I’ve Chosen a Hybrid Car, Now What?
You’ve decided to make the move to driving a hybrid car. You’ll be doing your part to reduce your environmental impact, combining electric power with the convenience, flexibility, and the long range of a gasoline engine when you need it. Over time, your hybrid will help you save fuel costs as well as reduce emissions.
Driving a hybrid car is rewarding, and we’re convinced you’ll enjoy it. Here, we’ve compiled a few tips to make your experience even better – from learning more about how your hybrid works to improving its efficiency, and ensuring it gives you great service in the years to come.
Battery Energy Flow
One of the best ways to improve your hybrid experience is to learn how it powers itself under different conditions – and then adjust your driving to maximize the use of electric power.
On most hybrids, you can see first-hand the energy flow between the battery, electric motor, and gasoline engine. You can typically access this information through the instrument cluster or infotainment screen and get a live readout of your fuel economy (mpg) numbers.
From starting the vehicle to cruising down the highway, your hybrid’s power electronics will identify which of the various components it should engage and adjusts accordingly. This can include running the gasoline engine, the electric motor, or both – and none when you are stopped at a light. You will also be able to see when the hybrid charges the battery when braking. It’s like playing a game.
Each hybrid car has specific configurations, depending on the vehicle, that will engage and disengage when energy flows into or out of the battery. Understanding why and when your battery is charging or sending energy to the wheels can be fun and interesting. And knowing how your hybrid behaves under certain conditions will help you ease up on the gas pedal to be more eco-friendly.
Many hybrids feature multiple drive modes so you can customize the driving experience. For instance, hybrids like the Toyota Camry Hybrid have an “EV” mode that lets you disable the gasoline engine so you can drive exclusively on electric power at lower speeds for short distances. Many hybrids have an “eco” mode which increases economy with less-aggressive acceleration and shuts off the air conditioning when the engine is not running. Some might even have a “sport” mode for when you’re having some fun on winding roads.
To maximize your fuel economy, make use of the eco and EV modes as much as you can in the city where the electric motor is at its most efficient. On the highway, a specific mode makes less of a difference. On roads with a lot of ups and downs, you can also use your hybrid’s “B” for “brake” position for the transmission. Activating this increases engine braking when you’re decelerating, helping to charge up the hybrid battery faster. Using it when going downhill charges up the battery, letting you make use of its energy to power up hills and reduce fuel consumption.
Take special care with the tires on your hybrid. Check the tire pressures regularly, as they can significantly affect fuel economy in addition to the way the car drives. A couple of PSI can have a big impact in miles per gallon!
You may have to replace tires more regularly than with conventional vehicles as well – though the regenerative braking function means that brake components on a hybrid will last a lot longer. When it comes time to replace them, look at the specifics of your hybrid tires carefully. The original-equipment tires probably have “low rolling resistance” – materials and designs to improve their efficiency. A proper low rolling resistance tire may cost a bit more, but will improve your hybrid’s range, and keep it within the manufacturer’s advertised specifications.
Splurging on a set of tires with these features might cost you a bit more depending on tire size of your vehicle – but will ensure your hybrid delivers the economic running you’re used to. The easiest thing to do is to fit the exact same tires as the originals – ask your dealer for details.
Finally, hybrid cars combine the simplicity and efficiency of electric car technology with the flexibility and long range of gasoline engines. While the electric components of your hybrid will likely run for a long time without ever needing attention – most hybrid batteries have an eight or 10-year warranty – the mechanical components will still need regular maintenance to perform at their peak efficiency.
Make sure that you still perform regular fluid and filter changes as recommended by the manufacturer for your hybrid car; the maintenance schedule is likely very similar to a gasoline vehicle. Years down the road, you will also need to think about spark plugs, transmission fluid, and other regular mechanical maintenance items.
Ensuring your hybrid car’s gasoline parts are running at their best will ensure it performs as efficiently as possible and remains reliable for years to come.