Ok, so that long-haired, soy-latte-drinking guy at your local coffee shop is always talking about how amazing his hybrid car is, and he always seems to have a snide remark for your Ford F-250 Lmtd. Ed. King Ranch. You’ve grown to really loathe the little prick, and you derive no small source of pleasure from boxing his Prius into his parking space with your giant rig.
Unfortunately, with the ever-rising cost of gas, your monthly fuel bill is dangerously close to exceeding the federal deficit, and it’s beginning to outweigh your devotion to smiting the pretentious hybrid elitists. So you’ve decided you’ve got to make a change – fast – and although you hate to admit it, you’re beginning to wonder if maybe that little hybrid-humping freak isn’t on to something. You don’t know much about alternative-fuel vehicles, and you know that he’d probably be a lot of help in navigating through the hybrid market, but you’d rather suck the tailpipe on your truck then admit defeat to him.
Well fear not, oh emperor of emissions, because we here at RideLust have taken it upon ourselves to develop of glossary of sorts for the new hybrid technologies beginning to flood the market.
To begin, let us explain that the term “Hybrid” can be used to describe any vehicle that uses two or more power sources to provide propulsion. Although technically “hybrid” can apply to any type of alternative-fuel vehicle, the hybrids most commonly seen in today’s market are Hybrid Electric Vehicles [HEV], which are powered by at least one source of electrical energy and an Internal Combustion Engine [ICE]. HEVs are often broken up into 5 primary categories based on how much the electric motor contributes to the propulsion of the vehicle. The 5 main types of hybrids are as follows:
1. Dual-Mode or 2-Mode Hybrid – The type of hybrid used by both GM and Chrysler in their most recent contributions to the hybrid SUV market, a Dual-Mode Hybrid is a hybrid vehicle that is capable of functioning in two distinct ways. In Mode 1, vehicle operation is controlled entirely by the vehicle’s electric source of energy. Often times, in a 2-Mode Hybrid system the vehicle is programmed to remain in Mode 1 until the vehicle reaches a certain rate of speed [usually somewhere between 25 – 30 mph], at which time an automatic shift to Mode 2 occurs. In Mode 2, the vehicle’s electric motor[s] and ICE operate in tandem, fluctuating the amounts of each source of power used in response to each vehicle task [i.e.: acceleration, towing, etc.].
2. Full Hybrid – A Full Hybrid vehicle is one that can be independently operated by the electric motor, the ICE, or a combination of both. Occasionally, Full Hybrid vehicles are also referred to as “Parallel Hybrids” due to the fact that the electric motor and ICE are wired to parallel the same transmission. The rate of fuel savings on Full/Parallel Hybrids is usually somewhere between 50-56%, making full hybrid vehicles among the most fuel efficient of the HEV family.
3. Micro Hybrid – In a Micro Hybrid, no driving power comes from the electric motor at all; instead, energy generated from the electric motor is used to provide power to auxiliary functions. The electric motor also acts as a starter/generator that allows the ICE to stop and restart instantly to avoid idling while simultaneously enabling regenerative braking [the automatic recharging of the vehicle’s electric power source/battery]. Occasionally, a Micro Hybrid is also referred to as a Stop/Start Hybrid.
4. Mild Hybrid – In a Mild Hybrid vehicle, the electric motor provides supplementary torque to the ICE, often using functions such as Integrated Motor Assist [IMA] and Integrated Starter Alternator with Damping [ISAD]. Like the Micro Hybrid, however, the electric motor in a Mild Hybrid is never the sole source of driving power [although confusing, Mild Hybrids can also be referred to as Start/Stop Hybrids].
5. Series Hybrid/Serial Hybrid – The term “Series Hybrid” refers to a full-electric vehicle singularly propelled by its electric motor. Although Series Hybrids do receive support from a small ICE, rather than directly propel the vehicle, the fuel-burning engine drives an alternator that generates electricity. Once generated, the electricity is then delivered to either the electric motor for power, or to a battery for storage.
Of course, the most popular Full Hybrid on the market is the Toyota Prius, but other manufacturers are playing a quick game of catch-up. Ford currently produces a Full Hybrid Escape, but if that V6 engine isn’t powerful enough for you, Dodge is releasing the Durango HEMI Dual-Mode Hybrid V8 in the fall. Cadillac is also introducing a Dual-Mode Escalade Hybrid, and several other large-vehicle models like the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe are rapidly following suit. So there’s hope for the American SUV yet my friend, you just gotta hang in there.