Can a Hybrid Run without Gas?

When I had first purchased my plugin hybrid, I was hoping that I would never have to buy gas in the summertime.  The salesperson had mentioned to me that gas would be used initially during the wintertime to heat up the motor since the electric motor has an optimal temperature.  I was ok with that.  I would do my best to limit the use of all of the car’s gadgets during the winter so that could use the least amount of gas as possible.

Can you run a hybrid without gas? You can run a hybrid without gas in perfect situations.  For instance, if you are driving within a city, as long as you do not press hard and fast on the accelerator, your car will stay in the electric mode.  Also, if it is hot outside, only put on the air conditioner on a low setting or else the combustion engine will kick in which uses gas. 

What happens when a hybrid runs out of gas?

You need to careful that you do not use up all the gas on a hybrid.  There is an indicator for both the battery pack for the electric motor and an indicator for the amount of gas that is left.  On my car, you can also see how many miles you can travel solely on gas.

If you run totally out of gas, you are running the chance of having the car stalling once the battery pack dies. I know what you are thinking. What if your big battery pack is fully charged, can you continue to drive far enough to the nearest gas station?  It actually depends on the model.

Some manufacturers do not want you to limb along using just the electric motor in a hybrid.  This dependency on it scares some car companies, they are afraid that it makes the battery vulnerable and damage could occur.

Since car companies have a lifetime guarantee on the battery pack, they do not want you to have the option to put the battery pack into a dangerous scenario. What some companies do is they instruct the car to shut down as soon as it runs out of gas even though it could still move along with just the electric motor.

Manufacturers that shut down some hybrid vehicles that have zero gas:

  1. Chevrolet (Tahoe and Silverado)
  2. GM (some trucks)
  3. Nissan (Altima)

Prius, on the other hand, will help you out in such a situation. If you run out of gas, you are not going to be stranded on the highway, at less not right away.  People claim that they could drive along for a few miles after the last drop of gas has been burned up.

If you have a strong charge in your Prius, you can make it perhaps to the next gas station before your car will quit on you.  I would be careful though, if your battery is almost discharged, your trusty Prius will no longer be running at full voltage, it will operate at a voltage level that will slow down your car to 18 mph.

It would be prudent in a Prius or any other hybrid to have 3 or so gallons of gas in the truck just in case you run out of gas.

How low can the battery go in a hybrid before it forces you to use gas?

Yes, once the battery reaches a certain level, your hybrid does not have a choice, it will need to use the gas motor in order to continue to function.  I will describe what happens with my Sonata Plugin Hybrid when the battery is at a low level.

The first time that I had decided to take a medium-sized trip, I was naive about when the car would switch over to gas.  For the first few weeks, I had driven within my city and I was able to fully charge the battery each time at home.  It never went below 25 percent of its charge.

During this first highway trip, I noticed that my battery pack went as low as a 15 percent charge level.  At around that amount, I could sense that there was a slight vibration in the steering and I could hear the combustion engine kick into action.  I was not planning on stopping along the highway at a restaurant or some other obscure place to charge it up.  I just continued to drive to see what would happen.  Was the car just continue to use up the gas?

Surprisingly enough, even when the gas motor is being used, a current is being sent to the battery pack for the electric motor.  I had assumed that I had to create a regenerative braking scenario in order to charge it up even slightly.  I was wrong, I never let up on the accelerator and still, a charge flowed into the battery network.

As soon as the battery pack charge was at close to 17 percent, the car switched back into electric mode for a few miles.  It would switch back to gas again once the pack was at 15 percent.

Is there a way to avoid any gas use within a city?

It is possible to drive within a city without using any gas.  Although, it is not easy at first.  Each of us uses different gadgets or functions in our cars. For instance, if you are like me, you love to have the air conditioner running instead of cracking open a window to get some fresh air.  If you are not careful, you will cause your vehicle to use gas even if you are traveling within a city.

The biggest function that can cause gas to be used, is your air conditioner.  I have tested mine at different levels and I noticed that if do the following, the electric mode will be intact:

  1. Never set the fan speed to more than three notches
  2. Only use  the air conditioner on the driver side instead of both sides of the car

I was curious about whether or not other functions would cause the gas motor to start up.  I could use the satellite radio or FM radio without a problem, even at a high level of volume.  So, it seems that the biggest culprit is the air conditioner even within a city.

