If you’re shopping for a car, you would have come across hybrid cars from popular car brands. While some might confuse hybrids such as the popular Toyota Prius with an electric vehicle (EV), hybrids differ by still having an internal combustion engine (ICE).
One of the main perks of hybrid cars is their fuel efficiency and lower emissions. If you like the idea of going on long drives without stopping to refuel, a hybrid car is a great choice.
But how exactly does it operate and what are the advantages of owning a hybrid car? We’ll cover everything you need to know, including the best hybrid cars in Malaysia right now. Let’s get started.
What is a Hybrid Car?
A hybrid car, also commonly known as a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), uses more than one means of propulsion – it combines a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor. Its electric motor is powered by an additional high-voltage battery pack that’s separate from the car’s conventional 12-volt battery.
This battery pack is usually recharged via regenerative braking which is when the kinetic energy from braking is converted into electrical energy and sent to the battery. However, it can also be automatically charged by the engine as you drive or by plugging the car into a wall charging outlet.
Depending on the situation, a hybrid car can be propelled exclusively by the gas engine or hybrid motor, or by both at the same time. By using both mills or only the hybrid motor at a time, a hybrid vehicle can improve its fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, which is what makes hybrid cars attractive.
Here’s a quick fun fact: the Toyota Prius was the first series-produced hybrid vehicle introduced in 1997. However, hybrid drive systems are actually much older; the first car that combined a petrol and an electric engine was the “Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid”, built by Ferdinand Porsche in 1899. It had a 16-horsepower gasoline engine working together with a generator to provide electricity that charged the battery and turned the wheels. It was actually well-received and over 300 units were produced.
What Are the Different Types of Hybrid Car Systems?
There are three main types of systems that hybrid cars use today which are Parallel, Series, and Series-parallel hybrid systems. Each system delivers power to the wheels differently and is used in different types of hybrid vehicles.
This is the most common hybrid system used by most brands, whereby the electric motor and the combustion engine are connected to the transmission independently. In stop-and-go traffic, the electric motor provides power while at highway speeds, the internal combustion engine takes over. However, both the engine and electric motor can move the car during harder acceleration.
In a parallel hybrid drivetrain, the battery relies on regenerative braking to recharge the battery as there’s no separate generator to do it. The type of transmission and the size of the combustion engine are the two main driving factors that determine how the car will accelerate, sound, and feel.
In this system, the electric motor provides all the thrust, while the combustion engine recharges the battery. There is no physical mechanical connection between the engine and the transmission. This results in a driving experience that is similar to an electric car with a smoother, and more powerful acceleration.
Since the engine only generates electricity to charge the battery and assist the electric motor, vehicles with this drivetrain are called range-extended electric vehicles.
Series-parallel or Power-split Hybrid
A series-parallel hybrid system combines the advantages of both a series and parallel drivetrain. This system typically has a large battery and powerful electric motor that can drive the wheels like in a series hybrid system. Additionally, the engine can be used to both drive the wheels and charge the battery pack.
Hybrid cars with this system tend to use the electric motor in stop-and-go traffic and when accelerating from a standstill, and use the combustion engine at highway speeds. Oftentimes, you can also drive a few kilometers using only the electric motor. When necessary, the engine can send power to the generator which will then charge the battery. Toyota is famous for using this drivetrain in their hybrids including the Toyota Prius.
What are the Types of Hybrid Cars?
Hybrid cars differ according to their levels of electrification and the kind of hybrid system that they use. Here are the common types of hybrid cars you can find in Malaysia.
Mild Hybrid (MHEV)
A mild hybrid car has an electric motor in its drive system but it never works on its own. Instead, the system helps to reduce the burden on the engine by giving it a small boost during acceleration and helping power some of the car’s electrical systems such as the air conditioning.
Mild hybrid cars generally have parallel hybrid systems with a 48-volt battery and are recharged by regenerative braking and power from the engine. These cars generally consume up to 15-percent less fuel than conventional petrol cars and include examples like the Honda Insight, Honda CR-Z, and the Mercedes-Benz C 200.
