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Fuel for Thought: Can Hybrid Electric Cars Surmount Roadblocks Faced by EVs?

Hybrid electric vehicles combine the advantages of petrol engines and electric motors. They can be built to achieve a variety of objectives, such as improved fuel economy or increased power.

Most hybrids use advanced technologies like regenerative braking, electric motor drive or assist, as well as automatic stop and start.

However, now four-wheeler manufacturers are introducing hybrid electric options in the mid-size vehicle class.

Choices

For example, in India, Honda has unveiled a hybrid version of its City sedan, with a full hybrid system featuring two massive electric motors and a large battery pack in the trunk. Meanwhile, as part of Suzuki Motors’ global relationship with Toyota, India’s Maruti Suzuki is developing a powerful hybrid car, with more vehicles anticipated to be developed as a result of the two Japanese automakers’ technology collaboration.

But there are some reasons behind this growing interest. It is believed that hybrid vehicles are less expensive than battery EVs, and hybrid EVs are not reliant on a large charging infrastructure, which is causing concern among EV buyers in the country.

As reported, Maruti Suzuki India’s MD & CEO Hisashi Takeuchi said that even though EV is a good option, hybrids can also contribute a lot and additionally they are also not very costly.

He told The Indian Express: “Hybrid is a technology that can contribute greatly to the CO2 emission situation in India and even without the infrastructure, we can develop the market because it does not need charging infrastructure. We will introduce strong hybrid products in the not-so-distant future.”

Maruti Suzuki now provides four vehicles with “mild hybrid” technology which are the Ertiga, Ciaz, S-Cross, and Vitara Brezza.

Additionally, the automaker has recently announced the release of its BEV by 2025, as well as the construction of a battery manufacturing facility near its Gujarat factory.

However, Honda’s new City e:HEV features two massive electric motors, making it potentially more fuel-efficient than other compact hatchbacks.

The strong electric motors are connected to a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine in Honda’s hybrid system. One of the car’s two onboard motors is primarily used as an electric generator, while the other is used for propulsion.

Evolution

Here it should be noted that hybrid vehicles have been developed and marketed by automobile engineers since the late 1800s; but, due to the higher cost of mass production, their popularity in the market has remained low.

However, automobile manufacturers continue to research and develop newer hybrid technology in order to meet stricter emissions regulations.

These vehicles are powered by two engines—petrol and electric—and both of them help each other spin the wheels. As a result, less petrol is burnt, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.

When compared to traditional vehicles, hybrids provide more power and fuel economy since they combine the advantages of low emissions and great fuel efficiency. When hybrid vehicles cruise or brake, extra electricity is generated, which is used to charge the batteries. As a result, improved fuel efficiency or range is possible.

The main distinction between a hybrid and an electric vehicle is that the hybrid uses both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor to power its wheels, while EVs draw power from a single source, the electric motors.

While hybrid vehicles provide better fuel efficiency or longer distances or ranges, EVs have yet to reach their full potential. Having said that, EVs emit fewer pollutants than hybrid vehicles that rely on an internal combustion engine.

Similarly, while hybrid cars don’t need charging infrastructure, it is a major requirement for EVs. Currently in India, due to the lack of such infrastructure, the EV revolution is facing a roadblock.

According to data released by the Federation Of Automobile Dealers Associations, only 17,802 electric cars were sold in the country during the fiscal year 2021-22 (April-March), with the majority of them being battery EVs, compared to a total of 27.26 lakh passenger vehicles sold during the year.

However, automobile manufacturers use various hybrid designs to achieve maximum fuel efficiency or to keep hybrid car prices as low as possible.

Parallel, Series, Plug-in, Two-Mode and Mild-hybrid are the types of hybrid cars.

But it is noteworthy that one of the roadblocks to hybrid vehicles’ potential success in India is the taxation system.

Hybrid vehicles are currently subject to a 28% GST on models under four metres in length, and a 43% tax on those longer than that. In comparison, battery EVs like Tata Motors’ Nexon and Hyundai’s Kona SUV receive government subsidies under the FAME scheme to promote EVs.

So this tax arbitrage also means that battery-powered EVs will be more affordable to automobile consumers for the time being.

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