Hybrid vehicles have been on the scene for several years now, and (thankfully) the appearance of these vehicles has become a little more traditional. Many automakers are producing hybrids that are twins to their conventional counterparts. While the appearance of these vehicles has improved, the ways this technology is being implemented is also unfolding in some interesting ways.
The most common hybrid vehicle setup is actually a complete electric car. It includes the electric motors and a bank of batteries to power the wheels. Then there’s a separate engine that powers a generator to recharge the batteries. This small engine provides enough power to the car for cruising speeds, but during times of acceleration, the batteries kick in and offer a little extra oomph. When the car is decelerating or at a stop, the batteries recharge. The advantage here is the small, efficient engine gets great gas mileage. The down side of this setup is the weight. All those batteries are heavy, and by the time you add the weight of the small engine, the generator, etc, it add up very quickly.
eAssist offers a solution to help lighten up the vehicle. Also known as a mild-hybrid system, eAssist is often built into existing vehicle models to make them more fuel efficient. An eAssist vehicle has an electric motor attached to a single battery. The vehicle retains a more traditional engine to provide most of the power, while the motor offers a boost when accelerating. The advantage here is a weight savings and a space savings because of the smaller battery and motor. The larger engine does sip a little more gas than a full-hybrid system, but they still get 15-25% better mileage than their conventional siblings.