What Are Some Different Types of Hybrid Cars? Definition, Meaning and Concept

There are many different types of hybrid cars, but the most common definition for a hybrid car involves a vehicle that uses a combination of gasoline and electricity to operate. As a more general definition, a hybrid car is any type of car that uses more than one source of energy to move the vehicle. Vehicle manufacturers are testing a variety of cutting-edge ideas and designs with hybrid vehicles.

In general, vehicle manufacturers promote their hybrid cars as green. Hybrid cars generally offer better fuel economy than a standard gasoline-powered vehicle, and by using less gasoline, these hybrid cars don't create as many harmful emissions when traveling the same distance as a gasoline-powered vehicle. Plus, when they run on electricity instead of gasoline, hybrid cars have no emissions, making them a good choice for protecting the environment. However, there are some questions about whether hybrid car batteries will cause significant long-term damage to the environment.

Several of the world's leading vehicle manufacturers already make or are designing some type of hybrid car for consumers. Most of these vehicles contain the word "hybrid" in the vehicle name. For example, Toyota, Honda, Ford, and GM have made hybrid cars in recent years. The Toyota Prius Hybrid was the first hybrid vehicle commonly produced for consumers. It was sold in Japan from 1997 and worldwide from 2001.

Most of these consumer-level hybrid cars consist of a similar design, where a gasoline engine powers the vehicle most of the time. However, when the driver applies the vehicle's brakes, the hybrid vehicle collects the power generated by braking friction, called regenerative braking, and stores the power in a series of batteries. Under certain driving conditions, the hybrid vehicle turns off the gasoline engine and runs on electrical energy stored in the batteries. At other times, the vehicle will use both power sources simultaneously. These types of hybrid cars try to maximize fuel consumption by determining how to propel the vehicle.

Another type of hybrid vehicle, initially proposed by GM, would only contain an electric motor. A driver could plug the vehicle into a power outlet, storing electrical energy in a series of batteries. This type of hybrid car engine would run on electric power for as long as possible. When electrical power runs out, the vehicle would use a small gas generator to create electricity to continue powering the engine.

Beyond those popular types of hybrid cars made for consumers, there are a few other types of non-consumer hybrid vehicles that are already in use. For example, some trolleybuses in large cities can alternate between running a diesel engine and using power from an overhead power line. Another type of bus can operate from two different fuel sources, such as gasoline and natural gas. This type of bus uses two different fuel systems to prepare fuel for a single engine. Some other hybrid cars use a mixture of gasoline and compressed air to propel the vehicle.