We explain how an electric hybrid car works. Uses two types of energy and is also able to recover the one that is wasted. As it does?

How an electric hybrid or HEV car works

How a hybrid car works

To understand how a hybrid car works you have to have one thing clear: conventional vehicles waste a lot of energy when traveling. It does not matter how much an engine is tuned or how much aerodynamics is perfected. A large part will always be wasted because the laws of physics do not forgive.

To solve, or rather, to minimize this problem , hybrid cars were conceived. Especially hybrid electric vehicles. Because, although other cars also move through two sources of energy (see those that use gasoline and LPG), not all are able to recover that energy before it is lost. It is easy to realize that no burned fuel can be rescued again . However, this does not happen if the energy used is electricity. This is where the magic of electric hybrid vehicles or HEV resides. But there's more.

Components of a hybrid

Like any other car of the lifetime, a hybrid also has a heat engine. Most are gasoline, but there are also diesel like those presented by Mercedes a few months ago. That's why it has a fuel tank (which is usually smaller), a gearbox and all the typical components, except in some cases the 12V battery.

 Electric and thermal motor of a hybrid car

Motor or electric motors

For a hybrid car to win its name, it must have another method to boost itself. In this case it is an electric motor that complements the aforementioned heat engine . It can be coupled in the gearbox, on the axles or directly on the wheels, like those created by Protean, which were introduced earlier this year.

There are many types, but the engine Synchronous permanent magnets is the most used in hybrid cars. It has the advantage of being able to the engine and generator function at the same time. That is, it can convert electricity into kinetic energy and that movement again into electricity. In this way they save having to install another component that would only add more weight to the car.


Other party important for a hybrid car to save fuel. The more capacity it has , the electric motor can help the thermal . Its capacity is not very large in normal hybrids. Because they only require energy to operate at low speed and support certain accelerations. For example, the current Toyota Prius has a usable capacity of 1.3 kWh and that of the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid or the Kia Niro HEV of 1.5 kWh.

 hybrid car

This capacity increases if it is a plug-in hybrid . Since its objective extends to operate in electric mode at more speed and to have more autonomy. For example, the Mini Countryman has a capacity of 7.7 kWh and that of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV reaches up to 13.8 kWh.


This element is essential for everything to work in a hybrid. Many electric motors operate with alternating current , while the battery delivers DC power . This is where the investor does his work so that both components are compatible . It converts one current into another, and not only in one direction.That is why the investor is also in charge of transforming the necessary electricity to work. These are usually the air conditioning , the multimedia equipment , etc.

Difference between alternating current and direct current:

Alternating current (AC)

In it the electrons advance and recede along the cable with a certain frequency . Put another way: it is a current that changes the direction of the flow of electrons and therefore does not have a defined polarity. First positive, then negative and so on.

Direct current (CC)

It is the most intuitive. The electrons move along the wire always in the same direction, as in a river. Said in a more technical way: it is a current whose value does not change within the normal parameters. Hence, it is the most appropriate to store. It would not make sense to put electrons in a battery and then take them out, which is what would happen with alternating current.

Knowing this, you may wonder : why not always use motors DC? Would not the compatibility problem be eliminated? The causes are several, but mainly because AC motors are cheaper to manufacture and work better for long periods of time. That's why they are used more frequently in industry.

Energy recovery systems

Hybridization is a technology in which many brands are working on continuously. That's why every time there are more ways to recover the energy of a car. Among all of them there are two that perfectly illustrate the efforts that have been made to get to take advantage of each watt before it is lost :

Regenerative braking

As we mentioned before, an electric motor can work as a electricity generator . That is the property on which regenerative braking is based. When the driver brakes, not only the conventional brakes located on the wheels act, but the engine itself brakes the car "absorbing" that kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost .

There are hybrids of many brands, but the operation of this braking is always the same. When the driver brakes gently, the brakes of the wheels do not even come into action, it is the engine that brakes the car with the help or not of an extra gear that increases the charged energy and slows down the car more. If the driver presses the brakes harder, the brakes of the wheels also come into action as in any other car.

How an electric hybrid or HEV car works

Exhaust heat recovery system

This is a system that collects the heat that will be expelled by the exhaust , to keep the engine coolant always at the perfect temperature to work efficiently. What is nothing other than taking advantage of part of the energy of the fuel that is lost in the form of temperature.

This system solves a typical problem of cars that tend to work for some time with the heat engine off . If they did not have this system, the engine would have to work more cold than desirable . With the consequent increase in consumption and greater wear of your parts.

Management system

Once you have all the components physical to use fuel and electricity , you only need a computer that decides when to use one and when another .The variables are many, but there are a number of situations in which they are programmed to work, as long as there is enough charge in the battery. These are in the start-ups , in the moments that go to low speed and in the accelerations . Except in sports cars, your goal will always be savings, so if we accelerate it will not seek to give more power, but that the heat engine works less .

New technologies to reduce consumption

The more information the computer has, the better it will manage the energy it has available. Some current systems are able to integrate 3D browser data ​​strong>, to save more amount of electricity. For example, if you are going to go down a large mountain pass in which you can load most of the battery, the system will spend all you have before reaching it.

Del In the same way, you can use that data on the journey to accumulate as much electricity as you can before reaching a large rise in which you will need it. In both cases you will save more fuel than if you did not have that information. Since is preparing for what is to come .

Microhybridization VS. the conventional hybrids

Do not confuse the microhybrid cars with the hybrids that are described in this article. There are some that use 48v electrical systems and some small batteries to help the combustion engine in some occasions. But these cars do not have the ability to move only with electricity and therefore can not benefit from the ECO environmental label. A good example of this type of car is the Hyundai Tucson 2019 2.0 CRDi 48v that we tested a few weeks ago.

If you want to know more about this type of cars strong>, do not miss items such as: The most sold electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars in Spain o Global sales of plug-in electric and hybrid cars soar in 2017. It may interest you
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