Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) were the first of the ‘new generation’ EVs on the market in the late 90’s.
They have an electric motor, a small battery and a moderate sized Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). The electric motor commonly only assists the ICE, although more recent versions may drive the car for a short distance till the battery is flat.
HEVs are refuelled exclusively with fossil fuels – i.e. they DO NOT plug-in to recharge the battery directly.
Instead, the battery is charged from the otherwise wasted energy from braking. This is done by reversing the operation of the electric motor to make it a generator that charges the battery.
By doing so, the electric motor/generator slows the car for all but the heaviest braking. (This is called regenerative braking). Regenerative braking saves up to around 20% of the fuel used by an ICE.
The best known examples in Australia are the Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry hybrid and the Honda Insight.
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector for 10 years, and also is editor of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association newsletter.