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U.S. ECONOMY > American Industries > Transportation > Hybrid Electric Vehicles

What is a Hybrid Electric Vehicle?

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) typically combine the internal combustion engine of a conventional vehicle with the battery and electric motor of an electric vehicle. The combination offers low emissions, with the power, range, and convenient fueling of conventional (gasoline and diesel) vehicles, and they never need to be plugged in. The inherent flexibility of HEVs makes them well suited for fleet and personal transportation.

How do Hybrids Work?
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are powered by two energy sources-an energy conversion unit (such as a combustion engine or fuel cell) and an energy storage device (such as batteries or ultracapacitors). The energy conversion unit may be powered by gasoline, methanol, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, or other alternative fuels. Hybrid electric vehicles have the potential to be two to three times more fuel-efficient than conventional vehicles. Learn more about how hybrids work through the following links:

HEVs can have a parallel design, a series design, or a combination of the two. In a parallel design, the energy conversion unit and electric propulsion system are connected directly to the vehicle's wheels. The primary engine is used for highway driving; the electric motor provides added power during hill climbs, acceleration, and other periods of high demand. In a series design, the primary engine is connected to a generator that produces electricity. The electricity charges the batteries, which drive an electric motor that powers the wheels. HEVs can also be built to use the series configuration at low speeds and the parallel configuration for highway driving and acceleration.

Unlike electric vehicles, the batteries in HEVs don't need to be plugged in to recharge. Instead, they are recharged using regenerative braking or by using an on-board generator.

The is another type of hybrid under development as well. This hybrid is called a plug-in hybrid. Learn more about plug-ins by going to the Past, Present, and Future of Hybrids page.

You can get more information on HEVs by going to the Frequently Asked Questions About Hybrid Electric Vehicles section of our site.

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