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February 5, 2017

How Do Hybrid Vehicles Work?

How Do Hybrid Vehicles Work?Hybrid cars are very popular. But how do hybrid vehicles work? They actually have more than one means of propulsion. According to our experts at All Around Auto Care in Westminster, hybrid cars combine a regular gas (or diesel) engine with an electric motor and battery. A hybrid can be partially or wholly powered by electricity. Hybrid cars create fewer emissions and use less gas, which helps your budget and the environment.

Not all hybrids are the same. There are conventional hybrids. A What Car? article gives the Toyota Prius as an example of a conventional hybrid. The power sources of the Toyota Prius can work together or drive the car separately.

So, here’s how it works: at low speeds, the engine turns off and the car is only driven by the electric motor. But when you want maximum acceleration, both the engine and the motor work together. During the in-between stages, any excess power from the engine recharges the batteries that power the electric motor. The hybrid’s battery is large enough for the electric motor to power the car for up to 1.25 miles.

Toyota also uses this hybrid system in the Yaris and Auris hatchbacks and Prius+ MPV hybrids. Hybrid cars from Audi, BMW, Citroen, Land Rover, Lexus, Peugeot, Porsche, Mercedes, and Volkswagen also work in the same way.

The article describes the Honda Insight and Jazz as a little bit different. With these Honda cars, there is a relatively small conventional engine that uses an electric motor to provide extra help when it needs it. But the electric motor cannot power the car by itself.

There is also another kind of hybrid called a plug-in hybrid. Plug-in hybrid vehicles combine a gas engine with an electric motor and battery. These vehicles are plugged into an electric outlet so the batteries can recharge. They also recharge as the car is moving.

The plug-in hybrids have a regular gas engine but they also have bigger batteries. The larger batteries allow them to go longer distances on electric power alone. It’s possible to drive up to 30 miles on electric power.

Toyota also makes a plug-in version of the Prius. However, Volvo has a diesel-hybrid V60, but Mitsubishi's petrol-powered Outlander PHEV is a plug-in SUV. The Vauxhall Ampera and the Chevrolet Volt work just a little bit differently. These vehicles drive on the electric motor, the gas engine is used as a generator to charge the battery pack when it starts running out.

According to a Fuel Economy article, plug-in hybrids, sometimes referred to as Plug-in Hybrid-Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), are hybrid cars with high-capacity batteries. After charging, the batteries hold enough electricity from the power grid to drastically reduce their petroleum consumption under normal driving conditions.

A Union of Concerned Scientists article explains that the plug-in hybrids, have larger batteries that can be recharged from an outlet which lets them drive extended distances on electricity before switching to gasoline or diesel.

Plug-in hybrids are configured in two ways. In parallel or blended plug-in hybrids, the engine and electric motor are mechanically connected to the wheels of the car, and both propel the car under usual driving conditions. The electric-only propulsion for these cars usually occurs just at low speeds.

In series plug-in hybrids, also called extended-range electric vehicles (EREVs), the electric motor turns the wheels and the gasoline engine is used to generate the electricity. Series plug-ins can only run on electricity until the battery needs to be recharged. The gasoline engine then creates electricity to power the electric motor. For example, for shorter trips, the series plug-in hybrids may use no gasoline at all.

Plug-in hybrid cars can have different battery capacities, which gives some cars the ability to travel farther on electricity than others. Their fuel economy depends on driving style, driving conditions, and accessory use.

The advantage to plug-in hybrids is that they use between 30% to 60% less gas than conventional cars. Plug-in hybrids reduce oil dependence and are good on your personal budget.

Plug-in hybrids also emit less greenhouse gas than conventional vehicles.

A plug-in hybrid can cost between $4,000 to $8,000 more than a non-plug-in hybrid. But since electricity is usually cheaper than using gasoline, the fuel savings will often offset the higher vehicle cost. But this often will depend on the type of vehicle purchased, the number of miles operating on electricity, how much fuel costs, and how long the owner keeps the car. There are also up to $7,500 worth of federal tax incentives available for qualifying plug-ins. (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/phevtech.shtml)

The website fueleconomy.gov points out that re-charging the battery of a plug-in hybrid using a 120-volt household outlet can take several hours. If you use a 240-volt home or public charger to recharge, it can take roughly 1 to 4 hours. However, a "fast charge" to 80% capacity can take as little as 30 minutes. A plug-in hybrid doesn’t have to be plugged in since it can use only gas, but it won’t get the maximum range or fuel economy without charging.

