Hybrid cars use traditional gasoline engines and an alternative powerplant. The two types of hybrids that currently exist are electric hybrids and hydrogen hybrids. Electric hybrids use an electric motor as their alternative energy source. Hydrogen hybrids extract the element from water and add the hydrogen to the fuel-air mixture of the vehicle.
If hybrids have two engines or energy sources, it does raise the questions of how they are more efficient than normal vehicles and of how hybrid cars actually help the environment.
To answer these questions, it is important to understand that oil that is refined to produce gasoline is a limited natural resource. Also, carbon dioxide is produced when it is burned. More and more political pressure is being applied to allow drilling in protected areas so that new sources of oil can be found. Drilling in protected areas could create problems for the wildlife, some of which are protected species, in these areas.
Although hybrids still use gasoline, they typically achieve higher gas mileage than a traditional vehicle because of the secondary power source and the other technology that is installed on the vehicle. The average estimate is a five mpg improvement in fuel economy. This means that the oil that is currently available can last longer. In addition, hybrids reduce or at least delay the need to find new oil sources.
One way the improved fuel economy numbers are achieved is through stop/start technology that is fitted to the vehicle. A stop/start system allows the engine to be shut off when it is not needed, such as when the vehicle is stopped at a red light or the vehicle is coasting. The technology allows for the engine to be restarted quickly so that the driver does not experience any hesitation.
It is estimated that one-third of the carbon emissions in the United States are produced by vehicles. Although hybrids are usually heavier than a traditional vehicle, they do reduce the carbon dioxide emissions and therefore cause less air pollution. Often hybrids are equipped with regenerative braking systems that allow the energy that is normally wasted during the braking of the vehicle to be captured and stored so that it can be reused.
Hybrid vehicles usually also produce less noise pollution. Although it can be strange the first time it is experienced, an electric hybrid does go almost completely silent when the electric motor is operating instead of the normal gasoline engine.
Hybrid vehicles are still in their infancy, and the technology is rapidly changing. The benefits for the environment should only continue to improve as the technology improves.