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Hybrid vehicles still in our future

September 27, 2010

Hybrid technology continues to be one of the primary designs being tested for new passenger vehicles.  Competition from all-electric cars and “plug-in” hybrids (more electrical energy dependent vehicles) will continue to push more advanced designs in the tried-and-ture hybrid technology.

New Toyota "concept" car could enter U.S. market by 2012

One Interesting development already popping up in the European market is the ultra fuel efficient diesel-electric hybrid.  Utilizing the more efficient, and torquier, small displacement diesel engines mated to the electric drive train now in use with gasoline hybrids such as the Prius.

While there are many different variation on hybrid vehicle design the basics are fairly simple an easily understood.  The small conventional engine (usually gasoline) is assisted by a powerful electrical motor.  A computerized controller helps decide when it is most efficient for each of the separate power sources to power the vehicle, usually in some combination.  At low speeds the electrical motor is most efficient, while cruising at highway speeds the conventional engine works best.  In instances when maximum power is needed, both work in tandem.

The electrical motor is powered by a bank of batteries, that are kept charged by the conventional engine and “regenerative” power derived from the vehicles braking action.

In the more exotic “plug-in” hybrids there is more emphasis on the stored electrical energy from a conventional power source like a charger in your garage, or new charging stations being planned for parking facilities throughout the city.  These sorts of vehicles are more economic because they rely less on fuels like gasoline or diesel and are an intermediate step between all electric cars and hybrids.

Plug-in hybrid technology is similar to convention gas-electric hybrids, but with more battery capacity and more dependence on the electric motor as the primary propulsion system.

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