Following the stricter criteria regarding the allowed emission levels of cars it is only logical for manufacturers to try out methods that would allow to decrease fuel consumption, emission output and decrease the environmental toll of cars altogether. Due to the named reasons, is the development and employment of electric vehicles into everyday traffic so tempting.
But did you know, that this topic is not only black and white? Electric engines against combustion engines? To attain the best advantages of the two worlds and thus minimizing disadvantages of using solely one kind of engine, manufacturers started to combine electric, gasoline and (in some rare cases) diesel powertrains.
Let us guide you through multiple types of these cars. Some of them more subtle or already numerous that you could hope for.
These are most usually abbreviated as EV or BEV (electric vehicle or battery electric vehicle). It is powered purely by electricity and thus is reliant on recharging stations.
Next to the much lower cost of usage (especially when we take into account, that we do not need to change oil, filters or other parts as in the case of combustion engines) are the gas emissions non existing. Some EV models tend to have so much torque that they can easily outclass even some high power sport cars - like it is the case with Tesla. The location of batteries in the most lower part of chassis contributes to low centre of gravity, thus minimising body roll in the corners or even the risk of the car overturning during an accident.
Of course - this power concept is not without it’s flaws, some of them more grave than the others. Main argument against EVs is mostly low charge/distance ratio - which is more than often not capable of intercity travel. In some cases this is mitigated by adding an auxiliary generator running on gasoline, which will charge the battery in critical situations.
Other major problems include long battery charging (partially mitigated by quick charging technologies), unstable battery charge, especially in colder climates. These cars also need to drain energy from batteries to heat up interior or power up other electronic devices - including the dashboard.
Next to these disadvantages are EVs gaining more popularity and their sales are sometimes even funded by government. Modern parking lots are installing more and more charging stations to accommodate EVs.
It is more than likely that most of these problems will be solved in the future. Until then, there are other options that can be used as an alternative.
These cars are the pure middle ground in terms of balance between electric motor and combustion engine principles. In short – these cars have both engines, that work both in tandem to deliver optimal power, sometimes with only one of them running. They are usually abbreviated as HEV (hybrid electric vehicle)
As an example – you are going up a hill. You accelerate more to keep your momentum. In this scenario the combustion engine will keep its original power output, but the electric engine will add power to conserve fuel. By going downhill the battery will be charged and the combustion engine will go into low power mode or will turn off altogether.
Another example – you are driving between towns. You will accelerate via the conventional engine. At this point, the battery will be most likely fully charged and the electric motor will take care of keeping the momentum. This will happen until there is not enough charge in the batteries or there is a higher acceleration demand. In this case, the electric motor will turn off and the car will be powered by the conventional combustion engine (and simultaneously charge the battery).
This system improves gas consumption and extends reach, even by a few hundred kilometers - and at the same will lower emissions. At the same time, it is very comfortable to handle if you were used to standard combustion engine - all you have to do is fill up the tank and car computer will take care of the rest.
Next to the obvious advantages, there are disadvantages because of which this system is not widely used. In this case the most problematic part of owning a hybrid is the complexity of the system and significant added weight of car (as we are combining two kinds of independent powertrains into one car). In layman terms, this means that hybrids are very costly maintenance wise and even then only in specialised shops.
Next to the mentioned hybrids - there is only a little difference in the principle of operation, but a much bigger difference in the principle of charging. These vehicles, commonly tagged as PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid electric vehicle) make up an individual category, splitting from common hybrids.
The main difference? Battery capacity, is much, much bigger. So big, that charging it via combustion engine is insufficient and needs to be charged via a cable (like in the case of pure electric vehicles). This capacity all alone covers about 50-80 kilometres of pure electric range. Combustion engine works here as the secondary engine and turns on only when a much higher power output is needed or battery is almost drained. After that the car works similarly to the standard hybrid.
By conventional plug-in hybrids the power output is optimized to have the highest possible mileage and conserve power/gas but in some cases it is used to raise the power of car. This forms a subcategory of plug-in hybrids called performance hybrids. In this category we can find cars like Ferrari LaFerrari, Koenigsegg Regera or Porsche 918 Spyder, which can be easily classified as hypersports - some of them being the fastest in the world at this moment.
Plug-In hybrids offer advantages regarding power output, mileage and energy conservation. Even though they include all the disadvantages of the standard hybrids with the added need to monitor gas and charge levels simultaneously, we can only say that it is a step forward.
It is also worth mentioning, that charging the car is not mandatory and will work as a standard hybrid (albeit with a much higher gas consumption).
These cars are more like conventional combustion engine cars but with a subtle difference. If you have a newer car, there is a chance that it is a Mild Hybrid (BAHV – Battery assisted hybrid vehicles), without you even knowing. The vehicle only needs brake energy regeneration technology and there is a chance that this regenerated energy is used to power up the wheels.
Electric motors are significantly smaller and they alone are not sufficient to push the car forward. On the other hand, they are conserving vehicle weight as they are replacing a standard starter and alternator in car. This meaning, that weight difference is negligible.
The car works as a standard combustion engine car, but the electric motor smartly adds torque when needed. So when you are accelerating from a standstill or slowly cruising on a car lot (when gas consumption is at its peak), the electric motor comes into play and adds power to the engine - thus lowering gas consumption.
Because the electric motor is substituting a conventional starter, this system assists start-stop system in such a way that it allows extremely quick repeated engine ignitions.
Battery charging works while driving as you normally would, but the engine is being powered down when you are decelerating and during this moment it recuperates electric energy or vice versa - spends it to keep the car momentum.
This system significantly helps even in the case of heavy SUVs to keep gas consumption low. If you combine this system with an added turbo, even three liter engines as in the case of Audi Q8 have a surprisingly low gas consumption with power being the reference. As a bonus - the car keeps the dynamic of a standard combustion engine car without you even knowing, that there is an electric engine operation in the background.
You can rent Audi Q8 with mild hybrid system from Car Rental company RAI Internacional. If you are thinking about buying a car with an electric or hybrid powertrain system, we are recommending renting and testing it first. Technology is pushing us forward and maybe on of these systems will be the next standard. Try it out today and find out how we will drive in the near future.
12. Aug 2019 at 6:00