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2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid: Why Driving A Hybrid Is Different


Badge on 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid

Badge on 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid

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Just like rich people are different from you and me, hybrid-powered vehicles are not exactly like the vehicles you're used to driving. After spending a week with a 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, the overall experience reminded me of just how different these vehicles are.

Here are six "did you knows" that generally apply to all single-mode hybrids:

1) These vehicles have something that functions as a transmission, but isn't a transmission in the conventional sense ( a device that has fixed or continuously variable gearing). In practice, you'll never feel a gear shift, because there aren't any. You'll just feel smooth, continuous acceleration. The over-simplification is that hybrids use an electric motor or two to handle the duties of a conventional transmission, but it's far more complex than that. Keep reading...

2) When you use the brakes in a hybrid, you may not be. Much of the braking in our 2010 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is achieved without the brake pads ever coming in contact with spinning brake rotors. The deceleration comes from the resistance caused by the motor/generator creating electricity.

Here's how it works; when the brake pedal is pressed, the electric motor in the transmission-that-really-isn't-just-a-transmission changes its operation to become an electrical generator. When it does this, the kinetic energy from the moving vehicle spins the motor/generator, which sends the electricity that it produces to the hybrid battery pack for storage and latter use. The force of the generator acts on the driveshafts to slow the vehicle.

Don't worry, even if the physical brakes aren't burning off speed, the brake lights still go on.

3) Hybrids don't have conventional starter motors. The electric motor in the transmission-that-really-isn't-just-a-transmission handles the starting of the internal combustion engine.

4) Hybrids don't have a traditional reverse gear. To make the vehicle go backwards, the hybrid motor in the transmission spins backwards.

5)  Hybrids don't have 12-volt batteries. Power from the high-voltage (often around 300 volts) is converted to run standard accessories like the radio and power windows.

6) Hybrids use electrically assisted power steering instead of hydraulic powered gears. The E-gears are powered by the hybrid's battery system, and this affords three main benefits; less power consumption, it provides assist when the gasoline engine is turned off, and it eliminates a stand-alone hydraulic system. Unfortunately, the system on the 2009 Mariner Hybrid feels rather Atari-like — as in disconnected —but electric steering gears are getting better, so we have reason to have hope.

2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid with 2005 Ford Escape

2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid with 2005 Ford Escape

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In order to meet new CAFE and emissions standards, the 2009 Mercury Milan Hybrid seems to be the kind of vehicle that we'll be seeing much more of in the near future. Even though it doesn't look much different from it's regular gas-engine stablemates, its hybrid powertrain achieves the highest mileage of any SUV; 34 mpg city, 31 mpg highway. Looking ahead, it seems like a good idea to get familiar with these vehicles.

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Comments (3)
  1. "Hybrids 101"

    Good factual article. Thanks for the primer!
     
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  2. "Well... sorta."

    These 6 things may be true for the Mariner Hybrid... but not all hybrids are the same. The Honda Civic hybrid is just an electric motor in place of the flywheel of an otherwise conventional engine. It has a 5-speed manual or a CVT just like conventional cars.
    The Toyota Highlander Hybrid appears to have a 12 volt battery. The only reason I know this is my neighbor jump started my partner's CRV with a Highlander Hybrid.
    The Pruis has a planetary gearset (the same basic concept used in the Ford Model-T) and a Continuously Variable Transmission(CVT). It may not be your standard 4-speed automatic, but it's still a transmission.
    With the GM 2-mode hybrid, all of the hybrid mechanics is in the automatic transmission.
     
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  3. "Corrections"

    Last paragraph says "Milan". That should be "Mariner".
    @Oldsmoboi: Some hybrids do and some do not have 12V batteries. But ALL have 12V busses. The Highlander Hybrid (same as all others) has a 12V jump-start point (to or from), whether it has a 12V battery or not.
    The Prius does NOT have a CVT. Same as all other Toyota, Lexus, and Ford hybrids, the single planetary gear set can only transmit a multiple of the torque provided by the motor/generator on the sun gear. The engine speed is controlled by the speed of that same motor/generator. The resulting behaviour is CVT-like, but is not the same, as CVTs (and fixed-gear transmissions) provide engine torque multiplication at lower ratios, but the hybrid's planetary gearsets do not.
    The GM 2-mode is an extension of the Toyota/Ford system, in that it uses two planetary gearsets, the primary benefit of which is to allow downsizing of the electric power used for ratio regulation. The other benefit is two planetary gearsets, with appropriate locking clutches, allows four fixed mechanical ratios, which again minimizes the electrical power usage.
    Note that the single-planetary-set hybrids could have two fixed mechanical ratios by adding a couple of cheap locking clutchs. The main cost would be the engineering cost to program the controls. But as far as I know, nobody is doing it. Given the cycle fuel efficiency of the Fusion over the Camry and the HS250, perhaps Ford has done this but hasn't published it. Someone needs to do a teardown and see!
     
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