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PHOTO CAPTION: Currently three plug-in hybrids are available: Chevy Volt, Prius PHV, and the Fisker Karma getting plugged in by sexy model.

How Electric Plug-In Hybrids Work

Nicholas Zart explains the difference between different types of hybrids with the focus on what plug-in hybrids do.

Published: 20-Aug-2012

If hybrids are an almost common sight on our roads today, plug-in hybrids are barely hitting the market. A logical continuation of hybrids, a plug-in hybrid, as its names implies allows you to recharge the electric battery pack and drive on electricity only. But not all plug-in hybrids are made the same.

The EREV vs PHEV Debate. History will probably look back on the silly marketing stunt redefining a plug-in hybrid as an “extended range electric vehicle”, or in Fisker’s case, “Electric Vehicle Extended Range”, EVER and the copious amount of confusion it has created in the minds of potential buyers. But plug-in hybrid, the technical term designed to encompass two sources of energy using a rechargeable battery pack come in different drivetrains.

Series and Parallel Plug-In Hybrids. In the end, it all boils down to if the gasoline internal combustion engine drives the wheels or not. If a hybrid is defined as “a car with a gasoline engine and an electric motor, each of which can propel it”, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, a plug-in hybrid can have the gasoline engine drive the wheels, or not. The difference becomes a series-plug-in hybrid, where only the electric motor propels the wheel, relegating the gasoline engine to the role of a generator hooked to an alternator, pumping electricity stored in a battery pack. A parallel plug-in hybrid will use both the gasoline engine and electric motors to propel the wheels. Series has the engine behind the battery pack and electric motor, parallel has both electric and gasoline work in parallel.

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