Will Plug-In Hybrids Become the Standard?

 

plugin.jpgFarmers are planting corn and soybeans like crazy, turning food crops into ethanol and biodiesel. Scientists are squeezing oil out of algae while others are trying to coax hydrogen into a fuel that is easy to produce and safe to use. Still other developers are touting the battery-operated electric car, and one company is building a car that runs on compressed air.

Which system will survive? Or will we have a mixture of E85’s, biodiesel, electric, air and hydrogen fueled vehicles cramming our highways and straining the fuel delivery system infrastructure? Eventually, according to the age-old theory that the fittest shall survive, one method of moving us from point “A” to point “B” will emerge, and some folks are betting on the plug-in hybrid.





Designing a battery that will store a lot of energy and handle power surges has been a real problem for automakers. The Lithium-Ion battery has shown it can do both, but engineers say rapid discharges can degrade the battery’s lifetime. One car company using Lithium-Ion batteries, Tesla Motors , has developed a high-performance, all electric roadster with a range of 200 miles or so. The price tag, around $90,000, give a take a few thousand, takes it out of the family car bracket.

Hybrid-electric vehicles combine a battery with an electric motor and a gasoline engine to propel the car. The engine, and energy regenerated during braking, keep the battery charged and the car moving.

Designing a practical plug-in hybrid is another story, and it’s all about the battery, or batteries. It takes more batteries for a plug-in, with substantially different capabilities, such as storing a lot of energy and providing quick acceleration, or discharge of energy when needed. In addition, these batteries need to be more compact, affordable and safe as they cycle through various uses.

Lithium-Ion batteries fill most of that bill, but their useful lifetime can be degraded by sudden sudden surges of power, and there still seems to be a lingering doubt as to their complete safety when overheated.

So how do we answer the need for quick power surges and large storage capacity? With capacitors, of course.

Actually, they’re called Ultracaps, the electrical equivalent of a shaken champagne bottle. The difference being they also recharge quickly, having 10 to 100 times the power density of typical batteries and only one-tenth the energy density.

In case you aren’t acquainted with capacitors, I’ll try to help. First of all, capacitors are used in every electronic circuit, in your computer, tv, radio, and cell phone to name a few.

How do they work? Take two separate strands of wire, and on the end of each, attach a flat piece of metal we’ll call a plate. In between these plates, place what is called a dielectric, or a material that will not pass electricity, and put all that into a material that holds it all together which is, in itself, a dielectric.

Now, hook one wire up to the positive side of a battery, the other to the negative side for just a second. A charge builds up on one plate only, and stays there until you put the two wires together, and the capacitor discharges in a flash. I wouldn’t try this with a huge power source, a 6 volt drycell should give you a small spark.

Increase the size and capacity of these capacitors and you have ultracaps, capable of providing an instant power thrust and literally recharging a second later. This, as they say, is a marriage made in heaven for plug-in hybrids.

A working example of this concept is the Extreme Hybrid which was rolled out at the Detroit auto show in January. The developer, AFS Trinity, is not an auto company. They took a Saturn vue hybrid and retrofitted the vehicle to achieve a 40 mile electric range before reverting to run efficiently on it’s gasoline engine like a normal hybrid. Gas mileage comes in at around 150 mpg.

The Extreme Hybrid site features several videos featuring the car. No, it isn’t ready for production yet, but the technology has been proven and this type of plug-in hybrid may become the standard for automotive transportation in the future.

You might say, but what about the gasoline? Will we still have to buy fossil fuels to run our small engines? Not likely, with the advances in biofuels, especially the promise of algae-derived fuels, the day may soon arrive when we won’t use gasoline at all.

What a concept.

Related Posts:

Hybrid Hacks and Toyota Yawns?

Plug-In Hybrids Use Over 17 Times More Water

Chevy Volt: Where Is GM’s Electric Car?

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About the Author

My home state is Illinois, and my hometown a little railroad/farming community named Galesburg.We lived on a small farm during my high school years and I became very aware of nature and it’s wonders. I loved the out of doors, working with animals, plowing fields and harvesting crops. Those were very good years.After a stint in the Army during the Korean war my broadcasting career took off at the local radio station, a 250 watt “teapot” as it was called in those days. My first job was as an engineer, then the ham came out and I became an announcer/newsman, graduating after several years to a larger market and a stint as a TV journalist/photographer. Cold, wet weather led me to the southwest where I’ve lived for most of the last 40 years, with a couple of years out to have fun working as a private investigator in San Francisco, and a few years working in Las Vegas hotels and casinos. In all, its been a real ride.After retiring a few years back I became fascinated with the efforts being made to find alternative energy sources. I’ve watched our environment deteriorate during my lifetime, and now it’s my chance to join the chorus of intelligent and caring individuals making a difference one day at a time.

