Hybrid Cars Are An Important Part Of Your Future

Driving hybrid cars may well be closer than you think, if it isn't already a reality for you.

So,on this page we want to explore a little of the history of the development of hybrid cars, the types that are available and being developed, what they can achieve and which types are best suited to improving the environment.

Why We Need Hybrid Cars

The world-wide dependence on petroleum-based fuels is one of the key contributors to the rise in levels of greenhouse gases - a phenomenon which is a cause for great concern.

Allied with the pollution factor we have security of supply issues in countries which are major oil importers.

In addition, we have dwindling supplies of oil and rapidly increasing prices.

All these factors are stimulating the research and development of alternative energy cars.

What are hybrid cars?

Simply put, they are cars that are powered by two sources – generally, a gasoline engine and an electric motor. It is worth noting however, that the diesel engine is also being used in hybrids and in the future the gasoline/diesel engines could be replaced by engines using alternate fuels.

It is worth noting that the hybrid concept is not new when it comes to transport – in fact they are quite common. Mopeds, locomotives, buses and submarines are all examples of hybrid combinations.

For the purposes of this article, however, we will focus on the gasoline/diesel-electric hybrid vehicles.

How do hybrid cars work?

The conventional engine in hybrid vehicles is generally much smaller than in conventional gasoline powered vehicles, perhaps only producing half the horsepower output. This is counterbalanced to some extent by lowering the weight with lighter materials and improving the aerodynamic efficiency.

There are two main types of hybrid systems – series hybrids and parallel hybrids.

The parallel hybrid cars, the most common, have a configuration where the wheels can be powered by the gasoline engine or the electric motor or both, depending on the circumstances.

In the case of series hybrids the electric motor powers the wheels while conventional engine either powers the battery at times when the electric motor needs more than the battery can give, or powers the electric motor

A more recent development has been plug-in hybrids where the battery can be charged from a normal power outlet at home or work. The plug-in hybrids may be either parallel or series hybrids.

And yet a further development is the fuel cell hybrid where the car has an electric motor and a hydrogen fuel cell. In this case there are two power sources – the battery and the fuel cell.

What are the efficiencies and benefits of hybrid cars?

The key elements to note are:

  • Improved fuel economy.
  • Less road drag or rolling resistance with stiffer tires
  • Improved aerodynamics
  • Reduced weight with lightweight materials for example, carbon fibre.
  • Regenerative braking – normally,when you use the brakes, the energy is lost as heat but in hybrids the electric motor slows the car and some of that energy is captured and stored in the battery.
  • Less pollution because the electric motor replaces the gas motor for a significant amount of the time.

What are disadvantages in driving hybrid cars?

The disadvantages are pretty small and many carried more weight earlier in the development stage than now.

  • The price is a significant one, but as with all things new the price will come down as market share improves along with manufacturing technologies. However, even with the higher price compare to a conventional gas powered car, studies have shown that fuel savings over the life of the car will more than account for the difference.
  • The batteries in hybrid cars have come in for criticism because the earlier models were using very toxic and dangerous metal hydride batteries. Makers are now moving to the much more efficient Lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are very expensive but are guaranteed for 80,000-100,000 miles (128,000 – 160,000 kilometers).
  • Safety issues - some studies have shown that the are more likely to be involved in accidents in certain situations, for example in high pedestrian areas where some people cannot hear them – they are so quiet if on the electric motor. This is also a problem for people with visual impairment, who rely on sound in some situations and also children. Car makers are now making modifications to address this factor.

The future for this technology looks extremely bright. We just to have to wean all those people off their Hummers.

Have A Question About Alternate Fuels?

It's simple - go directly to our Energy Questions page

Sign up for our FREE E-Course on alternative energy sources for your home and receive our Alternative Energy Primer - a great resource for the whole family.