A Union of Concerned Scientists article explains some of the benefits of the hybrid design. For example, regenerative braking is another fuel-saving feature. Conventional cars use friction brakes to slow down, dissipating the vehicle's kinetic energy as heat. Regenerative braking lets some of that energy to be captured, turned into electricity, and stored in the batteries. This electricity can later be used to run the vehicle.

Having an electric motor is a more efficient engine design. This power assist feature reduces the demand on a hybrid’s gasoline engine. The hybrid’s gasoline engine produces less power, but when it is combined with electric motors, the system’s total power can go beyond a conventional vehicle.

The most efficient hybrids utilize an electric-only drive which allows the vehicle to drive entirely on electricity and use less fuel. In hybrids that can't be plugged-in, the electric-only drive is typically only used at lower speeds and startup, and the gas or diesel-powered engine usually operates at higher speeds, where it’s the most efficient. Because plug-in hybrids have larger batteries and motors they can drive entirely on electricity at relatively high speeds for extended distances, usually from 10 to 30 miles.

Hybrid cars may be the cars of the future, combining a gas engine with an electric motor and battery. But we often get asked how do hybrid vehicles work? Our auto technicians at All Around Auto Care in Westminster can explain it to you. We are the only certified independent hybrid repair shop in the Denver metro area, so we know all about hybrids. If you choose to buy one of these vehicles, we can provide all the maintenance and repairs you need.

January 17, 2017

What is Vehicle Fleet Maintenance?

What is Vehicle Fleet Maintenance?In today’s business world, it’s important to know what is vehicle fleet maintenance and how our fleet service team at All Around Auto Care in Westminster can assist. By coming to the experts, we can help you keep your costs down and employees safe by properly maintaining your fleet and addressing minor repairs before they become major issues.

Maintaining your fleet and keeping all vehicles in good shape for employees is one of the most important jobs you can take. Your role is vital to ensuring that your company can work at peak performance, your fleet can operate safely, and the bottom line can see increased profitability.

To avoid safety issues and keep your fleet running efficiently at all times, you first need to find an automotive center that you can trust. At All Around Auto Care, our specialized team of fleet technicians can help you control expenses without having to worry about managing repairs in-house. This also allows your drivers to focus on the road and the job at hand.

Our fleet maintenance and car repair programs can be designed fit your company’s needs and our goal is to always help fleet owners and managers cost-effectively maintain their vehicles for top performance. You’ll be able to budget accurately and avoid any unexpected expenses.

So, what is vehicle fleet maintenance and how can it work to your company’s advantage? Let’s take a look at an eHow article that breaks things down a bit.

Preventative Maintenance

Fleet maintenance means keeping track of each vehicle's routine maintenance schedule and making sure it is done on time and by experienced technicians. Good consistent maintenance can save your company unnecessary repairs and expenses.

Fleet Managers

A company’s fleet manager is in charge of a company’s transportation fleet and equipment and oversees financial responsibilities pertaining to the fleet, vehicle maintenance and safety, driver management, and overall efficiency. 

Hiring a well-trained, experienced, and committed fleet manager can lead your preventative maintenance program to success. In order to keep your fleet vehicles in good shape and on the road, they will require regular maintenance and will eventually need repairs. A fleet manager’s goal is to determine when it is no longer cost-effective to keep the vehicle, but until that point, the manager will make sure every vehicle is maintained with regular service and any needed repairs are addressed quickly.

A fleet manager keeps track of where the fleet vehicles are, their registration and licensing, and which employee is assigned to which vehicle. 

Safe and Reliable Vehicle Performance

Complete and regular fleet maintenance helps keep vehicles and equipment in good working order to provide efficient, safe, and reliable performance and keep them running for as long as possible. Fleet maintenance should consist of scheduled servicing, inspections and vehicle repairs which can be based on time, mileage, engine hours or gallons of fuel used. When your business relies on your fleet, your goal is to prevent breakdowns, cut down on emergency road calls, and reduce the expense of unexpected repairs.

