How Do Different Hybrid Systems Work?


Over the years, the demand for hybrid cars has been slowly rising and at this point of time most major car manufacturers have at least one hybrid model in their line-up. If you are in the market for one, it is important to understand the different types of hybrid systems available and how they work before you put your money down.

We are not going to go very deep into the technical aspects of each hybrid type. This guide is aimed to offer a potential hybrid owner, a basic understanding of the main types of hybrids. Generally hybrid vehicles can be classified into four different types – full, mild, micro and plug-in hybrids.


Full/ True Hybrids

As the name suggests, full, or true, hybrid models perform their tasks more conventionally as opposed to other vehicles. A full hybrid vehicle is even capable of moving on electric power alone for a short distance. As a result, a full hybrid model drives smoother in stop and go traffic, as the shifts between petrol and electric power are barely noticeable.

The downside to this technology is that it’s complicated and expensive to produce, therefore full hybrid models demand higher prices than others. Examples of full hybrid models include the Audi A6 Hybrid, Toyota Prius and recently updated Prius c, all of which can get moving with electric power alone.


Mild Hybrids

The electric motors in mild hybrids only aid the internal combustion engine rather than acting as an independent power source to get the car moving. What this means is that the petrol/diesel engine are still the main energy source, thus the fuel savings are less compared to a full hybrid.

The driving experience in a mild hybrid car will also be less smooth due to the fact that the internal combustion engine needs to be started in order for the car to move off the line. The benefit here is that, mild hybrid models are less expensive to build, therefore they are more affordable. Examples of mild hybrids include the Honda CR-Z, Honda Jazz/Fit Hybrid and also the Ferrari LaFerrari hypercar.

Important thing to note here is that in some rare scenarios, it is possible for a mild hybrid vehicle to glide along solely on electric power for a very short period. This only happens when the car has reached enough speed on an even flat road.


Technically speaking, a micro-hybrid cannot be classified as a hybrid vehicle, as the electric motor does not provide any force to move the car, but do have some traits of full on hybrid vehicles.

For example, these type of vehicles come with features like energy regeneration, which recoups energy that would be wasted when a driver decelerates or brakes and automatic start stop system that shuts the engine down when idling in traffic, which can cut down fuel consumption by up to 10 percent.

Micro hybrids are not as efficient as mild or full hybrids, but the upside is that the features in micro hybrid vehicles are cheaper, less sophisticated and easier to apply, thus making them more affordable. Therefore micro hybrids are not heavy as they do not have ‘traction batteries’ like a Prius. BMW Efficient Dynamics models and the Nissan Serena S-Hybrid are examples of micro hybrid vehicles.


Plug-In Hybrids

Plug-in hybrid vehicles have shown in a big way that they present an even more effective way of driving hybrid – combining the best of both worlds of zero emissions full electric vehicles, and a full or true hybrid.

Plug-in hybrids have the option of being charged via a wall socket, and typically pack a much more powerful traction battery than a full hybrid. And just like a full hybrid, they can also operate purely on electric power, via their internal combustion engines, or by combining the two.

Vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class S 500 Plug-in Hybrid offer a full electric driving range of 33km, but can along the way fire up its petrol engine to charge the batteries back up, or take over driving duties completely. On short-distance trips (i.e.: to work), you can rely on never using a single drop of fuel. On longer journeys, you can enjoy fuel consumption averages near the claimed 2.8-litres/100km mark.

The intention of a hybrid is to lower your fuel consumption, while also being more eco-friendly. Purchasing a hybrid vehicle may cost you more than a regular car at first, but in the long-run you will save a significant amount of money on fuel. We hope this article helped you understand how different types of hybrid systems work.

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