Getting To Know Green Hybrid Cars

Since the introduction of the Toyota Prius near the turn of the millennium, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have generated considerable buzz for their fuel efficiency. But how do HEV’s work, exactly? How will they continue to evolve? And if you’re in the market for one, what do you need to know?

Toyota Prius

image via Toyota

Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technology

Today’s HEV’s contain an internal combustion engine, like conventional vehicles. But they’re also equipped with something else: an electric motor energized by a battery, which produces power not through the controlled explosion caused by the ignition of gasoline, but through a chemical reaction. This battery is continuously recharged by a generator that – like the alternator of a conventional car – is driven by the internal combustion engine. 

In most hybrid vehicles, a regenerative braking system captures energy that would otherwise be dissipated in the act of deceleration. This energy is then stored in the battery and converted to electricity to help propel the vehicle, which increases its overall efficiency. There are also plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs) that allow users to get more miles out of the electric battery by plugging in, via a regular wall-socket or an electric vehicle charging station. 

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.