Fleet maintenance will keep operators safe, increase the resale value of the vehicle and improve the company’s image with good-looking and well-run vehicles. In addition, when you maintain your fleet, you save the company possible litigation from negligence.

The best way to keep your fleet maintained is to schedule preventive maintenance, planned component repairs, and driver inspections. An effective and efficient preventative fleet maintenance program should involve these services and vehicle checks.

  • Engine oil and filter changes
  • Transmission fluid
  • Undercarriage and frame
  • Exterior and interior lights
  • Body, glass, and mirrors
  • Horn, seat belts, and seats
  • Fluid leaks
  • Auxiliary systems
  • Fuel system
  • Cooling system
  • Windshield wipers
  • Tune-ups
  • Electrical system
  • Braking system
  • Engine and transmission mounts
  • Drive shafts or CV joints
  • Hoses and belts
  • Steering and suspension system
  • Tires, wheels, and rims
  • Exhaust system

The timing and frequency of preventative fleet maintenance depend on the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended services and the vehicle’s operating conditions. Some vehicles are towing a trailer, operate in off-road conditions, have multiple drivers, or experience highway or inner city driving.

Fleet Vehicle Operators

Preventative maintenance begins with the operator of the fleet vehicle. They know best what the vehicle has been through and how it is driving, including safety systems, drivability issues, the vehicle body, and other repairs. The fleet operator must perform regular inspections and report any concerns or problems to the fleet manager

Professional Automotive Technicians

Your vehicles and equipment should be serviced by professional automotive technicians, understand your fleet preventive maintenance plan and work with your fleet manager. The fleet certified technicians must be proactive in servicing the fleet with the goal of reducing breakdowns and repairs. No shortcuts should be allowed.

Scheduling and Record-Keeping Software

You may want to consider a preventative maintenance and management software package to help you handle information about your company’s fleet. It may be worth the investment to reduce time and workload for even a small fleet. Preventative maintenance software offers an efficient and accurate way to generate reports that can help you make fleet decisions.

This can help your company design customized maintenance schedules, create and track work orders, track accident and claims, tally fuel usage, show maintenance histories and tire logs, and generate invoicing and stock reports.

Tracking and Reports

It’s important to track the costs of parts, labor, fuel, and collisions to determine which vehicles cost the most to operate. This helps the company to figure out a vehicle efficiency and need for replacement. A properly maintained fleet offers the lowest operating costs because if a vehicle is not performing well it will suffer costly repairs and higher fuel costs.

Reports about vehicle repairs, maintenance, and costs can be produced monthly by the fleet manager and given to senior management for review.

A company needs a detailed plan about what is vehicle fleet maintenance and how it can keep the operators safe and the vehicles working great. Our focus is to help reduce your fleet’s operating costs and breakdowns, road calls, and fleet downtime. All Around Auto Care in Westminster’s experienced ASE-certified fleet technicians can keep your company’s vehicles stay well-maintained and running smoothly, which will save you time and money.

December 20, 2016

Toyota to Enter Electric Car Market With New Safer Battery

Toyota to Enter Electric Car Market With New Safer BatteryElectric car technology keeps improving with companies like Nissan and Tesla leading the way. Our auto technicians at All Around Auto Care in Westminster are excited to hear that with new technology Toyota to enter the electric car market with a new safer battery.

A Better, Safer Battery

According to an Institution of Engineering and Technology article, a new and more powerful lithium-ion battery with features to avoid short circuits has been developed by Toyota engineers. This will allow the auto manufacturer to enter the all-electric car market.

Toyota’s new battery has the capacity of 8.8-kilowatt hours which is double the amount of previous batteries in Toyota’s hybrid vehicles. Their engineers were able to get this increased capacity while only increasing the size of the battery pack by around two-thirds and its weight by a half.

The engineers accomplished this by reducing the distance between the anode and the cathode, where active ions travel when charging and discharging. The advanced control technology of the new battery also precisely monitors the temperature and condition of the battery pack’s 95 individual cells.

