Five Questions to Ask When Buying a Hybrid

By Chad Hall, @PowerHall_UCAPS

Over the past decade, the auto industry has seen an increase in the availability, acceptance, and ultimately, in the market share, of hybrid vehicles. Thanks to government mandates about emissions and fuel economy, and thanks to rising fuel costs, consumers are more interested in purchasing these vehicles and automakers understand the need to make them well.

To help consumers interested in buying a hybrid vehicle but who are not sure where to start, we’ve compiled five questions and answers that will explain everything you need to know. Now you can go buy that car, armed with this important knowledge that will help your selection process and give you confidence your purchase. If you have any questions about this technology that are not answered below, tweet me at @PowerHall_UCAPS.

Q: What are the different types of hybrids?
A: As you may remember from our recent blog post on automotive terms, there are nine different types of hybrid vehicles. Don’t let that number overwhelm you, though. Each has a specific functionality that is important for a particular purpose. For example, microhybrid vehicles employ technology that enables a modest reduction in CO2 emissions through a start-stop system.

Q: What are some new innovations in hybrid vehicles?
A: There are many! A few notable, more recent ones include: battery-swapping technology, the Electric Highway, and start-stop technology. All of these developments have resulted in hybrid vehicles that are easier to use by decreasing time spent charging fully electric vehicles and involve changes to cars’ technology that reduce emissions and conserve fuel in a non-disruptive way.

Q: How does an ultracapacitor work in a hybrid system?
A: Ultracapacitors are energy storage devices that last longer than batteries and are capable of performing at extreme ranges in temperature. When used in conjunction with a battery, ultracapacitors help batteries last longer and perform more efficiently. Vehicles are more reliable and more cost-effective when ultracapacitor technology is employed in a hybrid system.

Q: What are the drawbacks to hybrid technology?
A: There are three main drawbacks to hybrid technology: cost of purchase; limited driving range; and battery life. However, the cost to operate a hybrid is lower than for a non-hybrid vehicle, so consumers will make up the higher initial cost over time. Using ultracapacitors in hybrid systems can address the two other drawbacks to hybrid technology; batteries that are used in conjunction with ultracapacitors last longer and maintain fuel efficiency over the life of the vehicle.

Q: What’s next for hybrids? Does the technology have longevity?
A: The future of hybrid vehicles depends on three things: the educated consumer; government regulations; and innovative technology. Consumers need to recognize that while sold at a higher cost, hybrid vehicles are cheaper to operate in the long run. The government’s increasingly tough CAFE standards mandate that automakers continue to explore technologies that encourage fuel efficiency in a vehicle. In a rapidly growing market like the hybrid vehicle market, technology is constantly evolving, and automakers and other innovators will continue to research and develop technologies that will enhance the hybrid vehicle experience.

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    Inspired by Thomas Edison’s persistence and inventiveness, the Edison Awards are judged by a panel of more than 3,000 leading business executives, including past award winners, academics and leaders in the fields of product development, design and engineering. The judges recognize products as true innovations in their category.

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