What is a mild hybrid?
With the UK government announcement that sales of conventional petrol and diesel powered cars will be banned from 2040, manufacturers are finding new ways of using hybrid technology to future proof their cars. So many hybrid cars are now available, more and more buyers are looking to make the switch from conventional petrol and diesel cars to a hybrid model. Acting as a halfway house between a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) car and fully electric models, hybrids offer lower emissions, greater economy and tax benefits than their ICE counterparts by assisting their engines with electric power.
With air quality and pollution frequently in the news, the word 'hybrid' is being heard more and more often these days and with the UK's future emission legislation and targets it's likely to stay that way for a long time.
A traditional hybrid car basically uses two different energy sources to maximise efficiency. This usually means combining electrical energy stored in batteries, with the combustion energy of petrol or diesel fuel.
Since the first kind of Hybrid arrived in the UK in 2000, the petrol-electric Toyota Prius, the range of eco-friendly options available to buyers has grown considerably. This used an electric motor and battery pack for motive power at low speeds, reducing reliance on its petrol engine during urban driving. Since those simple times however, 'hybrid' has become an all-encompassing term for an increasing number of different types of car.
One of the latest technologies currently emerging through the UK car market and one that we're sure to see more of in the coming years is the 'mild hybrid', sometimes also referred to as MHT (Mild Hybrid Technology) or MHEV's (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles). So, how do these work?
Like full hybrids, mild hybrids use a traditional combustion engine supported by an electric motor alongside, but the two power sources can’t be used independently of one another. Instead, the small electric motor is used solely to assist the engine. The main difference between a traditional full hybrid and a mild hybrid is that while a traditional hybrid’s electric motor is able to power the car on its own, a mild hybrid’s motor is only able to assist the engine, the power produced by this isn't enough to drive the car independently, hence the word ‘mild’.
How are they charged? The mild hybrid system allows energy to be recovered from regenerative braking, feeding it into the batteries. This energy can then be used when coasting and to smooth out stop-start with the electric motor providing support to improve the engine’s efficiency.
Different mild-hybrid setups work in different ways. For example, Suzuki’s SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) system, uses a 'starter generator' and a relatively small battery pack which can be called upon to assist the engine during hard acceleration or allowing the car's stop-start system to bring the engine back to life more smoothly. Others such as Audi's MHEV (mild hybrid electric vehicle) system utilises a 48-volt electrical system providing greater power enabling the car's engine to be turned off for up to 40 seconds when coasting and automatically restarting when acceleration is called for. This is said to offer greater fuel-economy savings than the conventional stop-start of previous models.
What are the benefits of a mild hybrid car? Because the electric motor assists with acceleration, less fuel will be consumed and there will be less strain on the engine. It also allows the engine to switch off more regularly – when coasting for example. This means lower emissions and cleaner air for the environment. It’s also good for your finances too, with improved fuel economy and lower emissions this could also mean a reduced VED rate and lower BIK tax making a mild hybrid car a good proposition for your next car lease.
If you're not quite ready to switch to a full electric plug-in vehicle, mild-hybrid cars could be the solution for you, it doesn’t require you to do anything different than you would do in a conventional car. The car’s intelligent systems take care of how the energy is recovered and used for you.
With Volvo's bold announcement that all its cars will feature some form of hybrid or electric technology from 2019, it won’t be long before mild-hybrid cars become more commonplace. Other popular family cars will soon be benefitting from this new technology with Audi's latest A7 Sportback and A8 saloon, Land Rover Discovery Sport as well as the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson SUVs to name a few.