In an age where global warming and environmental change is constantly at the forefront, more and more are buying electric vehicles or hybrids. But even these need maintenance, and a local body shop is servicing the vehicles while expanding knowledge of the alternative vehicles.
One of the major negative effects of automobiles on the environment is smog-producing gases from the vehicles. Smog is particularly evident in large metropolitan areas, where many thousands of cars are concentrated – and is always present in our city of more than 2.3 million. Gases that make up smog include nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and other volatile organic compounds. Hybrid cars tend to give off fewer emissions than their counterparts, and hybrid versions of mid-size cars, mid-size sport-utility vehicles, and full-size SUVs can reduce smog emissions up to 21 percent compared to their traditional doppelgangers. Adolf Hoepfl Garage owner Kathryn van der Pol and her husband drive a hybrid themselves and raved about it as an alternative vehicle option.
“It’s a neat technology, and in a lot of ways, hybrids are better than electric cars, because those must be charged on the electrical grid – if people drove purely electric vehicles, we wouldn’t be able to operate anything else. Our grid isn’t designed to support millions of cars needing to be recharged,” Kathryn van der Pol said.
While one could go into numerous details on differences between standard-engine vehicles and their hybrid counterparts, the main difference boils down to its operating system. Traditional cars tend to rely on the internal combustion engine alone; whereas hybrids combine the old-school methods with modern technologies in order to reduce emissions. Hybrid batteries regenerate themselves by taking heat of the braking system when a vehicle decelerates and puts it into the battery. The electric battery is recharged completely by waste heat and energy from the conventional engine.
“I think hybrids are a superior system, because they use a minimum amount of fuel, and they’re great driving vehicles,” van der Pol said. “Over time, if you maintain them and keep them up to date, they’re better. Not only would we use less fuel, there would be a lot fewer repairs than most people must get nowadays.
Hybrids need service too
Making efforts to reduce emissions are one thing, but van der Pol said upkeep is a different animal – and Adolf Hoepfl is one of the few garages certified to service hybrid vehicles, with three L-1 certified technicians at the garage since 2012.
“Most importantly, you must drive the car – hybrids don’t like to sit, and they need to be driven,” she said. “They’re not good cars for people who only drive a few miles a day – it needs to be driven to extend the battery life.”Another of the most important reminders is to have ALL your systems checked to make sure they’re not running low – which Sybren van der pol says happen if the operator goes on autopilot. After all, since hybrids possess two systems (a conventional system and electric system) accompanied by their own water pumps and other intricacies, a keen eye is necessary to keep it running smoothly. Hybrids run on both direct current and alternating current systems, so an inverter — which takes the DC power and inverts it to AC — is also a must. Finally, a hybrid’s transmission is also tied to the battery, and they work in conjunction. Sybren reminded the public that oil also must be changed every 5,000 miles — with synthetic oil — and the vehicle’s coolant on both systems must be checked and replaced at least every 3 years.
“They will fool you – it compensates, and when it runs low, it just runs the compressor harder. So, when your Alternative Current gets low, you need to check it,” Sybren said. “Even if a car is on electric power, it still needs to be able to shift, so it’s intertwined with the transmission. If those fluids aren’t properly maintained, internal wires get damaged over time.”
Armed with their new hybrid battery tester, Adolf Hoepfl can also test any vehicle for a battery health report — after all, a weak battery can result in lost fuel economy. The shop is offering a free inspection to the first 10 people who call for a reservation.