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  • Max

    Thank you for the nice comment! Let’s hope this concept vehicle becomes a reality very soon.

  • Max

    Thank you for the nice comment! Let’s hope this concept vehicle becomes a reality very soon.

  • John

    I believe that food based fuel is not the answer.

    There are so many vehicles in the world, and people to drive them, that the only possible balanced solution is to find an abundant resource that can be constantly renewed without danger of depletion – like air.

    To me, the compressed air seems the better solution, as there’s plenty of it around.

    Its also kind of hypocrict that farmers are planting corn for fuel, when there’s millions in this world starving.

    My 2C.

    J

  • John

    I believe that food based fuel is not the answer.

    There are so many vehicles in the world, and people to drive them, that the only possible balanced solution is to find an abundant resource that can be constantly renewed without danger of depletion – like air.

    To me, the compressed air seems the better solution, as there’s plenty of it around.

    Its also kind of hypocrict that farmers are planting corn for fuel, when there’s millions in this world starving.

    My 2C.

    J

  • John

    I believe that food based fuel is not the answer.

    There are so many vehicles in the world, and people to drive them, that the only possible balanced solution is to find an abundant resource that can be constantly renewed without danger of depletion – like air.

    To me, the compressed air seems the better solution, as there’s plenty of it around.

    Its also kind of hypocrict that farmers are planting corn for fuel, when there’s millions in this world starving.

    My 2C.

    J

  • I was involved with the first annual PHEV conference this past fall, there are video’s of some of the proceedings on the website. It was an excellent conference.

  • I was involved with the first annual PHEV conference this past fall, there are video’s of some of the proceedings on the website. It was an excellent conference.

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  • That’s the best concept I’ve heard of so far. If a car can run on battery power for 40 miles, that will fall within the range of most drivers, and then it can rely on biofuel power so it can still have a range above 250 miles, which is important if you want to sell these cars outside of the cities. I’m optimistic we can break away from 95% of our gasoline usage within 20 years IF this concept can catch on.

  • That’s the best concept I’ve heard of so far. If a car can run on battery power for 40 miles, that will fall within the range of most drivers, and then it can rely on biofuel power so it can still have a range above 250 miles, which is important if you want to sell these cars outside of the cities. I’m optimistic we can break away from 95% of our gasoline usage within 20 years IF this concept can catch on.

  • That’s the best concept I’ve heard of so far. If a car can run on battery power for 40 miles, that will fall within the range of most drivers, and then it can rely on biofuel power so it can still have a range above 250 miles, which is important if you want to sell these cars outside of the cities. I’m optimistic we can break away from 95% of our gasoline usage within 20 years IF this concept can catch on.

  • Thanks for the great article – reading more I thought it was interesting that this was done with a full-size SUV, and that for a sedan it gets even better gas mileage.

    This claim of 150 mpg claim needs a little more explaining though – this figure assumes that you drive 40 miles a day (all electric) for 6 days then 100 miles on the seventh day.

  • Thanks for the great article – reading more I thought it was interesting that this was done with a full-size SUV, and that for a sedan it gets even better gas mileage.

    This claim of 150 mpg claim needs a little more explaining though – this figure assumes that you drive 40 miles a day (all electric) for 6 days then 100 miles on the seventh day.

  • Lincolnparadox

    The only way that a new type of engine/vehicle will ever find a foothold is if there are mechanics who can fix it when it breaks down.

    A smart auto company would be offering money to the tech schools to offer “hybrid repair” or “electric engine systems” programs.

  • Lincolnparadox

    The only way that a new type of engine/vehicle will ever find a foothold is if there are mechanics who can fix it when it breaks down.

    A smart auto company would be offering money to the tech schools to offer “hybrid repair” or “electric engine systems” programs.

  • Ultra-capacitors is what consumers want.

    I think this type of storage is more convenient than batteries of some fluid that has to be pumped and transported.

    Electricity is the way to go !

  • Ultra-capacitors is what consumers want.

    I think this type of storage is more convenient than batteries of some fluid that has to be pumped and transported.

    Electricity is the way to go !

  • Ultra-capacitors is what consumers want.

    I think this type of storage is more convenient than batteries of some fluid that has to be pumped and transported.

    Electricity is the way to go !

  • Non-patentable shared “open energy technology” has the potential to have a profound impact on the reduction of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, in the same way that open source software has changed computers and the Internet.

    Consider a shared international effort to create a clean rocket fuel, an efficient combustion engine, a wind turbine that is cost effective in developing countries, or even shared plans for production plants for these technologies.

