How Hybrid Cars Work

Gasoline Power vs. Electric Power

The gasoline-electric hybrid car is just what it sounds like -- a cross between a gasoline-powered car and an electric car. Let's start with a few diagrams to explain the differences between a gasoline-powered car and a typical electric car.

A gas-powered car has a fuel tank, which supplies gasoline to the engine. The engine then turns a transmission, which turns the wheels.

Gasoline-powered car
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An electric car, on the other hand, has a set of batteries that provides electricity to an electric motor. The motor turns a transmission, and the transmission turns the wheels.

Electric car
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The hybrid is a compromise. It attempts to significantly increase the mileage and reduce the emissions of a gas-powered car while overcoming the shortcomings of an electric car.

To be useful to you or me, a car must meet certain minimum requirements. The car should be able to:

  • Drive at least 300 miles (482 km) before re-fueling
  • Be refueled quickly and easily
  • Keep up with the other traffic on the road

A gasoline car meets these requirements but produces a relatively large amount of pollution and generally gets poor gas mileage. An electric car, however, produces almost no pollution, but it can only go 50 to 100 miles (80 to 161 km) between charges. And the problem has been that the electric car is very slow and inconvenient to recharge.

A gasoline-electric car combines these two setups into one system that leverages both gas power and electric power.