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A Greener Charlottesville: How Does a Hybrid Work?

By: Myles Henderson Email
By: Myles Henderson Email

The concept of hybrid vehicles is relatively new but is already making an impact within the automotive industry. But how do they work?

Hybrid has become another buzz word within the green movement but there are still a lot of question marks about hybrids. Do you plug them in? Do they use any gas at all? Let's take a closer look at the technology behind a hybrid.

A hybrid vehicle combines a gasoline engine with an electric motor that work together to conserve fuel. Fred Nelson, Internet Sales Manager at Battlefield Ford Jeep says, "The vehicle and its technology picks the time when to use just the electric motor and the battery or the gas engine and the electric motor to give you the response you want."

Now there are two types of hybrids, a mild-hybrid cannot run on electric power alone but uses the electric motor to assist the gasoline engine. A full-hybrid can operate on only electric power at low speeds and can proved an extra boost to the gas engine. Kip Rowe, General Manager of Colonial Auto Center says, "At lower speeds it will kick on and the car can run 100% on electric, then as the battery weakens or you need more power the gasoline engine will kick in."

The electric motor is powered by a Nickel Metal Hydride battery, similar to the ones in cell phones or laptops. The battery is charged by the gas engine or in the case of the Ford Escape by regenerative braking. Nelson says, "In the wheels there is a device that allows you to capture energy as your braking and recharge your battery. So your not losing energy."

When the electric motor and the gas engine work together it can produce horsepower similar to larger gas engines but the hybrids burn less fuel and reduce emissions. Nelson adds, "Perhaps one of the hardest parts about getting used to a full hybrid is the fact that your driving along and suddenly there is no noise."

There is no doubt that driving a hybrid is better for the environment than a traditional car but will buying a hybrid save you money? Tune in next Friday to Good Morning Charlottesville when we take a closer look at the gas mileage savings and compare it to the higher costs of hybrid technology.

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