  • Non-patentable shared “open energy technology” has the potential to have a profound impact on the reduction of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, in the same way that open source software has changed computers and the Internet.

    Consider a shared international effort to create a clean rocket fuel, an efficient combustion engine, a wind turbine that is cost effective in developing countries, or even shared plans for production plants for these technologies.

  • Non-patentable shared “open energy technology” has the potential to have a profound impact on the reduction of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, in the same way that open source software has changed computers and the Internet.

    Consider a shared international effort to create a clean rocket fuel, an efficient combustion engine, a wind turbine that is cost effective in developing countries, or even shared plans for production plants for these technologies.

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  • AIrplane

    I’d like to drive a solar powered vehicle across country for publicity for sustainability and for the vehicle. Anyone interested in having their car be the one?

  • AIrplane

    I’d like to drive a solar powered vehicle across country for publicity for sustainability and for the vehicle. Anyone interested in having their car be the one?

  • electric cars have already existed & been on the road. check on the documentary “who killed the electric car” … hearing about it lately makes it sound like everyone is reinventing the wheel. it confuses me…

  • electric cars have already existed & been on the road. check on the documentary “who killed the electric car” … hearing about it lately makes it sound like everyone is reinventing the wheel. it confuses me…

  • electric cars have already existed & been on the road. check on the documentary “who killed the electric car” … hearing about it lately makes it sound like everyone is reinventing the wheel. it confuses me…

  • The problem with hybrid technology is the batteries, very good point. Some of the other issues they need to address are the life of the vehicle. There seems to be a trend to develop these cars as disposable vehicles. I personally don’t want a disposable vehicle, I want a vehicle that has high resale value and will get 500,000 miles or more with out expensive replacement parts like capacitors or batteries. Diesel technology is by itself becoming more advanced and making these two motor designs unnecessary and inferior. The advancement of algae as a source for bio-diesel is becoming more and more realistic and with a new marketplace for the advancement of algae http://www.fillmorefuels.com it will not take long before people start catching on.

  • The problem with hybrid technology is the batteries, very good point. Some of the other issues they need to address are the life of the vehicle. There seems to be a trend to develop these cars as disposable vehicles. I personally don’t want a disposable vehicle, I want a vehicle that has high resale value and will get 500,000 miles or more with out expensive replacement parts like capacitors or batteries. Diesel technology is by itself becoming more advanced and making these two motor designs unnecessary and inferior. The advancement of algae as a source for bio-diesel is becoming more and more realistic and with a new marketplace for the advancement of algae http://www.fillmorefuels.com it will not take long before people start catching on.

  • The problem with hybrid technology is the batteries, very good point. Some of the other issues they need to address are the life of the vehicle. There seems to be a trend to develop these cars as disposable vehicles. I personally don’t want a disposable vehicle, I want a vehicle that has high resale value and will get 500,000 miles or more with out expensive replacement parts like capacitors or batteries. Diesel technology is by itself becoming more advanced and making these two motor designs unnecessary and inferior. The advancement of algae as a source for bio-diesel is becoming more and more realistic and with a new marketplace for the advancement of algae http://www.fillmorefuels.com it will not take long before people start catching on.

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  • This is a really good article. I think the discussion on range of these systems is very important and I love the idea of battery packs eating up the short journeys (lets face it 95% of most of our journeys are within 40 miles) and then backup power for the rest.

    ..the GreenWheelsBlog team

  • This is a really good article. I think the discussion on range of these systems is very important and I love the idea of battery packs eating up the short journeys (lets face it 95% of most of our journeys are within 40 miles) and then backup power for the rest.

    ..the GreenWheelsBlog team

  • This is a really good article. I think the discussion on range of these systems is very important and I love the idea of battery packs eating up the short journeys (lets face it 95% of most of our journeys are within 40 miles) and then backup power for the rest.

    ..the GreenWheelsBlog team

  • Franc

    The article mentions low costs battery pack. W hat is low costs and what type of batteries? Any idea what the Ultra Capcitors pack will run. I hope this becomes a reality in the very near future. We need PHEVs now.

  • Franc

    The article mentions low costs battery pack. W hat is low costs and what type of batteries? Any idea what the Ultra Capcitors pack will run. I hope this becomes a reality in the very near future. We need PHEVs now.

  • I agree with John when he said “I believe that food based fuel is not the answer.”

    I think the hybrid will be the answer at least for a while until the bio-industry will reach maturity.

  • I agree with John when he said “I believe that food based fuel is not the answer.”

    I think the hybrid will be the answer at least for a while until the bio-industry will reach maturity.