Hybrid passenger cars: The best of two worlds?

16. Aug 2020 | Industry + More

Hybrid vehicles are the stars of electric mobility in Germany – at least with regard to new registrations. Their popularity with German drivers is probably due to the fact that they notionally combine the best of two worlds: the combustion engine for maximum range and an electric engine for – in an ideal scenario – CO2-neutral mobility. The role of bridge technology is often attributed to plug-in hybrids in particular.

A brief glance at the approval statistics is enough to see the importance of hybrid technology in electric mobility. While around 44000 battery electric vehicles (BEV) were registered this year (January to June 2020), almost 160000 hybrids were registered in the same period.

Not all hybrids are equal

But hybrid, i.e. the combination of a conventional combustion engine with an electric engine, can mean a number of different things. With conventional hybrid systems, batteries are only charged internally by the combustion engine. Plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, can be charged externally like pure electric vehicles. But plug-in technology is also receiving criticism. The official test cycles in particular, which artificially reduce the consumption values, have been branded a sham.

You only need common sense to identify a fundamental problem: Plug-in hybrids can be charged at the socket and can even drive short distances using only electricity until the petrol or diesel engine takes over again. However, the concept poses a fundamental efficiency problem. After all, in pure electric operation, the additional weight and extra costs of the conventional combustion drive reduce efficiency, while hybrid travel means carting along an oversized battery. And a lot of weight also means more and more consumption. 

It’s no secret: Electric mobility is a necessary evil for many automotive workshops. Regardless of the question of whether or how electric cars and hybrids truly are or can be environmentally friendly, they require additional work and new investments. Automotive business owners who want to offer service and repair of electrified vehicles face costs in the low to medium four-digit range to set up a workshop place for relevant repairs. Workshop employees must also obtain qualifications by attending special courses to ensure safe, professional working on vehicles with high-voltage systems and their components.

Hybrid cars as a source of revenue for automotive workshops?

But it is also clear that: In contrast to pure electric cars, where most of the mechanical work can be omitted due to the elimination of the mechanical drive train, hybrid vehicles are a different story. Here, the work in automotive workshops will decrease considerably less when it comes to maintenance and repairs compared with battery electric vehicle (BEV). Some experts even expect that the work required for hybrid cars “will even increase in the double digit range in some cases – especially for expensive and complex plug-in hybrid models.” After all, they have two engines and the entire range of peripherals on board. And in this case, hybrids really do appear to combine “the best of two worlds” – for workshops at least.