Advantages and Disadvantages to Owning a Hybrid Vehicle

What are the new hybrid cars that are available on the market?

Any car or vehicle that combines more than a single source of power can be called a hybrid vehicle.

Today most of the hybrid vehicles on the road combine gas and electricity to provide the power for the propulsion to the vehicle. Diesel-electric hybrids are the new upcoming hybrid that offers even greater fuel efficiency with the new VW car being introduced to the American market. So how does this most popular vehicle hybrid (gas-electricity) work?

The basic principle behind the workings of this hybrid vehicle system lies in the combination of the two sources of power-a gas engine and a high powered battery both provide power for running the electric motor that runs the car. In hybrid cars the batteries don’t need to be charged externally because they charge themselves by recapturing the energy that is generally lost when a vehicle decelerates or slows down.

Another seemingly obvious benefit is that they save on the amount of fuel giving more miles per gallon of fuel as opposed to cars that run only on fuel. Even though in principle the workings of hybrid cars are the same (a combination of the gas engine with an electric motor working in harmony) the combination varies between different kinds of hybrids.

In some hybrid cars, when extra power is required, the electric motor is used only to provide assistance to the propulsion created by the fuel engine. The two functions (the electric motor and gas engine) have to take place separately as the electric motor cannot work independently and the battery also can’t get charged and provide power to the electric motor at the same time. The term given to these types of hybrid cars/vehicles is generally referred to as mild hybrids. Examples of cars that fall into this category are Honda Civic (2004 and 2005) hybrids and the Honda Insight.

On the other hand, once certain conditions are achieved, there are other kinds of hybrid cars where the electric motor, run by the battery can work independently of the gas engine. This happens mostly when the car is cruising at low speeds, once the car requires more power to run at higher speeds the gas engine takes over. The third phase where both systems work together is when the vehicle is traveling at very high speeds. Another benefit to this type of hybrid vehicles are known as the ‘full hybrids’ is that the battery can both get charged and provide power to the motor at the same time. Examples of cars that fall into this category are Ford Escape, Toyota Highlander and Honda Civic (2006 and above).

Currently most of the hybrid cars that are available, due to this still being developmental technology, cost as much as some of the most expensive cars on the market, this leaves them out of reach for most people. Until they start being commercially produced in large enough quantities to force the prices down they will they then provide some benefit to the community. Another problem that is foreseen with these types of hybrid vehicles is the design of the batteries that have been built to last less than a 10 years. Not a very ecologically sound design!

One big plus for American owners of hybrid cars are that currently they are enjoying tax credits of $2,000 to $50,000 from the I.R.S.

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Hybrid Vehicles Rise To The Top Of The Car Market

For many years people have often owned or driven cars that are not only to help for transportation purposes but are also there for improving the overall mobility experience.

In recent past times, people also drove cars to show off or flaunt their status symbol or just for the sake of casual and fun joy rides.

But those good times are turning into rare dreams now. For every motorist, it’s really getting harder and harder each day. Almost everybody, may it be a student or a retired senior person, is troubled and concerned about the zooming up gasoline or oil prices.

Given the constantly rising increases in gasoline prices, which come almost on a weekly basis, there is no wonder why people are forced to limit the use of car to a basic necessity.

Hybrid vehicles

During the start of the new millennium, giant car manufacturers had heralded great news about the development of modern cars that would significantly cut oil consumption.

Japanese car makers Toyota and Honda started with their research on alternative fuel efficient transmission systems and soon became the pioneers in this particular endeavor. Their United States and German counterparts followed the trend soon.

That was the emergence of hybrid vehicles in the now sluggish global car industry.

But what exactly are hybrid vehicles? Literally, the word ‘hybrid’ means a crossover or integration of two systems or components. Applying this term for vehicles, it means a combination of two types of cars, the gasoline powered cars and the electric powered cars.

Before understanding the hybrids further, let’s get familiarized with the two mentioned car types.

The gas-powered and electric-powered vehicles

The gas-powered cars are the predecessor of all the other types of cars that came after it. The first invented car and all the other cars and modifications that follow it until the end of the 20th century are all gas-powered cars.

Gas powered cars are, you guessed it right, run by gasoline or oil. These cars have made oil exported fro the Middle East and other nations valued like gold, because of its volatile pricing.

Many years of research and development has enabled the manufacturers to add key improvements in the newer models of the gas-powered cars. Some of them are truly superior over the others. However, their owners and users have always been complaining about their increasing bills for oil consumption.

At the same time, the environmentalists are complaining about such cars’ air pollution. They are raising strong concerns over the combustion process that produces bi-products that are harmful to nature.

The first attempt of car makers to address the increasingly rising and agitating concerns about higher oil prices and depleting ozone layer in the atmosphere was that of electric cars.

