While gas- or diesel-powered automobiles were the only options for a long time, a new technology is now changing the game: the electric drivetrain. Occasionally, it can be used to completely replace its predecessor, the venerable combustion-powered engine, producing an electric vehicle. In other instances, both technologies are integrated into a single vehicle: These hybrid models interact in different ways depending on the charging and energy storage systems that the manufacturer selects.
What are the main differences between hybrid and electric vehicles?
Let’s start with the differences in how they work. Electric vehicles are odorless, completely silent, and offer a very pleasant and smooth ride. Since electricity is significantly less expensive than gasoline or diesel fuel, “fuel” costs are greatly reduced. A lot of progress has been made in terms of range. The New Renault ZOE can travel 300 kilometers between charges, whereas a mere ten years ago, it was considered impressive for an electric vehicle to have a range of 150 kilometers. Additionally, charging has never been faster: Depending on the charging station, the New Renault ZOE can be charged for 30 minutes to restore 120 km** of range.
Because they are powered by gas and have two electric batteries acting as backup, hybrid vehicles have a longer range than conventional vehicles powered by combustion. Electricity saves fuel—up to 40% of the gas typically used in urban driving conditions. The ride is just as quiet and comfortable as in a standard electric car when the vehicles are running on electric power. The car drives like a traditional vehicle when powered by a combustion engine.
What technical aspects govern the operation of the various models? Do the two optimize energy consumption in the same way? What are the main differences between cars powered by hydrogen, electric vehicles, and hybrids?
100% electric cars: the most advanced option
Electric vehicles are the most developed and most reasonable arrangement that anyone could hope to find on the present market to answer ecological issues connected with an Earth-wide temperature boost and air contamination. What distinguishes them? A battery-powered electric motor replaces the exhaust pipe, gas tank, and combustion engine that are all gone. The charging stations for these automobiles can be found at home, at work, in the parking lot, or even in public places. With an expected scope of a few hundred kilometers, they run quietly, consume no energy when fixed, and produce no exhaust vapor, also the charming ride insight. For instance, the new Renault ZOE instantly releases all of the electric motor’s torque, allowing for smooth acceleration right away. Finally, electric motors are extremely dependable due to the absence of combustion and mechanically movable parts. This means that the driver doesn’t have to do much maintenance.
However, there are additional choices. You can decide on a blend of fuel sources by picking a vehicle that consolidates electric impetus and a burning controlled motor. From “least” to “most” electric, here are a few options.
Hybrid cars: traditional vehicles with electrical support
A gas-powered engine and an electric unit designed to work together make up a hybrid vehicle. The concept goes like this: The electric motor serves as a backup for the combustion engine, putting less strain on it and using less fuel. So, how do hybrid vehicles get charged? By converting speed into energy during braking or deceleration, the small onboard battery recharges. The majority of hybrid vehicles continue to use fossil fuels: When operated entirely on electric power, these vehicles rarely exceed a few kilometers in range.
Rechargeable hybrid cars: the true energy stepping stone
That is the goal of rechargeable hybrid automobiles, also known as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or PHEVs. The new Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-in is an example of this. How does it function? A battery with a bigger limit is coordinated into the undercarriage, and an attachment is added to consider free charging through homegrown outlets or standard charging stations. Along these lines, the electric engine turns into a genuine option in contrast to the burning fueled motor for most of ordinary travel. Nonetheless, long-distance travel, such as road trips, can still be accomplished with an engine powered by combustion. Only rechargeable hybrid vehicles can be charged at an outlet, allowing for greater use of electrical power and consequently a longer electric range than hybrid vehicles.
Hybrid vehicles with range extenders: a battery pack in your car
For everyday driving, another option is to use an electric battery and motor, and to add a small engine powered by combustion to keep them charged: An extended-range electric vehicle is the term for this. In this instance, the hybrid is much closer to being entirely electric than being entirely powered by combustion: The majority of the “fuel” comes from electricity. The battery can be charged at a charging station and has a large capacity for vehicles of this kind. For everyday use, these automobiles can run on electricity without emitting any emissions. The burning motor demonstrations just as a help, working in a way like that of a power generator. In contrast to traditional hybrid vehicles and rechargeable hybrid cars, its sole purpose is to extend the range by recharging the battery; it never delivers power directly to the wheels.
Hydrogen cars: the challenger
Last but not least, there is a 100% electric car that uses a different kind of power: automobiles powered by hydrogen. Two utility vehicles powered by hydrogen will soon be available from Renault: the Master Z.E. Hydrogen and Kangoo Z.E. Hydrogen, respectively. Currently, the majority of electric vehicles use lithium-ion-based batteries, but there are other ways to store energy. For instance, hydrogen fuel cells enable the production of electricity from the named gas, which results from the breakdown of water or methane. Through a chemical reaction with the oxygen in the air surrounding the cell, the gas becomes electricity. The gas is stored at a very high pressure (a few hundred bars) in a tank that supplies it.
There are still some challenges. For instance, rare metals and an energy source—renewable or not—are required for the production of fuel cells. In addition, infrastructure dedicated to the production and distribution of hydrogen would be required for widespread adoption.
Electric and hybrid vehicles — ongoing innovation
Since the days of nickel-cadmium batteries, electric power has made significant advancements. Comparing modern battery packs to combustion engines is no longer a disadvantage. Lithium-ion batteries are safe to store inside the chassis and can be recycled with increasing efficiency at the end of their lifespan. They have a higher capacity, are lighter, are smaller, and can power more cars, which makes them more useful. Additionally, technological advancement continues: In 2019, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania came across a novel approach that could charge an electric vehicle for up to 300 kilometers in ten minutes. The technology would be effective for as many as 2500 charging cycles, or 800,000 kilometers. Another promising idea is dynamic inductive charging, which may make it possible for automobiles to charge while in motion. In the not-too-distant future, electric vehicles will undoubtedly become increasingly common!
- Emissions are zero: according to the WLTP emission test cycle, driving produces no CO2 or regulated air pollutants, with the exception of wear parts.
** The New ZOE’s WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure standardized cycle) results were used to calculate the durations and distances listed here: 57% urban driving, 25% suburban driving, and 18% highway driving) aims to accurately reflect actual vehicle usage conditions. After recharging, however, they are unable to predict the type of journey. Temperature, battery life, charging station power, driving style, and charge level all influence recharging time and recovered range.