The battery will power the new Prius Prime hybrid vehicle which will be able to drive 37 miles on the battery before needing its gas engine. According to Toyota’s Prius chief engineer, they double-braced and triple-braced the battery pack to make sure it is reliable and aligns with their focus on safety.

The Lithium-Ion Battery Hurdle

Toyota has been reluctant to enter into the plug-in electrical vehicle market led by Tesla and Nissan because of their concerns with the battery. They chose instead to opt for hybrid technology. In fact, their Prius, which was introduced in 1997, was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle.

Toyota’s concerns over lithium-ion batteries are certainly justified. In other industries, problems are legendary. The exploding batteries of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone and the grounding of Boeing’s Dreamliner passenger jets from overheating lithium-ion batteries are just two examples of the real dangers they present.

These batteries use a chemical combination of nickel, cobalt, and manganese which store more energy, take a shorter time to charge, and are considered safer than other Li-ion technologies. But they are still capable of overheating and catching fire if not properly designed, manufactured, and controlled.

Overcoming potential safety issues has been Toyota’s biggest challenge. And now, this new lithium-ion battery for both hybrids and plug-ins will enable Toyota to also produce all-electric cars in the future.

Ensuring safety started with Toyota engineers tightly controlling manufacturing and assembly to avoid contamination. A near clean room environment keeps even minuscule metal particles and impurities out of the battery mix to eliminate the threat of short circuits, overheating and potential explosions.

Because the prices of lithium-ion batteries have fallen by about 60% due to large-scale production, Toyota was also able to invest in a smart control system that identifies the signs of any potential short-circuits in individual cells. The system will prevent it from spreading or shut down the battery entirely.

While other automakers and industries sped ahead with lithium-ion batteries, Toyota seems to have really focused on safety first. Preventing issues during manufacturing and being able to recognize and address potential short-circuits after installation will allow Toyota to enter the electric car market with a new safer battery. As fans of all car types, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric, our techs at All Around Auto Care in Westminster are excited to see what’s next from Toyota.

Of course, whether you drive a gas, hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle, feel free to contact us for repairs or maintenance. We’re here to keep you safely on the road.

December 5, 2016

What is a Plug-in Hybrid Car?

What is a Plug-in Hybrid Car?Cars are changing. There are now electric cars, hybrid cars, and plug-in hybrid cars. So what is a plug-in hybrid car? This is a question our technicians at All Around Auto Care in Westminster get asked often. As hybrid experts, we know everything there is to know about these cars, and we’ve been repairing and maintaining them for years. Let’s get to clarifying plug-in hybrids.

In a Car Buyer article, we came across, we found some great information on what is a plug-in hybrid car, what sets it apart and what models are available from the many manufacturers out there. Here’s what you need to know:

Electric Power

These vehicles can use electric power or the gas engine, depending on how fast you need them to go. Some even use both engine and electric power at the same time.

With a plug-in hybrid, you charge the battery pack by plugging it into an electrical supply source. When it’s fully charged, you can drive purely on electric before having to rely on the gas engine.

Whether it uses electric or the conventional gas engine really depends on your speed. Electric-only with zero emissions is reserved for slower speeds, such as driving on surface streets or in stop-and-go traffic. For high-speed freeway driving, the battery would drain too fast so the gas engine takes over.

At slower speeds, the gas engine will also take over if the battery charge drops below a certain level. It will even charge the batteries so that the car can switch back to electric power when it’s available again.

Low Emissions

The plug-in hybrid is a low-emission car like a standard hybrid car, combining a battery-powered motor with a gas engine.

Range

The mileage on electric-only driving varies from car to car. However, improvements are constantly being made. The 2017 Prius plug-in hybrid is expected to extend the all-electric range from 15 to 31 miles, with a full charge taking two hours.

Expense

Usually, a plug-in hybrid is more expensive to buy than a regular hybrid version of the same car because of the more powerful, higher-capacity battery and the additional equipment for charging the car directly from an electrical source. You will also need parking access close to a main supply or fast-charger.

