Going further for less
Hybrid vehicles are a very popular choice for New Zealanders looking to decrease their CO2 emissions. A hybrid does not need to be plugged in and offers significant fuel reductions when comparing to standard combustion options. This page offers a simple overview of the basics in hybrid technology which can be applied to New Zealand’s current automotive market. Keep reading to learn more.
What is a hybrid?
A hybrid combines at least one electric motor with traditional fuel (like petrol) to power the vehicle. Regenerative braking and the vehicle’s traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) are key ingredients to recharging the vehicle’s battery pack. Factors such as the speed you’re driving or use of the air-conditioning will determine whether the vehicle will power itself using electricity, combustion, or both at the same time. While you’ll notice the vehicle switching between all three options, the vehicle uses less fuel than a traditional ICE vehicle and less emissions are released into our atmosphere as a result.
What is Regenerative Braking?
Before we compare the three popular hybrid variants in our market, let’s talk ‘regenerative braking’ or ‘regen’. Regen is best utilised in traffic or inner-city environments and activates as soon as you depress the brake pedal. It converts a motion called kinetic energy to generate electricity to the battery pack. Electricity is then stored to assist with acceleration and power the vehicle’s electrical components on electricity alone.
Mild hybrid is new in the world of hybrid technology. Quite simply, a mild hybrid does not generate power to propel the wheels. Combining energy from the engine and regenerative braking, the mild hybrid electrical motor activates during start-to-stop acceleration, to minimize fuel consumption, and carries some of the weight managing electrical components, such as the air-conditioning.
Full hybrids are powered by traditional internal combustion engines and an electric motor. Electricity is generated by the engine and regenerative braking. When it comes to full hybrid vehicles there are two types: parallel hybrids and series hybrids. The most common variant is the parallel hybrid, where the wheels are powered in one of three ways; directly by the petrol engine, directly by the electrical motor, or by both the engine and the electric motor. A series hybrid is a traditional petrol engine that provides power to the electric motor which, like a generator, powers the wheels on electricity alone.
The Miles Group believes a plug-in hybrid is more aligned with the EV market because it can be recharged by connecting the vehicle’s battery pack to an external power supply. Read more about plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, technology here.
There are other types of alternative-fuel vehicles available or currently being explored by various companies. Bio-fuel is a fuel that contains a small (5-10%, depending on petrol or diesel) portion of fuel created from fermenting sugars and starches. In New Zealand, many of this is being created from the by-products of the dairy industry, so it’s an environmental win on many levels. Bio-fuel is more readily available and provides a cleaner burn, though doesn’t eliminate driving with fossil fuels altogether, so it’s not the best alternative.
Hydrogen fuel-celled vehicles are also on the rise, with various vehicle brands creating prototypes for the zero-emissions option. Infrastructure for these vehicles is being implemented around New Zealand now, rolling out over the next few years.
Finally, solar powered vehicles have been made into prototype stage, but more development on solar technology needs to take place before these vehicles can be taken to the next stage.