Everyone knows that our automotive way of life has had a massive impact on the environment. Better public transportation, getting more people on bicycles, and carpooling and car-sharing all have their place in making the world a greener place, but the transition to a green utopia where we’re whisked through tubes and dropped delicately at our destinations without emitting a single molecule of CO2 isn’t going to happen overnight. For now, most of us need (and many of us love) our cars – not to mention the open road and all that is good about driving.
Hybrid cars are, of course, playing a large part in the current era of the green transportation revolution. In the past decade, they’ve gone from avant-garde curiosities to mainstream objects seen in parking lots everywhere. Most people associate the term “hybrid” with better gas mileage and lower emissions. And while it’s true that most hybrids are better for the environment than their traditional counterparts, not all hybrid vehicles function exactly the same way. In this guide for How to Go Green, we take a look at how different hybrid vehicles work, provide tips for buying a new hybrid car, and even show you how you can drive a little greener.
Understanding the Different Types of Hybrid Cars
By definition, a hybrid vehicle uses more than one source of power to move around. Currently, all commercially available hybrid cars are gasoline-electric hybrids. But there are different types of hybrid cars – ;full, assist, and mild hybrids – that work in different ways to achieve various goals with varying environmental benefits and effects. Key differences between varieties of hybrids are defined by the differences in their drivetrains; there are also cost differences between the different systems. Following is a primer that will bring up to speed.
Full Hybrids / Strong Hybrids
The defining characteristic of these cars is that they can run on either just the gasoline engine, or just the electric motor. They can also run on a combination of both. Examples of full hybrids are the Toyota Prius, Ford Escape Hybrid, and Nissan Altima Hybrid
Assist Hybrids / Power Assist Hybrids
These cannot run on the electric motor alone. The electric motor is used as a way to “boost” the gasoline engine, as well as to allow regenerative braking and stop-start capabilities. Examples of assist hybrids: Honda Civic Hybrid, Saturn Aura Hybrid.
Mild Hybrids have drivetrains similar to regular cars, with beefed up starter motors that allow them to turn off the engine to save gas (while stopped at a red light, for example) and to restart the engine very quickly when needed. An example of mild hybrid is the Chevy Silverado Hybrid.