Hybrid and electric cars have started emerging as automobile makers have finally started taking the fossil fuel and global warming concerns seriously. The scope of such cars in India is huge provided car makers can sell them at a nominal price. Tesla owner Elon Musk has already embarked on a mission to create clean pollution free automobiles that only rely on electricity for power and is also creating one of the world’s biggest electric car-making plant called the Gigafactory.

There have been cars like the Toyota Prius and the all-electric Reva selling in the country for a while now, but neither of them have gained popularity – for being too expensive or too tiny. Hybrids, for that matter, are slowly gaining attention as Maruti Suzuki has launched the Ciaz diesel-hybrid which ranges from Rs 8-11 lakhs, which isn’t that bad. Hyundai is also expected to bring in its own plug-in hybrid car Ioniq, by the year 2017.

Not to be confused with an electric car, hybrids basically have more than one source of energy onboard to achieve the force that is required to drive them. In simple terms, a hybrid car is one that has a traditional gasoline-based engine with a fuel tank combined with special electronic components. These electric bits conserve and utilise the energy that normally goes to waste in standard cars. Some of the important components that make a car hybrid include:

  • Motor-generator: This is more of a simple electric motor that provides a bit of extra power when you are driving the car. The motor runs on electricity which is drawn from the battery.
  • Auto stop and start: There usually isn’t an ignition motor since the motor-generator takes over that job. In a hybrid, the engine shuts down when you stop the car, say at a traffic signal, and automatically restarts thanks to the electric motor. This helps in improving the fuel efficiency.
  • Brake-energy conservation: Probably the most important and interesting feature of the motor-generator is how it can absorb and conserve the energy gained from the vehicle’s momentum when it slows down. While a traditional car loses all of the excess momentum in the form of friction and heat, regenerative braking transfers this energy into the battery.
  • Plug-in hybrids: These are hybrids cars that can be plugged into an electric outlet to recharge their batteries, as well as being charged on the move.

Image: ToyotaImage: Toyota

In comparison, an all electric vehicle does have a traditional engine that requires petrol or diesel. There are motors that drive the wheels which are powered by rechargeable batteries fitted inside the car. These batteries not only have to power the motors, but also have the job to power the different components in the car. While these are more cleaner, they are required to be charged for long periods and offer a limited range per charge.

More than the electric, hybrids are going to be very important for the Indian market in the coming years. One of the main reasons is to reduce pollution. Metro cities in the country produce high amounts of vehicular pollution.

Earlier this year the Delhi state government experimented with an odd-even car rule wherein car owners that had an odd number at the end of their licence plates were allowed to drive on the dates with odd number. Similarly on even dates, car owners with an even number at the end of their licence plates were allowed to drive in the city. More than reducing pollution, it resulted in utter chaos. Instead of having hit and trial methods, the government should probably invest more in promoting hybrid cars and maybe provide a subsidy for consumers who opt for them.

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