Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Hybrid Farce

I really don't think they should be allowed to call what we know as hybrids, "hybrids". They do not actually use anything other than gasoline to make themselves go. Sure, battery and electric wizardry makes them much more efficient by harnessing kinetic energy when slowing down and turning it into forward motion (instead of brake dust and heat) when the time is right, but that's not my point. Every bit of energy that provides forward motion still comes from gasoline.

And this leads to what I would call a true hybrid - the PHEV - the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

What is a PHEV? Well, it's basically a normal "hybrid" vehicle but with a much larger battery pack that can be charged by a household electrical outlet. This allows it to be driven for a while on nothing but electricity, paid for by your Hydro bill, until it runs out and the ICE has to fire up and take over.
That is an actual picture of the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, folks.

Many hardcore EV advocates scoff at the PHEV idea, saying that it's not enough. But I think PHEVs are the answer right now, and if I had enough money I would buy one immediately.

Most advocates are promising a new battery technology that is right around the corner that is going to propel the BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) into mainstream. But I would argue that this technology isn't going to come any time soon - at least not in our lifetime. Take our current high-tech batteries as an example - the various types of lithium batteries. They are good, but at the same time they are only four to five times as dense as lead acid batteries, energy per pound. So in one hundred years of batteries, they have only improved by a magnitude of four to five.

That's where PHEVs are brilliant. They provide BEV-like efficiency for 90% of situations that most people use cars for, and once the modern battery technology shortfall kicks in (and the battery is flat), the ICE takes over, so there's nothing to worry about. Take the Prius as an example. It has an estimated 22 km of EV range. That's not much, but when you consider that 90% of trips are less than 22 km, it sort of makes sense. Even if your trip is 40 km, you are still driving for pennies for the first half. And if you need to go on a road trip, you don't have to think twice about it.

There is going to be a whole bunch of new PHEVs coming soon. Ford has a bunch coming, both in the Fusion and the new C-Max Hybrid Energi. It seems that Ford's aim right now is to beat Toyota at "everything Prius," which is ironic considering Toyota supplied hybrid technology to Ford up until recently.

Here is the soon to be released Ford C-Max with higher EV efficiency and longer EV range ("more than 20 miles") than the Prius Plug-In:
Wait a minute...THAT looks like it could be a PHEV replacement of a certain Toyota Matrix I know of. Hmmm......

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