Full Hybrid (FHEV)
This type of car has an electric motor and internal combustion engine that work together or independently to drive the wheels. You can also choose to use the full-electric mode, but it only allows short trips of a few kilometers. Compared to mild hybrids, full hybrid cars use high-voltage traction batteries with several hundred volts that work together with the petrol engine to drive the car.
Full hybrid cars are known for fuel savings of 20 to 50 percent compared to conventional petrol cars. While they can use a parallel or series drivetrain, most modern hybrids use the series-parallel drivetrain for its obvious advantages. Examples of full hybrid cars include the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid, Honda City RS Hybrid, and Honda HR-V RS Hybrid.
Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV)
A plug-in hybrid adds more power to the conventional hybrid concept with a much larger battery pack. Just like a proper EV, a PHEV can be recharged using an external source – either from your home or at public charging stations.
Thanks to the huge amount of energy stored, the plug-in hybrid has an extended all-electric driving range, which can significantly reduce the fuel consumption rate. Most PHEVs are propelled primarily by their electric motor with the engine functioning as a range extender to recharge the batteries. However, some PHEVs can also run with power from the engine. Examples of PHEVs include the Chevrolet Volt, BMW i8, and the BMW 330e.
A micro hybrid car does not qualify as a proper hybrid car as it is exclusively driven by an engine. The micro hybrid here refers to a start-stop system that shuts off the engine when the car stops in traffic and restarts it when the driver accelerates. It also uses regenerative braking to charge the car’s regular 12V battery. A micro hybrid system generally grants a car up to 10 percent of fuel savings. An example of a vehicle that uses this system is the Nissan Serena.
Key Components in Hybrid Cars
- Battery (auxiliary): In a hybrid car, the auxiliary battery provides electricity to start the car before the battery is engaged.
- DC/DC converter: This device converts higher-voltage DC power from the traction battery pack to the lower-voltage DC power required to ignite the car and recharge the auxiliary battery.
- Traction battery pack: It stores electricity for use by the electric traction motor.
- Electric generator: It generates electricity from the kinetic energy produced by the wheels during braking before transferring that energy back to the battery pack. It can also be charged by the engine, like in a series and series-parallel hybrid drivetrain.
- Traction motor: This motor uses electric power from the battery pack to drive the vehicle’s wheels. In some cars, especially series hybrids, the motor also acts as a generator that recharges the battery.
- Power control unit: This unit manages the flow of electrical energy delivered by the traction battery to control the speed of the electric traction motor and the torque it produces.
- Thermal system (cooling): It cools the engine, electric motor, power control unit, and other components, maintaining an optimal operating temperature to ensure the components last.
Transmission: Transfers mechanical power from the engine and/or electric traction motor to drive the wheels.
Image source: Toyota
Advantages of Owning a Hybrid Car
Compared to conventional cars or EVs, there are quite a few advantages of owning a hybrid car.
- Fuel consumption varies between 15 and 50 percent lower than a conventional car but this depends on the type of hybrid car you drive. Hybrid cars offer maximum fuel savings in city driving, which is when the electric motor is used the most.
- Since the fuel consumption is way lower, this results in lower carbon dioxide emissions. Hence, making it more environmentally friendly.
- You get a smoother, quieter drive, especially in city driving.
- Long-distance trips are more comfortable and don’t induce range anxiety like in a full EV as you can still refuel normally. With the still limited charging infrastructure, owning a hybrid car in Malaysia is a better choice for most drivers.
- Compared to a conventional drive system, acceleration is increased by 10 to 20 percent as the electric motor is programmed to kick in when accelerating. Unlike an ICE, an electric motor has instant torque.
- Apart from plug-in hybrids, the vehicles do not have to be charged with electricity. So, drivers do not have to search for a charging station.
- They are just as easy to maintain as conventional ICE cars, with the hybrid components requiring minimal servicing.
