According to www.whatcar.com, “A hybrid car is one that uses more than one means of propulsion – that means combining a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor.” So why use more than one type of motor when designing a performance vehicle? Isn’t one good enough? What can an electric motor do that a combustion engine can’t? These are the questions more traditionalist enthusiasts often find themselves asking. And questioning new technologies is never a bad thing. Afterall, thats the reason for this post isn’t it?
In a nutshell, electric motors can power a vehicle when combustion engines can’t, and vice versa…duh. Didn’t we already know that? Well even if we did, the world of hybrid supercars (and hypercars) is brilliantly more complex than just that.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in, or driving an all-electric vehicle, there’s something unique about the driving experience you may have noticed. The power from the electric motor is nearly instant. Meaning the moment your foot begins to press on the accelerator, your car begins moving. This isn’t really the case for combustion engines. The components that make up petrol and diesel powered motors don’t exactly move at light speed. Because of this, gas powered engines tend to experience a bit of lag between the time your foot presses on the accelerator and the moment your car actually begins moving. This is called “input lag”. When using a smaller, turbo-charged engine, this lag time gets even worse. Since turbo-chargers are powered by an engines exhaust, there must be a buildup of exhaust gas pressures to drive it’s turbine. (Okay we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Turbos are for another day!) Here is where we begin to see the advantages of a Hybrid car. By using an electric motor in addition to a combustion engine we can reduce that input lag time to almost zero.
So if electric motors can give a vehicle power almost instantly, why use petrol fueled engines at all? By now you may have guessed it. At higher RPM, combustion engines start to shine (or electric motors begin to fail, depending on how you look at it.) At a certain point, as an electric motor increases it’s RPM, the motors power can’t keep up. This is why electric vehicles are often referred to as Quicker, not Faster. To clarify, an electric vehicle might hit it’s top speed quicker than the average gas powered car, but, a gas powered car’s top speed may be faster…depending on the car. Again we see the advantage of having both a combustion engine and electric motor. As the electric powered motor helps the car accelerate, the combustion engine brings the car up to higher speeds. And there you have it!
Obviously this was a very brief overview on the topic. Electric motors provide other benefits when it comes to sending power to individual wheels, which helps in corners, and with fuel economy. Over the next few decades we’ll surely see further advancement in vehicle-related technologies and the ways in which those vehicles are powered. For now, the best thing we can do is sit back, and enjoy the ride!