Simpler, and thus cheaper, hybrid cars are hitting the streets later this year. This trend is being led by Hyundai with its hybrid Sonata sedan and Kia's Optima, along with the more upscale VW Touareg crossover and Porsche Cayenne.
These use a single electric motor and conventional automatic transmission to cut costs—as opposed to current parallel hybrid designs that have specialized transmission with dual electric motors. On the newer powertrains, a computer-controlled clutch (at left side of image) is connected to the engine flywheel and sits within a single electric motor at the front of the automatic transmission. When the clutch is engaged, the engine and motor are locked during engine-only or acceleration-assist (hybrid) operation. When the clutch is disengaged, the electric motor drives the car through a conventional automatic transmission.
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