The Role of Batteries for Hybrid Cars

March 26, 2012

The fuel efficiency of hybrid cars depends entirely on batteries. Batteries are also the component that allows cars to be eco-friendly. These are two different aspects: one has a cost-saving purpose, while the other is focused on preserving the environment.

Hybrid cars are called hybrids because they do not use a single technology to propel a vehicle. They employ both electricity and another type of fuel.

In most cases, this other type of fuel is combusted in a conventional engine resulting in emissions that are released into the atmosphere. In order for a car to be completely zero emissions, it would have to depend solely on electricity.

The purpose of hybrid technology is to improve battery efficiency. Batteries are sources of energy that is produced by a chemical reaction. Basically, a battery is a tank of energy but, just like all tanks, it needs to be refilled.

Refilling in the case of batteries would be charging, but charging is not always practical. What hybrid manufacturers discovered was that they could use other forms of energy to turn into electrical energy and store it in the battery in order to increase the charging interval. Internal combustion engines produce energy and breaks produce energy, too. A generator takes this energy and makes it electricity that is stored in the car batteries. Another way to maintain the level of energy in a battery is to save energy. So hybrids, turn off the engine when idle, for example.

All of these things allow batteries to be efficient and yet maintain a modest size. The rule for batteries is simple, the larger the battery, the more energy it can store. Currently there are three main types of batteries used on the market:

  • The lead-acid battery is well known and has been used and is still used in conventional cars. These are very toxic and the combination of these batteries and hybrid technology seems to defeat the very purpose of hybrid cars: protecting the environment.
  • The NiMH or the nickel-metal hydride battery is considered less toxic than lead-acid batteries. Numerous hybrid cars have adopted this type of battery including the Toyota Prius.
  • Lithium-ion or the Li-ion batteries are very popular because they are the least toxic. It is also used in hybrid cars although it is mainly employed to charge small electronic devices. However, they seem to represent the future of hybrid cars batteries.

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