Besides reducing the air flow for the air conditioner, you also need to avoid quick acceleration.  For instance, once a red light turns green, some people feel as if they are in the middle of a race, and they peel away. If you do so in a hybrid, you are going to use some gas. Just touch lightly on the gas pedal and slowly build up speed.

One person in a forum stated that it best to pretend that you are pressing down on an egg.  If you press too hard, you will crack the shell and gas will be used up even if you were on a short trip to your corner grocery store.

Short trips are fine in most cases, but what if you were to drive around for long periods of time within a city.  You might start to reach the low battery level where gas will start to be used.

Your best bet would be to maximize the use of regenerative braking within a city. This is done by using the following tactics:

  1. Glide to a stop at intersections.
  2. If you are following someone that is going slower than your current speed, avoid switching to a faster lane, just let go of the accelerator so that your speed will decrease and regenerative braking will occur.  Most people will become frustrated driving in this way, but speeding around from lane to lane is probably only going to save you a few seconds at the most.

How to save gas while driving a hybrid on the highway.

If you practice, you will be able to save on gas while driving even at higher speeds.  It is hard to save tons of gas this way, but think about how tiny savings each day will build up over the span of a year.

Here are the tactics that I personally use with my Sonata Plugin Hybrid while on the highway to save on gas.

First of all, whenever you have the chance, use your cruise control.  Some feel that doing so makes driving less exciting.  Nevertheless, turn the saving of gas into your new way of getting rid of boredom.  I find that cruise control allows me to focus in on my loud singing in the car so that time passes faster.

Why is Cruise Control going to save gas?

Cruise control will ensure that you are not accelerating too fast and too often.  Sudden speed increases are going to command more voltage from the battery pack from the electric motor, which means that its charge will be depleted faster. Constant pressure on the accelerator is accomplished easily with cruise control.

Stay In Slow Lane

I realize that even if I am singing, I like to stay in the fast lane as much as possible during heavy traffic.  Does this really save you a lot of time?  I have found that many drivers will switch to the left side at some point, which means there will be congestion on both sides. In other words, it is ok to calm down slightly and reduce your speed to stay in the slow lane since you will not be saving time by trying to race along in the fast lane.

Staying in the slow lane will allow you to use more regenerative braking which means that the range that you can travel on electric will be greatly increased.  What I do is use the cruise control, and also I turn on the function that keeps a certain distance between myself and the driver ahead of me.  If the driver in front slows down, I will automatically slow down.  This slowing down will initiate regenerative braking yet again.

I am not suggesting that you allow your car to control all initiations of regenerative braking, but using automatic features will allow you to focus even deeper on saving on gas.

Watch Closely the Indicator for When the Car is in Electric Mode

In my car, there is a green line that indicates the level of electricity being used while driving.  If you press hard on the accelerator the needle will indicate that you are close to switching to the use of gas only.  You need to be conscious of the level of electricity being used.  If you continue to use too much pressure on the accelerator, you are going to deplete the electricity stored faster.

Your goal should be lower the rate that electricity is being used.  If you find that at a higher speed, that the indicator is quite high for electricity use, take a few miles off of your cruise control level so that you will continue on your trip using a lower rate of electric power.

Try To Manage the Charge Level of the Battery

Something that I have not been doing often enough is to manage the level of charge for my battery.  Apparently, some manufacturers suggest that you do not fully charge your battery each time that you charge it.  The best level is between 80 and 20 percent.  If you fully charge your battery all of the time, it can hinder its performance.  If your battery is not operating at its optimum level, gas usage will increase even on the highway.

I have noticed that with my car, that once the battery is at 95 percent, that it takes a long time to get it to add the last 5 percent to its charge.  Manufacturers have worked this into the programming of their hybrid cars.  They know that a 100 percent charge, over time, will reduce the effectiveness of the battery. They guarantee these battery packs, so they instruct the car to charge very slowly for the last 5 percent so that you will rarely reach the 100 percent level.

A good tip, on the best practices for your battery charges, is to read thoroughly your owner’s manual since the tactics can vary from model to model.

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