Understanding Hybrid Technology

We all wonder how hybrid technology ‘actually’ works. But it’s easier to get into a hybrid vehicle than you think! With that in mind, let’s dive a little deeper into what makes this technology so interesting.

What is the difference between a gas vehicle and a hybrid vehicle? 
You may be surprised to learn that just like “conventional” gasoline cars, hybrid cars and SUVs also use an internal combustion engine that can be fueled up at your local gas station.

The combustion engine of a hybrid vehicle works exactly as it would in a gas vehicle. Fuel is injected through the combustion chamber into the engine, where it is combined with air. Finally, the air/fuel mixture is ignited by the spark plug, creating power for the vehicle.

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The main difference in a hybrid car and SUV is that in addition to an internal combustion engine, these vehicles also have an electric motor and a battery as a power source. Hybrid technology optimizes the vehicle’s systems to use a combination of electric and gas power while you’re driving. So depending on which mode you’re in, you can use much less fuel and spend less money on gas overall!

Toyota has different types of hybrid cars and hybrid SUVs’, the common ones being the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

By substituting grid electricity for gasoline, PHEVs, like the Toyota RAV4 Prime cut down on fuel consumption and are that much better for the environment.  However, there are also many different fuel efficient hybrid cars and SUVs across different segments of Toyota’s line-up that don’t need to be plugged in.

You may be surprised to hear that it’s not necessary to plug-in a hybrid vehicle in order to charge its battery.  Due to a process called “regenerative braking”, which uses recycled energy captured from braking to recharge a hybrid vehicle’s electric battery. The latest Toyota Venza as one example uses regenerative braking to charge its battery on the go.

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Meanwhile, PHEVs like the Toyota RAV4 Prime and Toyota Prius Prime have the option of being recharged by plugging in to a 120-volt household outlet. Similar to standard hybrids (HEVs), PHEVs also have hybrid vehicle mode which blends power from the gasoline engine and hybrid battery.

Give it a brake…literally! We already mentioned that hybrid car batteries charge through regenerative braking. More specifically, the energy generated from the rotating wheels while braking is transferred back to the battery pack.

By capturing some of the leftover energy the vehicle produces when braking, hybrid technology turns this extra energy into electricity and then stores it in the battery.

Regenerative braking works best when hybrid vehicles are in stop-and-go traffic – think rush hour on the highway or a slow moving school zone while dropping the kids off in a Highlander Hybrid or the new Sienna Hybrid.

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When you’re braking often, more energy is produced on a regular basis and the electric battery will have ample energy to recharge itself. Being able to rely on the electric motor means that you’re not using as much fuel – reducing emissions and increasing savings on gas.

So let’s recap, shall we? 
Hybrid vehicles combine the benefits of gas engines and electric motors to offer improved fuel efficiency. Using methods such as regenerative braking, hybrid batteries recharge themselves and do not need to be plugged in.

Rest assured, there will also be no change in driving or fueling behavior (unless you’re looking for extended electric-only driving range – where the Toyota’s RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid SUV or the Prius Prime might be perfect for you)!

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Hopefully we’ve helped debunk the mysteries of hybrid technology and it’s not all so intimidating and futuristic anymore. If you’re interested in learning more about which Toyota hybrid vehicle is right for you, come explore more about Toyota’s Electrified models.

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