Hybrid Models

Most manufacturers now offer electric or hybrid versions of at least one car in their range, and many are now introducing plug-in technology, too. Here’s the list:

  • Toyota: The Prius plug-in hybrid has a longer all-electric range and lower emissions than the no-plug hybrid. Toyota also has hybrids of its Yaris, Auris and RAV4 SUV, but not in a plug-in just yet.
  • Mitsubishi: The Outlander PHEV is considered one of the most popular plug-in hybrid SUVs in Europe and Japan. A 2017 model has finally made its way to the U.S. market.
  • Volvo: The XC90 Twin Engine is a plug-in hybrid SUV, which uses a gas engine to recharge the battery. It also has the Volvo V60 D5 and D6 plug-in hybrid estate cars, which use diesel engines.
  • Audi: The company offers the A3 Sportback e-tron® which combines the luxury you expect with a good dose of sportiness.
  • Volkswagen: While not available yet in the U.S., the automaker offers plug-in hybrid GTE versions of its Golf and Passat
  • Mercedes: You’ll trade a little bit of trunk space for a battery in the C-class C350e, S-class S500e, and the Mercedes GLE 500e SUV.
  • BMW: The 330e iPerformance is a plug-in hybrid version of the BMW 3 Series. The brand also offers other plug-in hybrids like the BMW i8 and the BMW i3.
  • Kia: The new Kia Optima PHEV has a combined range of 600 miles, or 27 miles on electric only. Look for a 2017 model in the U.S. soon.

If you’ve ever asked what is a plug-in hybrid car, now you know. And if you decide to make one your next vehicle, you can trust that our technicians at All Around Auto Care in Westminster will help with maintenance and repairs. We’re hybrid experts, love the technology and want to ensure you enjoy a safe, fuel-efficient ride. Already have a hybrid or plug-in hybrid? Get in touch for your next check-up.

November 15, 2016

Toyota Recalls 340,000 Prius Hybrid Cars for Faulty Brakes

Toyota Recalls 340,000 Prius Hybrid Cars for Faulty BrakesA Los Angeles Times article is reporting that Toyota recalls 340,000 Prius hybrid cars for faulty brakes. Here, our hybrid auto repair experts at All Around Auto Care in Westminster will explain what you need to know about the recall and what steps you should take next. 

Faulty Brakes

After receiving reports of possible problems with the Prius braking system, Toyota responded saying the issue may lie with the parking brake cable disengaging unexpectedly, causing the brakes to malfunction. If the car is left in any gear other than park, it can start rolling and possibly result in a crash. 

Numbers Recalled

The recall included 212,000 vehicles in Japan and close to 94,000 here in North America. It also included 17,000 in Europe, Australia and other areas. The cars experiencing brake problems were manufactured from August 2015 through October 2016, and according to CNN are the 2016 and 2017 models. The Prius is sold in over 90 markets, with Japan and the United States being the two largest markets.

Put the Car in Park

Autoweek reported the Toyota recall resulted from a possibility that the parking brake could become inoperative. However, the problem is reported to only happen if a driver gets out of the Prius without first putting the transmission in park. When that happens and the emergency brake is the only thing holding the vehicle, there is a chance that the parking brake cable will fail.

Recall Notification

If you have a Prius in this category, you should be notified in December directly by Toyota. You can also check your VIN number in Toyota’s recall database to see if your car is affected. Toyota has announced it will be adding clips to the top of the brake cable dust boots, which is expected to prevent cable failure.

No Known Crashes or Injuries

Meanwhile, if your car is one that is recalled, make sure you always put your car in park and turn off the car before getting out. As of October 3, 2016, Toyota reports no known crashes, injuries, or deaths due to the faulty brakes. They are continuing to investigate the reported instances of brake failure.

Toyota Safety Sense

Toyota touts its 2017 Prius hybrid car with its Toyota Safety Sense as an active safety package that combines the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams and full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control. Its comprehensive features create in-the-moment safety that is designed to enhance awareness and decision-making on the road. Toyota stresses it comes standard on every 2017 Prius.

The company’s focus on safety seems confirmed with its proactive response as Toyota recalls 340,000 Prius hybrid cars for faulty brakes despite no reported injuries. However, our auto technicians at All Around Auto Care in Westminster warn there is potential for harm and if you have a Prius, check to see if your car is in the group recalled. Our goal is always to keep you informed about any concerns.

 

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