Mrunal Manmay Dash

With auto manufacturers pushing hard to capture the emerging Electric Vehicle (EV) market of India, there is another kind of ‘Partially’ cleaner vehicle called ‘Hybrids’.

While EVs are still evolving and have just entered the market, the hybrids, though small in numbers, are here from quite some time.

Hybrid electric vehicles are powered by an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) and one or more electric motors, which uses energy stored in batteries. The battery of a hybrid electric vehicle is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine.

There are two types of Hybrids as well; Mild Hybrid & Full/Strong Hybrid

With a full hybrid, electricity comes from a high-voltage battery pack (separate from the car's conventional 12-volt battery) that's replenished by capturing energy from deceleration that's typically lost to heat generated by the brakes in conventional cars. (This happens through the regenerative braking system.) Hybrids also use the gas engine to charge and maintain the battery. Sometimes the electric motor does all the work, sometimes it's the gas engine, and sometimes they work together.

Mild Hybrid cars only use their electric motors to support the engine during acceleration and cruising – the electric motor cannot power the car on its own.

Depending on your priorities, a mild hybrid car could be a great choice. They offer better fuel economy and lower emissions.

While you won't get the zero emissions of an electric vehicle or even of a full hybrid, it's definitely a step in the right direction compared to a traditional car.

Mild hybrids use a small electric motor to aid the combustion engine under different driving scenarios, helping to reduce the amount of fuel burned, improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Cars with mild hybrid engines are designed to drive very similarly to a vehicle with a traditional combustion engine.

Charging a hybrid car battery requires no change from your routine. The hybrid battery self charges while you drive, and you can use gasoline as a power source.

Some hybrids charge their batteries using excess energy created as the car decelerates—called “regenerative braking”—while others charge them with their combustion engines. Now, a third type of hybrid automobile has emerged, called the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (or PHEV), which allows drivers to also charge the battery pack using an external EV charger.

Although car companies are trying to bridge the gap in pricing between a conventional vehicle and hybrid, the latter continue to demand higher costs due to two motors and a relatively complex technology.

On the other hand electric vehicles (EVs) and their capabilities are well known to almost all. When all the factors are taken together—purchase price, range, refueling costs, maintenance and driving experience—EVs are simply a better investment. Their net emissions are lower, they require less maintenance, actually cost less over the lifetime of the vehicle, and they have an insanely fast torque delivery system making them fun to drive. Although fun to drive is an entirely different claim which is disputed by the more traditional petrol heads.

Being said that, looking at the current infrastructure support and the future of EVs in India, it will be safe to say that hybrids are the need of the hour. Exactly the reason why the Country’s largest automobile manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) had not launched any EVs yet nor has any plans in the pipe line.

Several companies, including MSIL and Toyota have often argued that hybrids make more sense in markets where infrastructure is not ready for EVs and that it needs to offer a variety of choices.

Companies often claim that much of the electricity in India and other developing countries is generated by burning coal or other fossil fuel, hence, EVs are more polluting in those markets than hybrids.

Even Honda, which recently launched its hybrid car City e:HEV in India, believes hybrid cars make more sense in India and stressed that lowering taxes on hybrid vehicles can lead to faster adoption of EVs in the country.

Interestingly, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte, 68 per cent of Indians prefer internal combustion engine-powered vehicles as their next purchase. 24 per cent prefer a hybrid as their next vehicle while only 4 per cent prefer a pure EV.