Shocking Failure?

Electric vehicles

Ah, the hybrid car. You know, people who have them seem to think they are the slickest thing since sliced bread. I don’t blame them though, the electronics alone are worthy of a NASA space mission.

But, can the past crop of hybrid cars really be called “hybrid”?

I remember many years ago when one of the tech mags (Pop Sci, Popular Mechanics, can’t recall) had an in depth article about a “homegrown” hybrid car someone had built. Big car, lots of batteries, ran on electricity until batteries ran dry and then a gas engine kicked in to recharge the batteries. I think it had a range of about 40 miles until it had to use gas. Now, that’s what I call a true hybrid – uses the best of both worlds.

Now, the Obama administration has set a goal of having a million “plug-in” (that means no gas) electric vehicles on the road by 2015, and the government offers a $7,500 tax credit to buyers. But, for the most part, Americans still are rejecting all-electric cars.

Electric vehicle sales accounted for just 0.1 percent of the market, up only slightly from 0.09 percent in 2011, according to The Fiscal Times. (Wow, big jump). Projections are that in 10 years, EVs will account for only 1.5 to 2 percent of the market.

Chief among perceived drawbacks are the price of the vehicle and the limited range that requires frequent battery recharging. One Nissan Leaf driver complained that the car lasted as little as 43 miles on a charge in the winter rather than the promised 73 miles, and recharging the car with a 120-volt charger could take 20 hours.

"Federal billions cannot overcome the fact that electric vehicles and plug-in electric hybrids meet few, if any, real consumer needs," The Washington Post observed in an editorial. "Compared with gas-powered cars, they deliver inferior performance at much higher costs."

Nevertheless, some car manufacturers remain hopeful. Six new EVs were unveiled last year, and this year will see the rollout of Tesla's Model S, a large EV that can travel more than 200 miles on a charge. The car's price tag after the $7,500 tax credit: $52,400. Federal loan guarantee for Tesla: $465 million.

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22 Responses to “Shocking Failure?”

  1. Bobbisue Reply

    Do Hybrid Cars Need Block Heaters For Cold Weather Starting? I’m thinking about buying a hybrid car and I live in a state where winter temperatures can drop to minus 20 degrees or even colder. I want to make sure I purchase a vehicle that will start on these wicked cold mornings.

    • Hi,

      no, you won’t need a block heater any more than you would for a standard vehicle for a full hybrid. I’ll break down the difference for you at the end.

      And hybrids have been around in the US since 1999, so there is plenty of cold and hot weather history.

      Speaking for Toyota, all vehicles, including the hybrids, are torture tested in Death Valley and Alaska to make sure they will start in extreme climates. Most manufacturers do similar testing.

      I live in a cold climate (going to be a high of -5 on Saturday) and never have an issue starting any of the Prius, Camry Hybrid or Highlander Hybrids I use.

      I also keep my vehicles in a detached, unheated garage each night.

      If you live in an area that has reformulated winter gas, that will be all you need.

      You do not need gas line antifreeze in a modern vehicle, it is a waste of money. As long as you keep your tank at least half full (which you always do in extreme weather, hot or cold), you should never have to deal with water freezing in a fuel line or intake. Modern direct fuel injection systems, like the one’s in all Toyotas, keep the fuel system sealed and burn up any small amounts of moisture that might be in the tank or lines.

      Full hybrids actually start the electric drive first, and then that starts the gas engine second, so the vehicle is actually started and running when the gas engine is started.

      A full hybrid is one that can move using electricity only, the gas engine doens’t have to run to move the vehicle. All Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the Honda Civic Hybrid, Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner Hybrid twins, the Nissan Altima Hybrid, and the GM Yukon/Chevy Tahoe Hybrid twins are full hybrids. These should all be available now, although the Altima and the Yukon/Tahoe are only available in limited markets. Other full hybrids will be coming out this year, but again, the markets might be limited.

