Types of Hybrid Cars ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Types of Hybrid Cars

Monday, March 16, 2009

Types of Hybrid Cars

There are several different types of hybrid cars.  From mild to full hybrid engines; SUV, truck or car; small or large; luxury or basic; there are plenty of types to go around.

The Basics: Full v Mild Hybrid Types
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) are vehicles with two different engine types, a gas engine mated with an electric motor.  The basic types are further brokedn down by full v mild hybrids.  A full hybrid will be capable of moving the car by either the electric motor or by the gas motor.  In a mild, or assist, hybrid the electric motor is too small to move the car on its own.  Instead, it 'helps' the gas engine in high usage moments like acceleration or allows the gas motor to shut off when you bring the car to a stop.

Mild hybrids are cheaper to produce, mostly because they have smaller battery packs, but also because of their simplicity.  But you also get what you pay for.  Mild hybrid types like the Chevy Malibu Hybrid or Aura Hybrid only get a couple of mpgs more than their basic counterparts.  But it is an option, and has been pursued by GM.  Some analysts and hybrid enthusiasts do not consider mild hybrids to truly be hybrids at all.

Full hybrids like those from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Ford are capable of moving at low speeds on electric power alone.  The gas engine is used at higher speeds, but the electric motor may be assisting the gas motor even at higher speeds.  Also, they tend to come with Atkinson gas motors.  I won't go into the details, but this type of motor is more fuel efficient at higher speeds, but the electric motor compensates for the gas motors weaknesses.

Hybrid System Types
Toyota developed their own full hybrid system called Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) and the system can be found in all of their hybrids.  That includes the Prius, Camry and Highlander, as well as all of their Lexus models: RX 400h, GS 450h, and the LS 600h l.  Nissan has also installed the HSD into their Nissan Altima Hybrid until they have a chance to develop their own.  Toyota is on their third generation hybrid system, which premiers in the third generation Prius.

Honda has their own full hybrid system, called the Integrated Motor Assist.  It can be found in the old Insight, the Civic and Accord Hybrids.  A newer, simplified version can be found in the new Insight.

GM, BMW, and Chrysler pooled their resources and designed their own full hybrid system.  It's called dual mode (or 2-mode or two-mode).  The short-lived, they were only available for two months, Aspen and Durango Hybrids were built using the dual-mode hybrid system.  GM has built the new Tahoe and Yukon SUV hybrids with dual-mode hybrid engines, along with the Sierra and Silverado trucks.  The luxury Escalade Hybrid from Cadillac is also built with the dual-mode hybrid engine.  The first full hybrid from Saturn, the Vue, will also be getting the dual-mode motor.

GM also has their Belt Assisted System (BAS) which can be found in their mild hybrid line-up, the Malibu, Vue and Aura.

Ford has their own full hybrid system.  Although it shares many of the same qualities as the HSD, it was developed in house by Ford.  It can be found in the Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute Hybrid SUVs.  The updated version will be available in the upcoming Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids.

Hybrid Cars, Trucks and SUVs
Hybrids can be found in several different forms now.  There are cars, trucks and SUVs with hybrid motors with prices going from just under $20,000 to just over $100,000.  The old Insight was a two-seater with phenomenal fuel efficiency, while the latest hybrid trucks are capable of towing you recreational boats and plowing through the toughest winters.

Hybrid Cars:

  • Chevy Malibu
  • Ford Fusion
  • Honda Accord
  • Honda Civic
  • Honda Insight (old) two-seater
  • Honda Insight (new)
  • Lexus 600h l
  • Lexus GS 450h
  • Mercury Milan
  • Nissan Altima
  • Saturn Aura
  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Prius
Hybrid SUVs:
  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Chevy Tahoe
  • Chrysler Aspen
  • Dodge Durango
  • Ford Escape
  • GMC Yukon
  • Lexus RX 400h
  • Mazda Tribute
  • Mercury Mariner
  • Saturn Vue
  • Toyota Highlander
Hybrid Trucks
  • Chevy Silverado
  • GMC Sierra
Performance Hybrids v Fuel Efficient Hybrids
Most hybrids have been developed with fuel efficiency being the focus, but not all of them. Some, like the Fisker Karma, are not listed above, since they are not from the major car companies. But their was also the Honda Accord Hybrid, which got higher fuel efficiency, but its primary focus was how the electric motor could emphasize the power. Unfortunately for Honda, the power increase wasn't enough to offset the higher cost of the hybrid motor in the minds of customers. The Accord Hybrid was retired.

If you're interested in the fuel efficient hybrids, take a look at the most recent list of fuel efficient cars. That should give you a good idea, since hybrids appear all over that list.

Luxury Hybrid Types
Although you could easily argue that hybrid engines are a luxury item right now, there is a countervailing point of view.  Considering how often hybrids win 'best value' awards across auto makers, and you might have an argument on your hands.

But there are some hybrid vehicles that are definitely luxury vehicles.  The Cadillac Escalade, the Lexus line-up of hybrids, and even the Mercury Mariner and Mercury Milan can all be considered luxury vehicles.  Car makers tend to make hybrids into luxury vehicles because they feel they can hide the cost of the engine.  They should probably take a look at how popular the Prius and the new Insight are before they continue the practice, but given the mark-ups on these luxury cars, maybe they don't mind if they aren't as popular.

The Cadillac and Lexus hybrids are obvious candidates, while the Mercury line-up might be considered luxuries simply because you can buy the same vehicle as a Ford and pay less.  The hybrid GM trucks with their MSRP, might be considered luxury vehicles, along with the other GM SUV hybrids.

It's not so much the hybrid engine, but all the extras you get with these cars that make them a luxury type.

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