Hybrid Ideas …


IMG_4332.JPG © by masolino

Hybrid Ideas …

If automotive experts would stop saying stupid things about more or less electric vehicles, the world would be a better place.

There is a whole variegated bunch of stupidities out there. Some are functional to elegant and content deprived ads and commercials. Well, to be honest, in this case we are dealing with plain lies. Others are technologically flavoured, sound highly innovative, suggest great breakthroughs, but …

Take the case of the “Micro-Hybrid” cars. Big deal! Too bad that there is nothing neither micro nor hybrid in them. They are normal, classical vehicles with a “Stop&Start” embedded function. When the engine is running idle –i.e. waiting at a red light, standing in line because of traffic congestion- the system shuts it down. When the gas or the clutch pedals are pressed, the very normal 12 V led battery and the hyper-classical starter motor do what they have always done: re-start the engine.

Then we find tons of information on the “Mild-Hybrid”. Nothing new under the sun. Same rational of the micro-hybrid. Instead of having a 12V starter motor, one finds a 10-15kW electrical machine –not really a power house but it helps accelerating- which works also as a generator, feeding the on-board battery. Expensive on-board battery. Usually either a NiMH one, or Lithium based. NiMH stands for Nickel-Metal Hybrid battery. Interesting, it is the same acronym used by the National Institute of Mental Health. Amazing… It is also amazing that no one has addressed the recycling issue of these esoteric batteries at the end of their life cycle.

But what really gets all the attention, are the “Full-Hybrid”. They can travel on pure electrical modality. No noise and little danger because their top speed is not exactly thrilling: 50-60 kmh. Sounds even worst in miles per hour: 31-37. Forget about the autonomy. To fix this huge problem, allow me to introduce to you the “Extended-Range”. The propulsion, or traction, comes from the electric motors. The electricity comes from the on-board batteries which are continuously loaded by a generator coupled to an internal combustion engine.

The aforementioned hybrid vehicles, all of them, are variation of the century old internal combustion engine powered cars. They have all the conventional power-train: internal combustion engine, gear box with lots of gears, shafts, differentials. On the motor, between motor and gearbox, or after the gearbox, one can find an electrical machine which can be used as a motor or as a generator. The resulting vehicle is heavier, more complex, more expensive to maintain. What a great innovation! “Much Ado About Nothing” using the words of the Great Bard.

Evidence says that there is a lot of talking but very little else. Not one of the big automakers is willing to pour down the drain the returns on the huge investments recently made on engines and gearboxes. No innovative vehicles are in the pipeline. It is not a problem of technology. No breakthroughs are requested. Everything is available of the shelf. The problem is in the cash flows, margins, profitability, profits. And the costs are on the customers. Shall be back on this.

Ooops… almost forgot to mention the “Plug-in” solution. Nothing hybrid here. No fuel tanks and exhaust gases, only batteries and quietly humming electric motors. It is not for tomorrow morning. The high density, low weight, fast rechargeable battery is still in its infancy. Costs are too high to reach the needed performances and range. But I have a dream. Let us assume that the technological issues are solved. What a wonderful day! We do have the ultimate electric car. Just plug-in the cord, load it and drive. You can do it at home. Be patient: it takes quite a lot of time. And do not forget to unplug all other electrical devices –dishwasher, wash machine, hair dryer, TV set- or your wiring will melt because of a huge overload.

Sure, you can use the dedicated high voltage reload stations that you can find at each and every street corner, mall parking, airport garage. It is clean, quite and fast. But. How the hell are we going to produce the needed extra electricity? Using which kind of primary energy source? Coal? Oil? Renewables? Nuclear? And if we can produce that huge amount of added electricity, how are we going to distribute it? Shall we build a dedicated, brand new, high voltage distribution network? Who is going to pay for it? Who is going to convince the Greens?

Shall be back on this, too. It is not a promise but a menace. You will be electrocuted by it…

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One Comment

  1. Ricardo Oliveira says:

    Just negative thoughts, no new ideas and even some inaccuracy (What about Plug-in Hybrids?).

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