Hybrid Electric Vehicle Systems

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Hybrid electric systems combine an internal combustion engine (ICE) with an electric motor and a battery pack to power a vehicle. The system utilizes both power sources to optimize efficiency and reduce emissions, leveraging the strengths of each technology. There are different types of hybrid systems:

  • Mild Hybrids: These systems use a small electric motor to assist the ICE during acceleration and to recover energy during braking. They cannot power the vehicle solely on electricity but provide a boost to fuel efficiency.
  • Full Hybrids: These systems have a larger electric motor and battery pack, allowing them to power the vehicle solely on electricity for short distances or at low speeds. They offer a more significant improvement in fuel economy compared to mild hybrids.
  • Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs): PHEVs have even larger battery packs that can be plugged in to charge from an external power source. They can typically drive longer distances on electricity alone, further reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

Impact on climate action

Hybrid Electric Systems in Low-Carbon ICE Vehicles significantly bolster climate action by reducing emissions and fuel consumption. By seamlessly integrating electric power with traditional engines, they enhance efficiency and mitigate environmental impact. This innovation accelerates the transition towards sustainable transportation, crucial for combating climate change.


  • Regenerative Braking: Hybrid systems utilize regenerative braking to capture the kinetic energy generated during braking and convert it into electricity to recharge the battery.
  • Electric Motor Assist: The electric motor assists the ICE during acceleration, reducing the load on the engine and improving fuel efficiency.
  • Engine Start-Stop: The ICE can be automatically shut off when the vehicle is stopped, reducing idling time and fuel consumption.
  • Power Split Devices: Sophisticated power split devices manage the flow of power between the ICE, electric motor, and wheels, optimizing efficiency based on driving conditions.
  • Battery Management Systems: Advanced battery management systems monitor and control the charging and discharging of the battery pack, ensuring optimal performance and longevity.

TRL : 9, reflecting their proven track record of improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions, as well as their widespread commercial availability.

Prominent Innovation themes

  • 48V Mild Hybrid Systems: These systems utilize a 48-volt electrical system, allowing for more powerful electric motors and increased energy recovery during braking.
  • Predictive Hybrid Control: Utilizing navigation data and real-time traffic information to anticipate upcoming driving conditions and optimize the use of the electric motor and ICE for maximum efficiency.
  • Advanced Power Split Devices: Developing more sophisticated power split devices that can seamlessly and efficiently distribute power between the different drive components.
  • Multi-Mode Hybrid Systems: Creating hybrid systems with multiple operating modes, such as electric-only mode, hybrid mode, and engine-only mode, allowing for greater flexibility and optimized performance in different driving scenarios.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Toyota:
    • Technology Focus: Toyota has been a pioneer in hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) technology with its Prius model and continues to innovate in this space. Their hybrid systems typically combine a gasoline engine with one or more electric motors, along with sophisticated control algorithms to optimize fuel efficiency and performance.
    • Uniqueness: Toyota’s hybrid systems are known for their reliability, fuel efficiency, and seamless integration into their vehicle lineup. They often prioritize a balance between performance, affordability, and environmental sustainability.
    • End-User Segments: Toyota’s hybrid vehicles cater to a broad range of consumers, from eco-conscious individuals looking to reduce their carbon footprint to everyday commuters seeking fuel-efficient transportation options.
  • Honda:
    • Technology Focus: Honda has also made significant strides in hybrid electric vehicle technology, offering models like the Insight and Accord Hybrid. Their hybrid systems typically feature a combination of a gasoline engine and electric motor(s), coupled with Honda’s innovative engineering and design.
    • Uniqueness: Honda’s hybrid systems often emphasize performance and driving dynamics, appealing to customers who value both fuel efficiency and sporty handling. They may incorporate features like regenerative braking and engine idle-stop to enhance efficiency.
    • End-User Segments: Honda’s hybrid vehicles attract a diverse range of consumers, including environmentally conscious drivers, urban commuters, and families seeking practical and reliable transportation solutions.
  • Ford:
    • Technology Focus: Ford has been actively investing in hybrid electric vehicle technology, offering models like the Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid. Their hybrid systems typically feature a combination of a gasoline engine, electric motor(s), and advanced powertrain management systems for optimal efficiency and performance.
    • Uniqueness: Ford’s hybrid systems often prioritize versatility and utility, with offerings ranging from sedans to SUVs and trucks. They may integrate features like all-electric driving modes, intelligent regenerative braking, and hybrid power-split technology.
    • End-User Segments: Ford’s hybrid vehicles appeal to a diverse range of customers, including families, outdoor enthusiasts, and commercial fleet operators looking for fuel-efficient and capable vehicles for both urban and rural environments.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Technology Enhancements: TUM researchers are pioneering advancements in hybrid electric systems for low-carbon ICE vehicles by integrating innovative energy storage technologies and optimizing powertrain configurations. They are exploring the use of advanced battery chemistries, such as solid-state batteries, and developing sophisticated control algorithms to maximize energy efficiency and performance.
    • Uniqueness of Research: TUM’s approach involves a holistic optimization of the hybrid powertrain, considering factors such as vehicle dynamics, energy management strategies, and thermal management systems. They are also investigating the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, to further reduce carbon emissions and enhance sustainability.
    • End-use Applications: The research at TUM has implications for the automotive industry, particularly in the development of next-generation hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) with extended range and improved fuel economy. These vehicles can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels while offering consumers a more environmentally friendly transportation option.
  • University of Michigan:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Michigan are focusing on enhancing the efficiency and performance of hybrid electric systems in low-carbon ICE vehicles through advanced modeling and simulation techniques. They are developing virtual prototyping tools to accelerate the design and optimization of hybrid powertrains, enabling faster iteration and innovation.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Michigan’s research encompasses a systems-level approach to hybrid electric system design, considering not only the powertrain components but also the vehicle’s overall architecture and integration with ancillary systems. They are also investigating the potential synergies between hybridization and other low-carbon technologies, such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems.
    • End-use Applications: The research at the University of Michigan has practical implications for automakers, suppliers, and policymakers seeking to accelerate the transition to low-carbon transportation. By optimizing hybrid electric systems, manufacturers can develop ICE vehicles that meet stringent emissions regulations and consumer demand for fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles.
  • Imperial College London:
    • Technology Enhancements: Imperial College London researchers are at the forefront of developing innovative hybrid electric systems for low-carbon ICE vehicles by leveraging emerging technologies such as advanced energy storage materials and electric propulsion systems. They are exploring novel architectures, such as plug-in hybrid systems, and developing advanced control strategies to optimize energy usage and minimize emissions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Imperial College London’s research integrates insights from multiple disciplines, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and materials science, to address the complex challenges of hybrid electric vehicle design. They are also collaborating with industry partners to validate their research findings through real-world testing and demonstration projects.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Imperial College London has implications for a wide range of stakeholders, including automotive manufacturers, energy companies, and policymakers. By developing more efficient and cost-effective hybrid electric systems, researchers can accelerate the adoption of low-carbon ICE vehicles and contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Hybrid electric vehicles are commercially available from a wide range of automotive manufacturers and are increasingly popular among consumers seeking more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly transportation options. Plug-in hybrid vehicles, in particular, are gaining traction as they offer the ability to drive longer distances on electricity alone, reducing dependence on gasoline and lowering emissions.