      If you purchase any other hybrid, treat is like a standard vehicle and put a block heater on it. That’s beacuse partial or mild hybrids (like the Honda Accord Hybrid or the current Saturn Vue Green Line) start the gas engine in order to move. The hybrid system simply boosts power and/or efficiency.

      Good luck.

  2. Young researcher Reply

    How Can I Formulate Research Problem (on Smart Grid And Electric Vehicles)? Hello brothers!

    How can I formulate research problem (on smart grid and electric vehicles and web services)? I want to clearly formulate my reseach problem, because there are so many papers to read and to select… Thank you in advance

    • As I understand it you want to ask the right question.

      Unfortunately you have not given us or perhaps yourself enough information. What you need to do is engage in a process of defining your goals and this could include asking questions that seem to narrow your search until you ask the right question.

      “on smart grid and electric vehicles and web services” is too sophomoric a question for your level of study. What aspect of the smart grid? What about electric vehicles? What web services? Is your goal any more than a grade or some demonstration of new research … or do you have some serious interest in the subject. If so where does your curiosity lie?

      If you have an academic adviser who is not helping you in this process you are not making the best use of your or their time.

  3. Kalai Reply

    What Type Of Moter Use In New Electric Vehicle?

    • Hi there.

      An electric vehicle is ran by three main parts: an electric motor, a controller and a battery. When the pedal is pushed on an electric vehicle, the controller delivers electrical currents from the battery to the motor. This gives the car acceleration.

      Electric cars are run in AC and DC motor batteries.

      DC motors run on anything from 96 to 192 volts. These motors are best used for short burst of acceleration.

      While AC motor is a three-phase AC motor running at 240 volts AC with a 300 volt battery pack. They can achieve fast forward and rewind operations without all the extra gears and clutches.

      Either of the 2 motors, we get the same environmental feature.. That is to reduce pollution and preserve a healthy living environment.

  4. Colette Fox Reply

    What Is A Hybrid Car? What is the difference from a hybrid car and a gasoline powered car?

    • Hybrid by definition is something of mixed origin or composition. So what that means in a Hybrid powered car is a car that is powered by two different sources of energy. So technically, a car that is being pushed by a person is a Hybrid powered car (gas and person powered) but not in the most common use of the term.

      In most cases, when people are talking about a “Hybrid car” they’re talking about a gasoline/electric hybrid. In the most visible and accurate version of this, the Toyota Prius, the Electric motor can propel the car at low speeds and during heavier acceleration or at higher speeds, the gasoline engine starts and supplements the batteries.

      The next version of a “hybrid car” is what is called a “mild hybrid”. The best example of this is the Honda Civic Hybrid where the car cannot move without the gasoline engine running, but shuts the gas engine down while not moving and the electric motor supplements the gasoline engine during heavy acceleration.

      The last version currently of a gas/electric hybrid car is what is called a partial hybrid. The best examples of this are the Chevrolet Trucks. In this version, again the truck can not move without the gasoline engine running. The only addition to this vs. a “regular truck” is that there is a larger starter motor and additional battery so that the truck turns the engine off while stopped and re-starts when it needs to move again.

      The other hybrid cars that are out are hydrogen/electric hybrids, wind or solar, etc.

      A conventional gasoline powered car is different in that when you start the car, it is running, doesn’t turn off again until you get to your destination and is burning gasoline the whole time doing so.

      Hope this helps.

      Ken

  5. Justin h Reply

    How Could We Get Hybrid Cars To Generate More Power When Driving? I know that most hybrids generate power when braking, but why don’t they find a way for the wheels’ constant motion when driving to turn the generators as well. Providing a power return as the wheels move as well as when they break. Kind of like when you use a crank generator. Hopefully, this is clear enough. Thank you for any answers.

    • Most hybrid cars are not optimized for fuel efficiency..there’s a big trade off for efficiency…performance.

      Automakers have to provide a certain amount of acceleration for the car to still appeal to most buyers…in other words people won’t pay $30,000 to $40,000 for a hybrid “slug”, that takes a calender to record its 0 to 60mph time.

      most hybrids still rely on the gas engine for power/charging and only use the electric motor to “boost” performance. Having the electric motor do most of the work and just using the gas for charging, would greatly increase efficiency; but, diminish performance.

