Hybrid car technology can markedly improve automotive fuel economy in this country and can therefore delay problems caused by the oil shortage. The reason for this is simple. The family car is the major user of fuel in the U.S. and, due to its inefficiency, is largely responsible for the energy crisis.
Hybrid cars are better than many alternative energy sources in combating the oil shortage crisis. Hybrids are listed as an alternative energy source because they substantially reduce gasoline use.
The first hybrid cars on the market improved gas mileage substantially and future models, most notably plug-in hybrids and diesel hybrid models, may further improve gas mileage. That helps the pocketbook as gasoline and diesel prices rise.
Unfortunately, the Japanese (Toyota) began hybrid car competition by eating our lunch with their hybrid cars (Toyota Prius) as they did with small cars a few decades earlier. Most of the most popular early hybrid cars were Japanese and, of these, the Prius was the run-away winner.
Of course, the real bad news about the hybrid cars is that only a million or so are on the road in this country. It is going to take some time to replace a large percentage of the +200,000,000 non-hybrid vehicles presently on the road.
While the Detroit car companies were pushing SUVs and pickup trucks so obscenely large that they could serve as small school buses or carry small cars in the truck bed, Toyota saw the need for the hybrids, got busy and engineered a great hybrid car - the Prius. The Toyota Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid. The technology for the Prius, when examined, looks amazingly simple. But then, so do most inventions when looked at retrospectively. From my experience working in the patent field, I remember the often-repeated tale of how the whiskered expert reacts to a new invention (someone else's invention):
When first introduced, the whiskered expert says, "It won't work!"
Then when it looks like it might work, "It works, but it costs too much!"
Finally, when the invention is a success, "It works, it doesn't cost too much, and I thought of it first!"
Toyota jumped out front with the Prius and the whiskered experts of Detroit tried to play catch-up to the Japanese engineers.
But maybe we should hold off on judging Detroit until the new designs of U.S. hybrid cars hit the market and can be compared to the Toyota Prius. There are some good reports on the U.S. hybrids
The American people have gotten the message alright. Until the recession dampened the demand, there were long waiting lines for the Toyota Prius and for other hybrids largely of foreign make. Design Improvements are coming thick and fast and prices appear to be holding or are only slightly higher than comparable non-hybrids.
In summer of 2006, an article noted that 30% of Americans would consider buying a hybrid car. In 2005, that figure was 3%. A ten-fold increase in one year!
Additionally, there are some tax breaks to be considered when a person is looking at possibly buying a hybrid car.
The hybrids are on their way.
Hybrid Cars vs. Hydrogen Powered Cars. Many experts say that the hybrid caris just the first step on the road toward hydrogen-powered cars which are the ultimate energy saving vehicle. Former President Bush endorsed the hydrogen car as the way to beat the energy crisis. All our problems will be over when we finally enter the "hydrogen" era! Maybe so.....and then again maybe not. Several decades ago, I also heard that our energy problems would be over when we entered the solar energy era. Driven any solar-powered cars lately? How far away is the solar era? (To be fair, solar energy is finally beginning to look more competitive.)
Also, remember the big shale rock oil push of the seventies. Both industry and the US Government poured billions into that Peter Pan dream. Driven any shale oil powered cars lately? How far away is the shale oil era?
I don't want to poke too much fun at solar energy or shale oil or hydrogen-powered cars. We shouldn't give up on any type of possible alternative energy source. And as far as what my opinion is worth on this subject, It should also be noted that I didn't think much of hybrid cars when I first heard of the concept!
I was wrong about the hybrids!
However, hydrogen-powered cars are a long ways from being operational. The present estimate is that it will be many years before the hydrogen-powered cars will be ready for the mass market. By that time, the energy crisis will almost certainly have us by the throat.
While we are waiting for the hydrogen-powered cars to be perfected, lets push the hybrid cars. They work and they are here now!
The Concept. Theoretically, a hybrid combines two or more sources of power. One of the web sites I visited points out that the mo-ped is a hybrid vehicle because it uses both leg power and gasoline engine power.
Sources of Power. The gasoline engine and electric motor are the two most common sources of power for hybrids.. But batteries play a major role in most hybrid cars providing an energy storage device for the electric motor.
Car Prices. The prices of hybrid cars is substantially higher than the price of equivalent conventional cars. That said, the prices are not outrageous and are predicted to go much lower as production of the hybrid cars is increased
In the long run, price will not be a problem.
Power Split Device of Toyota Prius. The generator and the transmission also perform important functions in the hybrids. In particular, it should be noted that the power split device of the Toyota Prius functions as a gear box and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT eliminates the need for either an automatic or manual transmission.
The power split device is the heart and soul of the Toyota Prius and is largely responsible for the outstanding performance of the hybrid car. The device is something an American should have invented but didn't because the Americans design engineers were busy trying to make SUVs and pickups a little roomier. Will we ever learn?
Regenerative Braking. One of the neat tricks many hybrid cars perform is to recover energy from the braking operation. The electric motor helps to slow the car down and is responsible for this regenerative braking operation. While the electric motor is assisting the brakes in throttling down the car, it acts as an electric generator and uses the energy collected in slowing the car down to charge the car's batteries. This, of course, improves the fuel efficiency.
According to Wikipedia, "A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid vehicle with batteries that can be recharged by connecting a plug to an electric power source. It shares the characteristics of of both conventional hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles, having an internal combustion engine and batteries for power." I, personally, picture the plug-in hybrid car as a car I can drive on short trips ( up to about 40 miles) during the day and then plug into a charging circuit at night (my carport or other) to charge the batteries for the next day's activities. I don't picture (at this time) the hybrid as a vehicle suitable for long cross-country trips.
Plug-in hybrid cars have recently received an enormous amount of publicity in the media.
The plug-in hybrids would help with both fuel mileage and with air pollution if they were in mass production. But, alas, mass production of the plug-ins has not yet begun and will not start until later.
(The plug-in cars you see on the road today are mostly regular hybrid cars that have been converted to plug-ins via conversion kits.)
1. Alternative Energy Sources. Hybrid cars and other alternative energy sources will work hand-in-hand in fighting the energy crisis and global warming. So buy a hybrid car and fight global warming and the energy crisis!
2. Oil & Energy Crisis. Peak Oil is approaching and your life will never be the same again! You need a hybrid to save gasoline money.
3. Germany in World War 2. Causes and major events of World War 2.
The Hybrid car has arrived and will play a role in reducing the U.S. (and world) dependence on oil. Hybrid cars are better than most so-called alternative energy sources in dealing with the energy crisis. The Japanese have led the way in hybrid cars with their outstanding Toyota Prius. U.S. hybrid cars are beginning to be produced in volume now but the Japanese have a head start.
Last Updated: 07/01/11
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