I guess everybody knows by now what a hybrid car is, what it does and how. What most people don’t know, though, is that you can do many tricks with an electric motor and a battery, and it doesn’t have to get even nearly that expensive if you want your car to become a hybrid.
Such a “very mild hybrid” system (they call it “eAssist”) has been applied by GM on their Chevy Malibu Eco and on some of their Buick models and has been unveiled for the public to see in Austin, TX, at a media introduction of the new, more eco-friendly Malibu.
The idea is very simple, and had been implemented by many car enthusiasts who retrofitted their old guzzler with a battery and a motor way before GM ever did it commercially.
It’s all about replacing the alternator with a more powerful electric motor that should play a double role: that of an alternator that produces electricity for the car’s many electrical appliances, and that of a starter/traction motor, for when the car starts to move.
Actually, the very instant you put your car in motion is the most fuel-consuming. That’s why GM’s 15-horsepower electric motor kicks in and spins the gasoline engine until it starts to rev by its own (just like a starter motor), but at the same time provides traction to the wheels and sets the car in motion… much more efficiently than the old gas engine would have done.
The setup for the electric motor is not complicated at all, it just sits connected to a belt just like any other alternator/starter motor, but has a battery in the trunk. Don’t worry, it’s not as big as a Prius’s, but rather transparent to the user, allowing for the rear seats to fold forward just like in any normal car.
Nice setup, isn’t it? Now, the discussion could expand to the situation where they could have fitted an electric motor for the rear wheels, powered by the same battery (or one a bit bigger), but that could have propelled the car on full EV mode… but that’s another story.