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Hybrids explainedMild v Full v Plug-in v Extended Range Electric Vehicle

With the recent launch of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), it’s probably a good time to look at the state of play in Hybridland.
What’s a hybrid?

Any vehicle with two different types of motor can be considered a hybrid. In cars this usually equates to a petrol motor being paired to at least one electric engine. The Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTec Hybrid is the only diesel-electric hybrid currently available in Australia.

There are two main ways of classifying hybrids: drivetrain layout or the level of hybridisation. In this article, we’ll be using the latter method but, rest assured, we’ll dive into the nitty gritty of hybrid drivetrains in a future feature.

Honda CRZ with storm clouds
Mild hybrids

Unlike other hybrid systems, the electric motor in a mild hybrid can’t propel a car on its lonesome. Its main tasks are to start the engine, give a bit of assistance during acceleration and provide regenerative braking.

In a mild hybrid the petrol engine is always running, unless the car’s stopped or the speed is below about 8km/h and you’re coming to a complete stop. Given that the electric motor has a limited role, it doesn’t need to generate much power and therefore the battery pack isn’t required to store much energy. This all helps to reduce the size, weight and cost of the drivetrain.

You can think of a mild hybrid drivetrain as essentially an advanced automatic engine start/stop system. The driving experience isn’t too dissimilar, but with a few important differences.


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