Disadvantages of Owning a Hybrid Car
However, there are also some disadvantages to owning a hybrid car.
- They are not as environmentally friendly as full EVs and still emit exhaust gases.
- You may not get as many discounts or tax incentives when you buy a hybrid as the government is encouraging customers to purchase full EVs or PHEVs. That said, hybrid cars are currently a lot more affordable than proper EVs.
- Repairing or replacing the components in the electric drivetrain (hybrid battery, inverter, and hybrid control computer) can be very expensive. However, the costs have significantly reduced over the years. Furthermore, modern hybrid components from companies like Toyota are known for being reliable throughout the life of the vehicle.
What Is the Lifespan of a Hybrid Car Battery?
Hybrid car batteries have a reputation for being prone to malfunction, though that’s largely a myth. Battery technology has progressed tremendously over the years and while some manufacturers claim that their hybrid batteries can last over 160,00km, there are many cases of Toyota Prius batteries lasting well past that mileage with this Prius taxi clocking over 1,000,000km without issues.
Manufacturers such as Toyota even offer warranties of up to 10 years and unlimited mileage for their hybrid components which include the battery. That shows their confidence in their hybrid technology. However, most warranties would state that they’re only valid as long as you service your vehicle at authorized workshops, so make sure you read the fine print of your hybrid car warranty.
Best Hybrid Cars in Malaysia
Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid (RM139,991.00)
The Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is an SUV powered by a 1.8L DOHC four-cylinder engine coupled with an electric motor producing a combined power output of 122PS. Although that doesn’t sound like much, this SUV actually has plenty of usable power in all driving conditions thanks to its two power sources. Power is delivered to the wheels via a smooth e-CVT (continuously variable transmission) making the Corolla Cross Hybrid very pleasant to drive. Its fuel consumption is rated at 23.2 km/L which is very economical for a vehicle of this size.
Honda HR-V RS Hybrid (RM140,800)
The Honda HR-V Hybrid, launched in 2022 utilizes a 1.5L DOHC four-cylinder engine paired with a powerful electric motor which gives the SUV a total output of 215PS and a claimed fuel consumption of 24.4 km/L. With an e-CVT and a sport mode available, the Honda HR-V can provide an exhilarating drive even though it’s a hybrid. Its futuristic design, efficient powertrain, and typical Honda reliability make this one of the best Hybrid SUVs in Malaysia.
Honda City RS Hybrid (RM108,800)
The Honda City Hybrid is available in both sedan and hatchback forms, and shares the same powertrain as the Honda HR-V Hybrid, albeit with slightly less power. It has a 24.4 km/L claimed fuel consumption like its SUV cousin, though being around 150kg lighter than the HR-V, you can expect better performance in the City. The City Hybrid offers excellent value as the cheapest hybrid car in Malaysia.
BMW 330e M Sport (RM249,849)
A 2018 BMW 330e M Sport sold for RM147,900 on CARSOME
The BMW 330e M Sport is a luxurious plug-in hybrid sedan that delivers on performance. With its 2.0L turbocharged engine and electric motor, it produces 252PS of power and 420 Nm of torque making it a proper high-performance sedan. Its fuel consumption is rated at 15.2 km/L, though that is a worthwhile trade-off considering the power it has. It also has a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that gives it a sporty driving response.
Should You Get a Hybrid Car?
It is a known fact that traditional ICE vehicles produce a lot of carbon dioxide, which is harmful to the environment, while full EVs tend to have a limited driving range and suffer from a lack of charging infrastructure in Malaysia.
Hybrid cars offer a great environmentally friendly alternative to conventional cars as they provide better fuel economy and less harmful emissions while also being quite affordable. With the engine and electric motor working together, hybrid cars can contribute to a greener planet without compromising driving range and performance.
Unlike their negative reputation, modern hybrid cars are very reliable and just as easy to maintain as other cars. If you want a fuel-efficient car with lower emissions without needing to worry about recharging it, then a hybrid car is a great choice.
This content was originally published on 7/4/2021. It has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.