Image: Mihai Andritoiu, 2010/Getty Images
About This QuizWith the constantly fluctuating price of gasoline, more people are looking into hybrid cars. But it's a good idea to know what you're getting into before purchasing one. Take the hybrid car quiz and see how much you know about them.
The most common type of hybrid car combines the following:
diesel and electric power
gas and electric power
Although there are diesel-electric buses on the road -- and nuclear-electric submarines underwater -- most hybrid cars combine a gas engine with electric power. The two most common types of gasoline-electric hybrids are parallel and series hybrids.
biodiesel and electric power
In a parallel hybrid:
A gas engine runs an electric generator.
A gas engine and electric motor can each turn the wheels.
In a parallel hybrid, both the gas engine and the electric motor connect to the transmission and can turn the wheels. Typically, the engine is smaller and more efficient than what you'd see in a gas-powered car.
The engine has no connection to the transmission.
In a series hybrid:
An electric motor acts as a backup to a gas engine.
A gas engine and an electric motor alternately turn the wheels.
A gas engine turns a generator, not the wheels.
A series hybrid uses a gas engine to turn a generator. The generator can charge batteries or move the wheels. Either way, the gas engine never directly powers the vehicle.
Small engines are more efficient than large engines because:
They weigh less.
It takes less fuel to fill the cylinders.
both A and B
It may seem like a bigger engine can do more work, but smaller engines tend to be more efficient. They're lighter, so it takes less energy to move them. The same goes for their pistons -- they're lighter and take less force to move. Smaller cylinders also require less fuel.
The electric motor in a hybrid car can also act as:
The typical hybrid car's electric motor is more advanced than an ordinary motor. For example, as you accelerate, the motor can pull energy from the batteries to make the car go faster. But when you slow down, it can act as a generator, recharging the batteries.
a fuel pump
a cooling fan
Regenerative braking involves:
nanofibers that repair the surface of brake pads
reclaiming heat from the brakes and using it for power
Regenerative braking is one of the many tricks most hybrid cars use to get the most out of a tank of gas. The motor acts as a generator, using the energy from braking to recharge the batteries.
reducing the amount of friction necessary to slow a car
The Toyota Prius uses its gas engine to:
get the car moving
power the car at most speeds
power the car at certain speeds beyond 15 MPH
The Prius cuts down on emissions by using the electric motor to get the car going and accelerate up to about 15 MPH. Then, the gas engine takes over and drives within a narrow band of speeds.
In a Prius, the power split device connects the:
gasoline engine, generator and electric motor
The power split device in a Prius is a gearbox that connects the engine, generator and electric motor. It lets the car operate as a parallel or series hybrid, depending on the needs of the moment. On top of that, it acts as a continuously variable transmission.
gasoline engine, electric motor and power train
gasoline engine, transmission and brakes
The benefits of a hybrid car include:
improving gas mileage
both A and B
The two main benefits of a hybrid car -- cutting down on emissions and improving gas mileage -- are interwoven. Because you're using less fuel, you're putting out fewer emissions.
You should avoid abrupt stops in a hybrid car because:
Hybrids are very sensitive to sudden changes in motion.
The engine has more time to collect energy.
Repairs to regenerative braking systems are extremely expensive.
Mihai Andritoiu, 2010/Getty Images