How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

2021 BMW Hybrid Lineup

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “how do hybrid cars work?”, you’re not alone! Many Corona-area commuters are interested in the efficiency, cost benefits, and eco-friendliness of hybrid vehicles, but don’t fully understand how hybrid cars work. Not to worry –– as always, BMW of Murrieta is here to serve as your trusted car-buying guide! Learn more about the different types of hybrids, how they work, and compare them to battery electric vehicles, all in one convenient guide down below. 

How Hybrid Cars Work: Parallel Hybrid vs. Series Hybrid 

So, what is a hybrid car and how does it work when you’re cruising around Riverside? Hybrid vehicles still use a gas-powered internal combustion engine as a power source, but they also have a second power source: a battery-powered electric motor. While you drive, the two power sources work in tandem to decrease fuel consumption. 

When exploring how hybrid cars work, it’s helpful to differentiate between parallel hybrids and series hybrids:

What’s a Parallel Hybrid?

Most of the hybrid vehicles you see on the road in Ontario are parallel hybrids. The electric motor and the gas engine both connect to the transmission in a parallel hybrid, whether the transmission is automatic, manual, or a CVT. Both power sources are being constantly utilized to propel the vehicle forward.

What’s a Series Hybrid?

In a series hybrid, only the electric motor is connected to the transmission. The electric motor is the main source of power for forward motion, so you can think of the gas engine as a generator that supplies the power to keep the electric motor running. 

Hybrid vs. Plug-In Electric Vehicles 

How do hybrid cars work in comparison to plug-in electric vehicles? Even though they both utilize an electric motor, these are two completely different categories of vehicles. Remember, hybrid vehicles combine power from an electric motor with power from a traditional gas engine. An electric vehicle (EV) runs solely on electric power and does not have an engine, which can either be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your driving needs.  

With that distinction made, there’s one more type of hybrid vehicle that combines hybrid and plug-in electric technology: plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). A PHEV has a gas engine and an electric motor, but unlike a standard hybrid, it has the capability to run solely on electric power for a certain mileage range. Learn more about PHEVs, below:

  • PHEVs have a larger battery, allowing them to travel longer distances using electric power alone. 
  • You could use the electric-only capability of a PHEV to run errands around Murrieta, then rely on gas power to take you on longer trips without range anxiety. 
  • PHEVs need to be plugged into a power source to recharge the battery for electric use, which can take between one to four hours depending on the vehicle. 

Find the Right Hybrid for You in Murrieta

Contact us at your convenience or stop by BMW of Murrieta when you’re ready to trade in your vehicle for a hybrid or EV. If you’re interested in luxury options, our new BMW inventory includes EV models like the BMW i3 and the upcoming i4, and many of your favorite sedans and SAVs are now available as a PHEV, including the BMW X3 and the BMW 5 Series! When you’re ready to move forward, our team is here to help you find the right vehicle for your driving needs.


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