How Do Hybrid Electric Cars Work?

Hybrid electric vehicles are powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which uses energy stored in batteries. A hybrid electric vehicle cannot be plugged in to charge the battery. Instead, the battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine. The extra power provided by the electric motor allows for a smaller engine. Additionally, the battery can power auxiliary loads like sound systems and headlights and reduce engine idling when stopped. Together, these features result in better fuel economy without sacrificing performance. Learn more about hybrid electric vehicles.

Key Components of a Hybrid Electric Car

Battery (auxiliary): In an electric drive vehicle, the auxiliary battery provides electricity to start the car before the traction battery is engaged and also powers vehicle accessories.
DC/DC converter: This device converts higher-voltage DC power from the traction battery pack to the lower-voltage DC power needed to run vehicle accessories and recharge the auxiliary battery.
Electric generator: Generates electricity from the rotating wheels while braking, transferring that energy back to the traction battery pack. Some vehicles use motor generators that perform both the drive and regeneration functions.
Electric traction motor: Using power from the traction battery pack, this motor drives the vehicle's wheels. Some vehicles use motor generators that perform both the drive and regeneration functions.
Exhaust system: Channels the exhaust gases from the engine out through the tailpipe.
Fuel filler: A filler or "nozzle" used to add fuel to the tank.
Fuel tank (gasoline): Stores gasoline on board the vehicle until it's needed by the engine.
Internal combustion engine (spark-ignited): In this configuration, fuel is injected into the intake manifold or combustion chamber and combined with air, and the air/fuel mix is ignited by the spark from a spark plug.
Onboard charger: Takes the incoming AC electricity supplied via the charge port and converts it to DC power for charging the traction battery. It regulates battery characteristics such as voltage, current, temperature, and state of charge while charging the pack.
Power electronics controller: This unit manages the flow of electrical energy delivered by the traction battery, controlling the speed of the electric traction motor and the torque it produces.
Thermal system (cooling): This system maintains a proper operating temperature range of the engine, electric motor, power electronics, and other components.
Traction battery pack: Stores electricity for use by the electric traction motor.
Transmission: The transmission transfers mechanical power from the engine and/or electric traction motor to drive the wheels.

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