Is plug-in hybrid an electric vehicle? Yes. Does that mean it is not powered by fuel combustion engine? No, it is fuel powered too. We are talking about plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) which uses combinations of electrical source of energy and conventional fuel source of energy.
What is a PHEV?
A battery powers the electric motor in a PHEV and the conventional fuels like diesel or gasoline powers the internal combustion engine. When compared to hybrid electric vehicles, PHEVs have larger battery packs enabling the drivers to drive distances up to 50 miles by merely using electric charge. This is called the electric range of the vehicle.
The internal combustion engine is only used when the battery completely depletes of charge or during situations like rapid acceleration or intensive heating which explains why PHEVs suit urban driving so well. Going to work and returning home wouldn’t require you to drive many miles and the battery power should be enough to power the whole up and down drive.
PHEV has two batteries, namely the auxiliary battery and the traction battery. The auxiliary battery provides energy that starts the car before the traction battery gets into action.
Traction battery contains stored energy used to run the traction motor.
Fueling Options of PHEV
Charging options of PHEVs are the following
- Outside electric power source
- Regenerative braking
- Internal combustion engine
Regenerative braking converts the energy released during the braking of the vehicle into stored energy in the battery. If you choose to drive a distance within the electrical range of the vehicle and charge it before you exceed the range, the PHEV can completely run in electrical energy without having to use the fuel.
Combining the Electric Motor and Combustion Engine
The two main configurations used to combine the power of the motor and fuel engine are:
- Parallel: In parallel combination, mechanical coupling connects the electric motor and the combustion to the wheels enabling both to drive the wheels directly.
- Series: PHEVs with series combination uses electric motor alone to drive the wheels and the internal combustion engine powers the motor by generating electricity for it. Series PHEVs are generally called extended range electric vehicles and a modification of the series type vehicles that uses electric motor to drive the wheels most of the time offers a possibility for the vehicle to switch to a parallel operation mode.
PHEVs offer the benefit of flexibility, which enables drivers to switch to fuel engine in times of need and save them from the queues at electric charging stations. This is one reason why they made it to the list of best electric vehicles.