hybrid takes the principle of battery-powered to a higher level.

Battery Power

The principle of battery power to operate a car remains well-known and has been accepted for a long time. No one questions the battery in a gasoline car -- depending upon that battery to start the car, operate the interior and exterior lights, along with the radio, CD player and other accessories. Putting a more powerful battery in a car, one that could actually power the vehicle on the road, fits the principle of a battery-powered car. The hybrid takes the good points of a battery -- its ability to power the vehicle at low speeds over short distances -- and avoids the downside -- the lack of power for long distance and higher speeds. The gasoline half of the hybrid handles the latter issues.

Regenerative Braking

Equipped on most hybrid cars, regenerative braking takes lost energy and converts it to electricity. When a driver applies the brakes in any type of vehicle, the generation of heat, or energy, flows from that action. In the gasoline powered car, that heat energy vanishes, being discharged into the air. The hybrid car takes most of that energy and recycles it back to the battery. The electric motor accomplishes this feat by working as a generator during braking, capturing the heat energy, converting it to electricity and sending it to the battery -- in effect, recharging the battery.

Operation

The operating principles of a hybrid car revolve around the interaction between the two energy sources. According to TechnoBlitz, this principle involves a simple idea; when the hybrid is not moving, neither are either engines -- this includes the gasoline engine which shuts off when stopping at a red light, which saves energy. The start-up of the car depends upon the electric motor, and it continues to power the vehicle up to a certain speed, at which time the gasoline engine takes over operation. Anytime there exists a need for sudden acceleration the gasoline power is available, in addition to handling the power at extended high speeds. This continual interaction saves energy and occurs automatically.

About the Author

Robert Alley has been a freelance writer since 2008. He has covered a variety of subjects, including science and sports, for various websites. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from North Carolina State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina.

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Photo Credits

  • Detailansicht Hybrid Motor image by 3rdTwin from Fotolia.com