  6. Colette Fox Reply

    What Is A Hybrid Car? What is the difference from a hybrid car and a gasoline powered car?

    • Hybrid by definition is something of mixed origin or composition. So what that means in a Hybrid powered car is a car that is powered by two different sources of energy. So technically, a car that is being pushed by a person is a Hybrid powered car (gas and person powered) but not in the most common use of the term.

      In most cases, when people are talking about a “Hybrid car” they’re talking about a gasoline/electric hybrid. In the most visible and accurate version of this, the Toyota Prius, the Electric motor can propel the car at low speeds and during heavier acceleration or at higher speeds, the gasoline engine starts and supplements the batteries.

      The next version of a “hybrid car” is what is called a “mild hybrid”. The best example of this is the Honda Civic Hybrid where the car cannot move without the gasoline engine running, but shuts the gas engine down while not moving and the electric motor supplements the gasoline engine during heavy acceleration.

      The last version currently of a gas/electric hybrid car is what is called a partial hybrid. The best examples of this are the Chevrolet Trucks. In this version, again the truck can not move without the gasoline engine running. The only addition to this vs. a “regular truck” is that there is a larger starter motor and additional battery so that the truck turns the engine off while stopped and re-starts when it needs to move again.

      The other hybrid cars that are out are hydrogen/electric hybrids, wind or solar, etc.

      A conventional gasoline powered car is different in that when you start the car, it is running, doesn’t turn off again until you get to your destination and is burning gasoline the whole time doing so.

      Hope this helps.

      Ken

  7. Mynewgreen Reply

    Would You Drive A Electric Vehicle? If it were given to you for Free?

    • I was getting my ICE vehicle worked on a while back and while I was waiting there was someone else also waiting. He was the kind that had strong opinions. First he started with global warming and professed the the final word was that it was a load of …(organic leftovers.) He had nothing good to say about it on and on he went so I was quite surprised as he came to a full stop and said,

      ” Now electric cars that is another story. I can’t wait to own one. Those things are really fast. Some of them are very aerodynamic. With the batteries down low they are really very stable and regenerative braking is just cool…”

      It occurred to me that an electric car had a lot to offer to someone like this man who just likes cars. I like the idea that an electric vehicle is more efficient than my ICE vehicle is inefficient. When I see an EV, I feel that I am looking at the future, even if it is a future that I will never see.

      Or maybe I am looking at how much of a mistake we made in turning to ICE vehicles for the last 100 years. Today our streets might be lined with gold, the gold of an electrified system for powering EV’s so that all he discussion we have over batteries would not even be an issue. 1

      Years ago we might have accepted the idea of a genset trailer to power what then becomes a sometimes series hybrid. We would not even have to own them. If you were going on a long trip just rent one, attach it and travel to your destination. When there you unhook it and you have a pure EV once agan with no need to continue carring a heavy engine and generator on board. And once again there would be none of our current discussion about better batteries.2

      And since an electric vehicle is the only one that can get cleaner as it grows older, it is a vehicle that evolves. (As the power plants become cleaner and more efficient so also does the transportation system that uses electric vehicles.)3

      And our air might be a whole lot cleaner now.

  8. Anonymous Reply

    Why Do People Not Like Electric Vehicles? It just seems like people love to suck off the oil companies and bad mouth electric vehicles, I mean do people have a fetish for gas or something?
    “Oh they have a short range.” well if there where more charge stations you could go to you wouldn’t have to worry about that.
    @Kitty lover: Your phone has to charge as well, I guess that is bad too then…
    @michel: You have to charge your phone as well, what a bother, so I guess phones shouldn’t be powered by batteries either.
    @Long Lake: I wouldn’t mind paying for a new battery after the charge cap disapates in 10 years, I find paying for oil changes, transmission flushes, filters, and so on more of a pain in the a$$ than buying a new battery in 5 to 10 years, speaking of which you would have to buy a new battery for your phone and watch as well they those batteries won’t charge anymore, guess they are a waist too then…
    @Winterrules: I am aware of this.

