Drivers who want to make a smaller environmental impact are beginning to realize that driving a fuel-efficient car is also a financially-savvy move. And while some European cities are beginning to ban old gas and diesel cars from the inner circles, it seems that manufacturers and consumers are not yet ready to give up on traditional drivetrains. What are the choices for today’s consumer and how do hybrids and full-electric cars fare against the latest high-efficiency gas cars?
The simplest and most cost-effective way of putting electric drivetrain components into an internal combustion engine (ICE), a mild hybrid’s main gas engine shuts itself entirely under no-load conditions, such as coasting down the hill or coming to a stop. The automation systems of cars like Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Mercedes-Benz CLS450 or AMG CLS53, and Ram 1500 allow their main engine to restart almost instantaneously, powering the secondary car systems such as the car sound system or AC. Some mild hybrid cars feature regenerative braking or power-assist to the ICE, but are unable to run solely on electric power. A hybrid drivetrain can power many of the car’s electrical systems, while saving fuel during idle. In addition, mild hybrids weigh less than other electric vehicles, are less expensive and simpler to maintain. On the downside, they lack the full-electric mode and are still outmatched by gas cars price-wise.
Also known as power-split or parallel hybrids, they are what most drivers think of when speaking of hybrid cars. They use downsized ICE to provide power at higher speeds and higher load conditions, and an electric battery system for cruising and low-load conditions. This means that the ICE works in the ideal efficiency range, providing amazing fuel economy, especially in congested urban driving. However, for the long journeys, there’s still a capable gas-powered ICE, so cars like Honda Insight, Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, and Toyota Prius offer a good compromise between efficiency, usability, and the overall cost. However, like mild hybrids, these cars still cost more than purely ICE-powered vehicles, while their power output is often a compromise for efficiency.
The next logical step in the hybrid system design, plug-in hybrids come the closest to full-electric cars, as they are able to run longer distances on electric power alone. The plug-in part of their name comes from their ability to be plugged into an electric car charging station, rather than just using the ICE and regenerative braking to recharge their batteries. This effectively eliminates the range anxiety. Another distinction that separates models like BMW 530e, Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, and Volvo XC60 T8 from their mild hybrid and series hybrid counterparts is the larger size of their battery pack which enables them extended range on electricity.
Plug-ins are less expensive than full-electric cars, while having lower running costs compared to series hybrids; however, they’re still the most expensive hybrid variant, while their larger batteries mean more weight for the road.
Internal combustion engine
The car motor as we’ve known it for the whole century is technically called the internal combustion engine. Whether in a gasoline or diesel variant, it involves burning a liquid fossil fuel inside its cylinder, which moves the pistons, which translates into torque over the camshafts. The problem with ICE engines is that they run on fossil fuels which are a finite resource, and contribute to air pollution with vehicle emissions, especially in urban hubs. However, the technology still remains the core of any hybrid system, while automotive names like Ford and Volkswagen are competing to produce high-efficiency models, since ICE-powered cars are still the best option both purchase- and maintenance-wise.
This situation largely benefits the buyers, as now you can find even a new SUV with an immensely efficient EcoBoost engine. With variable camshaft timing and lightweight design, these drivetrains are still packed with features like direct injection and turbocharging, for plenty of power and olden days’ road joy.
Just as their name says, these cars feature a big battery with at least one electric drive motor connected to it. The advent of these cars has been postponed by the development of highly complex software systems that manage thousands of individual cells that the battery is made of.
On the mechanical side, full-electric vehicles are the least complicated, if you consider that even the simplest ICE engine has hundreds of moving parts, while the electric motor only has its rotor. Still, it seems that purely electric vehicles are finally here to stay, thanks to the innovations from companies like Tesla, and supported by the industry giants like BMW, GM and Nissan. No one can dispute their mechanical simplicity, tons of instant torque that comes with DC motors, nearly silent operation, and lack of emissions. However, the owners of all-electric cars still experience logistical problems such as the limited range, long charging times and still-developing infrastructure of charging hubs.
As more owners become environmentally conscious, eco-friendly vehicles have begun taking the stage as an attractive alternative to gas-powered cars. However, for many buyers, a highly-effective, low-emission gas-powered car is still the most viable choice.
Lucas Bergman is a real estate agent and renewable energy consultant with many hobbies and passions, but above all, he enjoys the most spending time with his wife – Mara. He also likes Lord of the Rings. He, actually, very much likes Lord of the Rings. He is a regular contributor at smoothdecorator.com