What Are The Disadvantages Of A Hybrid Car?

This may come as a surprise to some, but the idea of a hybrid car is as old as the car itself. The first one was developed in 1899 by Lohner-Porsche (yes, that Porsche). It had an internal combustion engine designed to drive a generator that supplied Porsche-designed wheel hub motors with electrical energy. This machine, aptly named “Semper Vivus” (Latin for “always alive”), steadily evolved for at least five years. 

Hybrid car charging

However, as its evolution progressed, Semper Vivus hybrid capabilities diminished. Ferdinand Porsche and Ludwig Lohner, the duo who designed the car, came up with some interesting improvements. By installing smaller batteries (44-cell accumulator instead of 74-cell accumulator) and replacing two 2.5 hp ICEs (internal combustion engines) with a more powerful 5.5-liter engine, the Semper Vivus became a much more efficient car. These changes reduced the car’s weight, improved performance, and lowered its overall cost and complexity.

This short story history lesson about the hybrid car gave us the first answer to the question posed in the title. Added weight and complexity are the main disadvantages of the hybrid car over similarly engineered ICE-powered or electric-powered cars.

Hybrid Car: An Overview - Find the best car deals!

By definition, a hybrid car is a car powered by an electric motor (or several) and an internal combustion engine. Depending on the hybrid type (parallel, series, or a Plug-In hybrid), a car with a hybrid propulsion system can move using an electric motor, internal combustion engine, or combining the two.

Types Of Hybrid Propulsion Systems:

  • Parallel Hybrid System:

In Parallel Hybrid systems, both an electric motor(s) and an internal combustion engine power the wheels. The most obvious example is the Toyota Prius.

  • Series Hybrid System:

In a Series Hybrid system, the internal combustion engine's main task is to recharge the battery, while the electric motors power the wheels. Example? BMW i3 and, somewhat, Chevrolet Volt.

  • Plug-In Hybrid System:

Compared to the other two types, the Plug-In Hybrid system utilizes a battery with far greater capacity. It offers recharging capability using an external source – like a standard household plug. One of the most recognized PHEVs is the 2020 Honda Clarity.

With advancements in battery technology, hybrid cars have become a viable alternative to vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. Yet, the disadvantages of hybrid cars are still unavoidable when looking at the bigger picture. Apart from added weight and intricacies, hybrid cars can hide several other drawbacks.

Disadvantages Of A Hybrid Car - Find the best car deals!

Higher Purchasing Cost And Complex Hybrid Tech

Due to their higher complexity, hybrid vehicles are considerably more expensive than their ICE counterparts. In addition to all the technology that is commonly installed in a conventional car, hybrid vehicles feature:

  • electric motor(s) 
  • a large battery pack
  • gear mechanisms that complement the necessities of transferring power from ICE and electric motors to the wheels 
  • substantial additional wiring
  • an enhanced cooling system 
  • a considerably more complex central computer system.

Apart from increasing the overall purchasing cost, added tech in a hybrid car can affect maintenance costs. To be specific, the maintenance might end up being surprisingly pricey if the hybrid system elements sustain any damage. Although car manufacturers offer comprehensive warranties for the hybrid parts (including the battery), with coverage for seven or more years, buying a used hybrid car still represents a particular risk. For example, replacing the damaged or worn battery can reach $6,000 outside warranty (depending on the vehicle and type of the battery).

Performance

Outside some high-performance exceptions such as the McLaren P1, Honda NSX, or the Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid Turbo S, hybrid cars are usually formed with one task in mind: improving fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions. This usually puts the designers and engineers in a position to shape each part of the hybrid car to meet these goals. In short, hybrid vehicles sport low friction tires, a more efficient air-con system, a lower state of tune for the internal combustion engine, and a transmission precisely tailored for achieving the best possible fuel efficiency. With the higher mass, these solutions affect the overall vehicle performance. In reality, a hybrid vehicle will be slower compared to its equally powerful ICE contemporaries.

Fuel Economy On The Open Roads Or Highway

According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University in 2013, hybrids do not make a lot of sense if your commute includes long highway driving stints. According to the survey, hybrid cars driven on the highways do the same damage to the environment as conventionally powered vehicles. On the other hand, hybrids do indeed release fewer pollutants in city traffic. 

Higher Insurance Rates

According to car insurance professionals, hybrid car insurance is $41 more expensive per month than the average U.S. car insurance rate. Car insurance professionals discovered that the main reasons for the increased car insurance for hybrid cars link to the increased purchasing price of the hybrid vehicles, cost of complex hybrid technology onboard, and the nature of average hybrid car buyers. Hybrid car buyers generally live in urban areas with higher insurance rates. Also, repairs on the damaged conventional vehicles are not as costly as hybrid cars' repairs, which plays a significant role in car insurance costs.

Diminished Hybrid Fuel Efficiency In Cold Weather

In colder temperatures, hybrid batteries need more time to reach operating temperature. That means that the chemical reaction inside the batteries that releases energy to the electric motor reaches its peak performance much slower compared to batteries in warm weather. Simultaneously, the internal combustion motor has to provide more energy released by the fuel combustion process, which is the main reason for the increased fuel consumption of hybrid vehicles in cold weather.

Summary - Find the best car deals!

Hybrid cars work best in urban areas and warmer temperatures. Their level of complexity, added weight, and higher purchase price presents an apparent downside, but higher fuel efficiency in urban driving conditions and comprehensive warranty coverage can offset these disadvantages.