But alas, on practical grounds, those efforts were proven futile and non-feasible. Electric powered cars were turned down as impractical because their mileage and speed would not match the capacity of the gas-powered vehicles by a great margin.

A powerful combination

So, if the gas-powered vehicles were too expensive and pollution causing to maintain but really fast and reliable, and if the electric cars are not fast and reliable, but significantly cut costs of oil expenses and reduce pollution, why not combine both?

Smart integration and the ‘meeting half way’ option for the electric and gas powered cars paved the way for the rise of the hybrid vehicles.

Hybrid vehicle system consists of both gas powered engine and battery set powered motor, and a fine balance of the two power sources to manage the transmission. It truly combines the strength of both car types and addresses the concerns arising from each car types too.

However, many experts and car fanatics are still disappointed with the hybrid car’s inability to reduce oil bills as massively and tremendously as anticipated by the public before its introduction to the market.

A big concern is about the purchase price for hybrid vehicles. It’s still way, way higher. Also, due to their complex designs, many people fear that their maintenance costs will be significantly more than the gas powered cars.

It has been just a few years since the emergence of hybrid vehicles. In the future, very soon, as the production cost would go down, the prices of hybrid cars would certainly be dragged down to an affordable level.

The History of Battery Electric Vehicles

Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs, predated the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. It was between 1832-1839 that Robert Anderson, a Scottish businessman, invented the first electric carriage and Professor Sibrandus Stratingh from the Netherlands designed the first small-scale electric car which was built by his assistant Christopher Becker in 1835.

The storage battery improved, firstly by Gaston Planté, a French physicist who invented the lead acid cell in 1859 and the first rechargeable battery. Then, in 1881, Camille Faure developed a more efficient and reliable battery which became so successful in the early electric cars. This discovery caused battery electric vehicles to flourish, with France and Great Britain being the first nations to support widespread development of electric vehicles.

Prior to 1900, battery electric vehicles held many speed and distance records, the most notable of which, was the breaking of the 100 km/h (60 mph) speed barrier. It was by Camille Jenatzy on April 29, 1899 in a rocket-shaped vehicle named Jamais Contente (Never Happy) which reached a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph).

During the early 20th Century, battery electric vehicles outsold gasoline powered vehicles and were successfully sold as town cars to upper-class customers. Because of technological limitations, these cars were limited to a top speed of about 32 km/h (20 mph). The cars were marketed as “suitable vehicles for women drivers”. Electric vehicles did not need hand-cranking to start.

One of the downfalls of the battery electric vehicle was the introduction of the electric starter in 1913. It simplified the task of starting an internal combustion engine which was previously difficult and dangerous to start with the crank handle. Another was the mass-produced and relatively cheap Ford Model-T. Finally, the loss of Edisons direct current electric power transmission system. He was battling with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla over their desire to introduce alternating current as the principal electricity distribution. Edison’s direct current was the load for electric motors.

Battery electric vehicles were limited to niche applications. Forklift trucks were battery electric vehicles when introduced in 1923. BEV golf carts which were used as neighborhood electric vehicles and were partially “street legal”. By the late 1930s, the electric automobile industry had disappeared until the invention of the point contact transistor in 1947 which started a new era of electric vehicle.

In 1959 the Henney Kilowatt was introduced and was the world’s first modern transistor-regulated electric car and the predecessor to the more recent battery electric vehicles such as General Motors EV1. Only 47 Henney Kilowatts were produced, 24 being sold as 1959 models and 8 as 1960 models. It is not clear what happened to the other 15 built but it could be possible that they were sold as 1961 or 1962 models. None of the 8 1960 models were sold to the public because of the high manufacturing costs, but were sold to the electric cooperatives who funded the project.

It is estimated that there are between four and eight Henney Kilowatt battery electric vehicles still in existence with at least two of the survivors still driven periodically.

Battery electric vehicles have had issues with high battery costs, with limited travel distances, with charging time and the lifespan of the battery, although advancements in battery technology has addressed many of those problems.

At the present time, controversy reigns over battery electric vehicles. Campaigners, (et al) for BEV’s are accusing three major US automobile manufacturers of deliberately sabotaging BEV efforts through several methods, for instance, failing to market, failing to produce appropriate vehicles, by failing to satisfy demand and using lease-only programs with prohibitions against end of lease purchase.

In their defense, the three major manufacturers they have responded that they only make what the public want and the current trend is that the public doesn’t want battery electric vehicles.

Although we have the technology to manufacture and provide BEVs, one of the biggest downfalls for the prolific production of BEVs is the extortionate cost of replacement batteries. In some cases the cost of replacement batteries can be more than the price of the whole vehicle, especially when buying used battery electric vehicles.