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How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  June 25, 2024

Hybrid cars are a popular choice for eco-conscious drivers concerned about environmental impact and fuel efficiency. But how exactly do they work? Our experienced attorney explains the technology behind hybrid cars and whether California’s lemon law applies to them here.


What Is a Hybrid Car?

A hybrid car has a unique powertrain that combines a conventional engine with one or more electric motors. Unlike fully electric vehicles, hybrids don’t need to be plugged in to recharge the battery. Instead, the gas engine and regenerative braking system work together to continuously refill the onboard battery pack.


How Does Regenerative Braking Work?

During breaking, the energy usually lost is captured and stored in the battery. This helps recharge the battery, giving you an extra power boost while also saving on gas.


How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

Hybrid cars can seamlessly switch between different modes of operation based on driving conditions and power demands:

  1. Electric-only mode: At low speeds or under light loads, hybrids use electric power from the battery pack. This mode is particularly efficient for city driving and stop-and-go traffic. 
  2. Gasoline-electric mode: When more power is needed, such as during acceleration or climbing hills, the gasoline engine and electric motor work together. The electric motor strengthens the engine’s output. 
  3. Gasoline-only mode: At higher speeds or under sustained, high-power demands, the gas takes over as the primary source of propulsion, while the electric motor may assist as needed.

Hybrid vs. Electric

While hybrids combine gas and electric power, fully electric vehicles (EVs) rely solely on electricity and draw their power from a larger battery pack that must be recharged by plugging into an electrical outlet or charging station. The key differences between hybrid and electric cars include:

  • Driving range: EVs can usually travel farther on a single charge than hybrids in the electric-only mode. 
  • Charging time: It takes much longer to recharge an electric car than refuel a hybrid, which you can do at any gas station. 
  • Emissions: Hybrid cars still produce some tailpipe emissions, while EVs have zero direct emissions. 
  • Cost: Hybrid vehicles often have a lower upfront cost than all-electric cars.

Types of Hybrid Cars

While the basic hybrid design is standard across many models, several different types of hybrid cars exist, each with its own unique characteristics.


Parallel Hybrid

The most common type of hybrid, parallel hybrids, have a gasoline engine and an electric motor that work in tandem to power the wheels. Depending on the driving conditions, the two power sources can work independently or together.


Series Hybrid

The gas engine isn’t connected to the wheels in a series hybrid. Instead, it serves as a generator and charges the battery pack, which then powers the electric motor that drives the car; this setup allows for more efficient use of the gasoline engine.


Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

PHEVs combine the benefits of a hybrid with the ability to be recharged from an external power source. They have a larger battery pack than traditional hybrids, so they can travel longer distances on electric power alone before the gas engine kicks in.


Mild Hybrid

Mild hybrids use a smaller electric motor and battery system that assists the gasoline engine during acceleration and enables stop-start functionality, which can improve fuel efficiency. They can’t run solely on electric power.


Is a Hybrid Car Worth the Cost?

If you’re deciding whether to buy a hybrid car, weigh the potential benefits against the higher upfront cost. Here are some key factors to consider:


  • Saves money on fuel in the long run with better fuel efficiency
  • Reduced environmental impact with lower emissions
  • Eligible for incentives and tax credits in some areas
  • Smooth and responsive driving performance


  • Higher initial purchase price compared to traditional gas-powered cars
  • May require more complex and costly maintenance due to the hybrid system
  • Limited all-electric range for some models

Does the California Lemon Law Apply to Hybrid Cars?

Yes, the California Lemon Law applies to hybrid cars just like traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. If a hybrid car experiences a substantial defect that cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, the owner may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund.

If you’re experiencing issues with your hybrid car in California, it’s important to document any problems and work closely with the manufacturer to attempt repairs before considering legal action.


Have Lemon Law Questions? Contact Our California Firm Today!

If you’re a California resident who has purchased a 2018 or newer defective hybrid vehicle, the experienced team at Norman Taylor & Associates is here to help. Our lemon law experts can assess your case, negotiate with the manufacturer, and ensure you receive the compensation or replacement you deserve.

Don’t let a faulty hybrid car leave you stranded — call 818-244-3905 or contact us today to explore your options!

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