The media has been very vocal about the pluses of hybrid electric vehicles. The fuel economy they deliver is amazing versus that of a conventional car, and because of this, they can help us limit our use of increasingly scarce and expensive petroleum. Fuel economy is often at least 25 percent better than for similar gasoline-powered vehicles. HEVs also pollute much less than conventional vehicles. Estimates indicate that hybrids can deliver emission reductions of as much as 50 percent for carbon dioxide and 90 percent for carbon monoxide. The rule of thumb is that the less time the gasoline engine runs the more potential benefits, especially when it comes to the production of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Most of the environmental gains come when hybrids are operating in electric-only mode, and the electric assist also boosts fuel economy performance.
The downsides of hybrids are much less publicized but very important to understand. Compared to a conventional gasoline car, a hybrid is much more complicated. In addition to its internal combustion engine, it also has a second, integrated drive system in the form of the electric motor and battery pack. One could say it has two complete drive systems, and that would be correct with the exception that both power plants channel their energy through the same transmission. There is nothing inherently wrong with complicated technology. But in the case of hybrids, complication adds weight, expense, and more systems that can fail.
Of these downsides, the most vexing problem is expense. Hybrids would be a much more cost-effective solution to a variety of fuel- and environmental-related issues if only the price could come down. That will become more obvious when we look closer at the cost-benefit analysis of hybrids later in this chapter. The main culprit is the high cost of batteries, so if a battery breakthrough were made, the price of hybrids could more closely approach that of conventional cars. Of course, a battery breakthrough might change the game so much that we wouldn't need hybrids; we could just power a 3,000-pound vehicle are very expensive and very heavy. Researchers power a 3,000-pound vehicle are very expensive and very heavy. Researchers switch to pure electric cars. More on this in Chapter 9.
around the globe currently are hard at work trying to perfect battery technology that will result in cheap and light electrical storage batteries.
A fact that has haunted hybrids even as they have gained unprecedented popularity in the last few years is that they don't really get the fuel mileage suggested by the Environmental Protect Agency's (EPA) fuel economy figures. That's true, but the issue is not confined to hybrid vehicles. Most vehicles seem to fail to achieve EPA-predicted levels of fuel economy in real-world driving by consumers, and the issue has grown so big that the EPA is currently revising its procedures. The positive that stems from the negative is that, regardless of the EPA figures, hybrids are significantly more fuel-efficient than conventional vehicles.
In essence, HEVs are a good (perhaps brilliant) compromise between the conventional gasoline car, which has been honed to operate nearly flawlessly but drinks precious fossil fuel and spews carbon dioxide and small amounts of other substances into the air; and the electric car, which has the near-fatal flaw of extremely limited range but the gigantic benefit of emitting virtually nothing at all. The beauty of hybrid electric vehicles is that they help improve air quality with no appreciable loss in vehicle performance, range, or safety. Most hybrid electric vehicles perform as well or better than internal combustion engine cars of similar size.
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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.