In an attempt to solve the battery problems associated with all-electric cars, hybrid vehicles were developed. The first hybrids used gasoline engines only to generate electricity, which was then fed into an electrical motor which directly powered the wheels. A number of versions of this basic design were developed, none of them gaining widespread acceptance.
But with advancements in battery technologies, and with increased concern about environmental harm from fossil fuel combustion, hybrids have become one of the best alternatives to the internal-combustion engine. Hybrids feature gas mileage figures over 50 percent better than equivalent gasoline-driven autos, and the lifetimes of the battery banks have increased from a couple years to over ten years. Some auto manufacturers are warranting hybrid battery banks for the lifetime of the car. For more on the design, technology, and characteristics of hybrid cars, head to Chapter 19.
Gas turbines (See Chapter 5 for more details on turbines) were also used in early auto technologies. A turbine is closely related to a jet engine, although with a jet engine it's the high-velocity exhaust gases that move the plane. When a turbine is used in an auto, the power is channeled directly to the transmission, which drives the wheels. Turbines can run on a variety of fuels with equal effectiveness, and this was seen as a major benefit.
Due to some initial successes it was believed that all cars would eventually be powered by turbines. But turbines were notorious gas pigs. Efficiency was terrible and the sound was enough to break eardrums. Contrast this with the silence of electric cars and it's easy to see why turbines died out for use in vehicle transport.
Each of the mechanical parts of a conventionally-powered internal-combustion engine (ICE) weighs a lot, and takes up a lot of room as well. (For a complete discussion of how internal-combustion engines work, both diesel versions and gasoline versions, head to Chapter 5.) Mechanical parts wear from friction, and there is a lot of leakage of lubricants (called evaporative emissions, a source of air pollution). There are literally hundreds of parts that need to be changed out, like belts, pumps, and fans. Collectively, the drivetrain parts of a typical conventional auto comprise around half of the total vehicle weight.
To address inefficiencies associated with internal-combustion engines, some significant changes have occurred in the last couple of decades, all made possible by the advancements of silicon-based microprocessors. The following sections take you along for the ride from a more mechanically based ICE to an electrical one.
Was this article helpful?
Hybrid Cars! Man! Is that a HOT topic right now! There are some good reasons why hybrids are so hot. If you’ve pulled your present car or SUV or truck up next to a gas pumpand inserted the nozzle, you know exactly what I mean! I written this book to give you some basic information on some things<br />you may have been wondering about.