Since the early 2000s hybrid vehicles have grown in popularity and many vehicle manufacturers have added them to their line-up. Toyota by far has the largest selection of hybrid vehicles ranging from the humble Prius to several luxurious Lexus offerings. All of these vehicles are very reliable, and thank goodness they are, for they are very complex and a lot can go wrong.
What goes into making a hybrid vehicle? First off, a hybrid vehicle contains 2 drive systems, an internal combustion engine (abbreviated to ICE) that runs on gasoline and an electric motor that runs off of a high voltage battery. The 2 systems are tied together mechanically and electrically, all controlled by a computerized system.
Although there are many variations among manufacturers the way they generally work is that the electric motor propels the car while the internal combustion engine will provide assistance when needed and/or charge the high voltage battery. A major benefit of a hybrid is regenerative braking which uses the electric drive motor to slow the vehicle. This puts the normally wasted braking energy back into the high voltage battery, and it is mostly this reason that makes a hybrid fuel efficient. In addition to fuel savings, brake life also improves dramatically.
While hybrids can provide enormous energy efficiencies while driving in stop and go city traffic, and in hilly terrain, there is little benefit to them on highway drives when the internal combustion engine will be doing all of the work. For this reason it is important to assess your vehicle usage before buying a hybrid because you might be wasting your money. Hybrids generally cost substantially more money to buy than non-hybrid vehicles and could cost a great deal more to repair if major components wear out.
So what goes wrong with hybrids? There are many things that can go wrong with hybrid vehicles as they are much more complex than either straight ICE or electric vehicles. First, you have all of the items that wear on an internal combustion engine: oil and coolant leaks, spark plugs, exhaust system, the fuel system and the engine itself. Second, you have the electric drivetrain: the motor/transmission, inverter, wiring, electronics and the high voltage battery. Third, you have all the other components that are shared with non-hybrid vehicles such as the suspension, tires, brakes, electronics, windows, doors, and so on.
Actual repairs vary from brand to brand. To ensure long vehicle life and reduced repair expense routine maintenance is critical. A hybrid is a finely tuned machine, designed for optimum fuel economy and low exhaust emissions along with decent performance. Keeping your oil clean, your tires in good condition and at the proper inflation pressure and performing service on other components will keep the vehicle performing at its best. Brake services are another critical maintenance item. While brakes on a hybrid generally last a very long time they are still subject to harsh environmental conditions: rain, snow and road salt. All of these cause corrosion for your brakes moving parts. Servicing the brakes every 1 to 2 years is important to ensure proper operation and long life.
Toyota and Lexus are the most popular hybrids, followed by Honda and Ford. These are good options to own due to their commonness, hence good repair information and availability of parts. Other European brands such as Mercedes, BMW and Porsche have hybrids but they are rare, outlier models that will be tricky and very expensive to repair. GM has made the Volt for many years which is technically an EV with a back-up gasoline engine. This vehicle is also a good buy as it is fairly common.
As for servicing these vehicles we have all the tools, equipment, training and expertise to keep your hybrid performing at its best.