Internal Combustion vs Hybrid vs Plug-in Hybrid vs Semi-Electric Hybrid vs Electric Cars vs Fuel Cell Car
For the past half-century or so, the world population at large has enjoyed the benefits of petrol and diesel-fueled cars. Ahh, the simpler times! They don’t last very long. Today with the emergence of hybrid vehicles and now electric vehicles, the average consumer is confused. Therefore, we have decided to answer all these questions for you in this article.
Internal Combustion Engine cars
Let’s start with the simplest one. Internal combustion engines are the ones we’ve been using for over a century now. Even today they constitute almost an absolute majority. It is estimated that there are 1.41 billion cars in the world and only 17 million as of April 2020 were hybrid. Electric cars are even lower than hybrid cars in numbers and so the overwhelming majority of the cars are petrol or diesel-powered.
This proves another point that every one of us is more likely to own or had previously owned an Internal Combustion(IC) powered car than a hybrid or electric. Therefore, we ought to understand how they function, and what their pros and cons are.
How do Internal Combustion (IC) engines power our vehicles?
While we want to tell our readers how internal combustion engines power our cars, we don’t want to get too deep into the technical details to make things confusing. Internal combustion engines simply need fuel such as petrol or diesel to power it’s engines. As the engine is powered, the burnt fuel is discarded into the atmosphere as a gas.
Why are IC engines being discouraged? What are its cons?
As we’ve just mentioned, IC engines discard burnt fuel into the air as harmful gasses, these gases are harmful to the environment. Over time, these emissions have come to haunt humanity in the form of climate change.
While there has been a significant improvement in the quality of IC engines and the way they emit gases into the atmosphere, they are still not enough to tackle climate change. This is why governments and global organizations are discouraging them and promoting alternative fuel-sourced cars.
The other disadvantage of IC engines is that they need either petrol or diesel to function in the first place, which is a depleting natural resource. Our excessive consumption of Earth’s oil reserve has worse affected the planet and it’s only a matter of time before they run out.
What are the advantages of IC engines?
If ICE-powered vehicles are so bad for the environment and the planet, why do we still use them? Well they certainly have a few benefits over their alternatives, such as:
- Since we have been driving ICE cars for over a century, we have adapted to them in various ways. We refuel them by visiting the closest fuel station and it only takes a few minutes to refill. Until now electric cars such as Tesla take an average of 45 minutes to charge.
- Similarly, with over a century of innovation and competition, there is an abundance of ICE-powered vehicles to choose from.
- For the same reason, the cost of ICE-powered vehicles is significantly lower than a hybrid or electric car.
- Their maintenance cost is also quite lower than hybrid cars. Hybrid cars function on batteries which are usually very expensive.
- ICE-powered vehicles are faster and more powerful.
Hybrid vehicles, also called hybrid electric vehicles HEVs, function on a combination of ICE and electric propulsion systems. This combination allows it to get the best of both technologies. HEVs use petrol as well as current from their batteries, switching from one to another depending on the requirement. This helps increase their fuel efficiency but they can’t function solely on electricity.
HEVs can vary depending on the degree to which they can rely on their battery. This is why they are further divided into three categories.
A mild hybrid vehicle relies on its battery to a smaller degree, only when the car is coasting, stopping, from, worse, IC, or standing still. Otherwise, the engine is powered by internal combustion. This combination slightly improves the fuel economy and is not much different than a conventional vehicle in usage. This is why in some cases, diesel engines have been designed to support a mild-hybrid powertrain.
Examples of Mild hybrid vehicles are Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga, Suzuki Swift, and several of Mercedes' latest cars.
The problem with Mild hybrids is that they neither significantly reduce emissions nor improve efficiency. Therefore, they are not helpful in contributing to the solutions at large.
A full hybrid has a greater degree of reliance on its battery than a mild hybrid. It can run solely on its battery but for not more than 2 or 3 miles. However, even this 2-3 miles battery functioning notably improves the efficiency of the car and reduces the emissions.
Examples of full hybrids are Toyota’s Prius lineup, Ford’s Escape, and also Ford’s Fusion. Since there’s always a catch, with the full hybrids, it’s the purchase price of the vehicle. Also, the emissions need to be reduced even further if we are to fight climate change.
The plug-in hybrid is a further leg up from a full hybrid as it packs on a bigger battery. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) charge via a plug and the charging can last as long as 30 miles or even more. Since for most commuters, this is enough to get from home to work or back, they might not switch to petrol entirely.
As you can see this is a huge improvement for the other hybrids we’ve discussed above. PHEVs significantly reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Some examples of PHEVs are Mercedes E 300 e and E 300 de, Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in, and Skoda Superb iV.
By now you’re probably waiting to read the cons of PHEVs. Here you go. PHEVs require a charging point after every 30 or so miles. Let’s say you are on a long journey, you might not find a charging station after every 30 or so miles. Even if you do, you can’t afford to stop and wait every time you encounter one.
The purchase price of PHEVs is also somewhat higher, which makes them unaffordable for the average user.
And now finally we have crossed the hybrid threshold and reached fully electric vehicles(EVs). Electric Vehicles are definitely a leg up from even the best of HEVs but they have a serious problem when it comes to their charging times. However, unlike PHEVs, EVs can last as long as a day.
Since EVs don’t have an internal combustion engine, if you run out of your battery you don’t have a safety cushion to fall onto. Nonetheless, they eliminate fuel consumption, thereby reducing running costs.
Another problem that has recently been discovered with EVs is that they take as much as emission to build as an ICE-powered vehicle emits throughout its lifetime.
Lastly, at the time of writing this article, EVs are only available in the developed countries. They are too expensive to be afforded in the rest of the world. Audi has taken the first step of introducing some of its E-Tron lineups in Pakistan. Other examples of EVs are Hyundai Ioniq 5, Porsche Taycan, and all Tesla cars.
Hydrogen fueled cars (fuelled cell cars)
If you’ve considered EVs to be the Creme de la creme of technological advancement and eco-friendliness, wait until you read about Hydrogen fueled cars. Of Course, there’s a catch with this one too but let's discuss that later on. For now, let’s focus on what makes this type of fueled car even better than EVs.
The concept behind Hydrogen fueled cars is that the engine uses hydrogen as fuel and reacts with oxygen from the air to make electricity to run the car. The discarded fuel will only be water. While you will need to refill your tank with Hydrogen, the filling time will only be a few minutes and the cost will also be significantly lower.
As you’ve guessed by now, these cars will neither cause harmful emissions nor use non-renewable resources. The catch with this one is that the technology is still in its infancy and the focus of the automobile industry is also lacking.
Some examples of FCEVs are Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity FCV.
We hope by now all your confusion regarding different types of electric and hybrid cars has been answered. Currently, we are passing through a time of significant changes, not just on a technological but on an ecological level as well. Therefore, governments and global organizations are pushing for carbon-neutral sources and net-zero emissions.
This is why we are going to witness a huge shift in not just the type of car we use but in the way we live our lives. Every day we hear news of at least one country pledging to have X number of electric vehicles by 2030 or sooner. Not only that but governments are incentivizing consumers to buy EVs or even in some cases HEVs to speeding up the transition.
Therefore, it would be wise to ditch your ICE-powered vehicle for an EV.