Hybrid Engines Simplified

If the number of developments in eco-friendly technology—including renewable energy, energy efficiency, and material sustainability; not to mention all the innovations being done in the grassroots level—is anything to go by, then it’s not too farfetched to say that the world is knocking on the door of another green revolution. The automotive industry is no exception, and if you look at our feature on the Department of Energy-Petron Euro 4 Fuel Eco Run, you’ll see that today’s cars are guzzling less fuel while travelling much, much further than their predecessors.

Hybrid engines further improve the mileage per liter of gas. How? Read on for a general idea of how they work.

Two Engines, One Car
A hybrid engine, as the name implies, is a mishmash of two existing technologies—the conventional internal combustion powerplant and an electric one. The former usually comes in a small displacement; while the latter features an electric motor, batteries, and a generator. Both are attached to a power-split transmission which allows either one of the engines to power the wheels, as well as allows the two engines to work in tandem.

When Stopped and At Low Speeds
The electric engine is used to run the car from a standstill up to low speeds as it is efficient enough to produce high torque to pull the car at low RPMs using battery power. Low RPMs mean the engine isn’t working as hard, and when the engine isn’t being pushed, it’s using less energy. This makes it perfect for city driving conditions where stop and go traffic is the norm. As an added bonus for you and pedestrians, electric engines produce no smoke.
When stopped, no engines are engaged. Only the battery is used to power the car’s auxiliary systems such as lights and air conditioning.

When Accelerating and At High Speeds
As the car reaches a certain speed, the combustion engine joins the electric motor in providing power to the wheels. This tandem is made possible by the power-split transmission which marries their torques together. The combustion engine also powers the generator, charging the battery in the process, thereby keeping the electric motor fed.

Regenerative Braking
Braking is a good way to ruin fuel economy since a regular car just loses its momentum and gains nothing but heat in its brake pads. However, that’s not the case with hybrid engines. When the driver hits the brakes or takes his feet off of the accelerator, both its engines disengage and then the spinning wheels turn the generator to provide electricity for the battery.

Of course, the whole process is much more complicated than the explanation above, but this piece does give you an idea of why more and more people are making the switch to hybrid cars. They may not be rocking it in the horsepower department yet, but they do lead the way in saving Mother Earth.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE July 2016 issue

Words by Chris Noel Hidalgo

Art by Juan Miguel Afable