    • With an EV we have a set of issues we are unaccustomed to considering. That presents just a bit of mental work for us. From this point we find that there are two camps. Some simply like the idea of an EV. Along with them others can see how it fits as a solution to some of our energy issues. These people enjoy the challenge presented by the electric vehicle.

      But the mother who just wants to haul the kids around is only looking for a way to keep going. Like this many are only concerned about what seems to affect them directly. They are not concerned about global warming, air pollution, oil spills, economic balance of payments, or even saving money in the long run if they have to put in more up front. They will not seek out the solutions for most if not all objections to owning and operating an Electric Vehicle. They need more incentive. Until there is that personal push every little thing that is different is a potential objection.

      Calling people idiots or lazy is not going provide an incentive. For most of the last 15 years whenever an electric vehicle is mentioned there is a defensive approach. We, as advocates, are answering objections and pointing out solutions. Manufacturers have not tried to overly push Electric Vehicles. There has been a feeling that first they could not provide large numbers of vehicles and secondly that more charging infrastructure was needed for battery vehicles.

      At some point this has to turn around and we need to start hearing why the electric vehicle is a better form of transportation. We need to hear without an apology that the smart choice is electric. And then more people will begin to accept Electric Vehicles.

      Price may hold a key. There is increasing competition and manufacturers are lowering prices. But the EV has the potential to be cheaper than a petrol vehicle if we could electrify our roadways and use fewer batteries. The vehicle could then also have unlimited range.

      But we have to begin to accept that we cannot use all the fossil fuels that are in the ground. The atmospheric carbon levels would be unacceptable. Price alone will not provide the incentive. We need to find the political will. http://theenergycollective.com/onclimatechangepolicy/227626/more-carbon-ground-atmosphere-can-take-whatever-temperature-limit-you-w

  9. Beachgirl111982 Reply

    Hybrid Cars? I’ve been looking in to get a used hybrid car. Could you tell me the pro’s and con’s of owning one. Also which hybrid do you think is the best?

    • Hybrids really aren’t as good as they are claimed to be. Take for instance the Toyota Prius. The Car gets around 50MPG. Bi-Xenon Headlamps cost around $400 to replace, when the battery has to be replaced, it will cost you a good $5000, not to mention the repair costs of a small fender bender. You can get into the thousands.

      Or…..

      You can get a Mini Cooper. The Mini is ten times as fun, manages 35MPG, had a Free Maintenance for the first 60,000 Miles. It has BMW Build Quality, and it looks cooler.

      To conclude this, The only reason to buy a hybrid is to make you feel good, thinking you are helping the environment.

      If you are not convinced yet, the best hybrid is the Toyota Prius. It is not very fun to drive, or very comfortable in long trips. Following that, the Honda Civic Hybrid. The Civic gets around the same MPG. For SUV’s the Ford Escape Hybrid gets the best MPG. The least expensive hybrid is the Saturn Aura Greenline, I think it costs around $22,000 Start Price.

  10. Yummy_Lychee Reply

    Hybrid Cars? I really need to know what Hybrid Car is and how it works. Also whats the benefits of a Hybrid Car. Please someone explain

    • A hybrid car uses an electric motor plus a regular engine. It saves a ton of gas mileage (compared to a diesel/unleaded gasoline car) but you’ll have to change the battery every 10 years. In most hybrids, the electric motor recharges when you press the brake. So EPA ratings usually give a higher MPG in the city than in the highway, which is opposite in diesel/gasoline cars.

  11. Stevie Reply

    How Dose A Hybrid Car Works?? How dose a hybrid car works?? for a Toyota prius / plug in hybrid

    i might buy one but i want to see how dose it works!!

    anyone know any website that tell me??

    thx

    • A hybrid car is a car that is propelled by more than one energy source. Typically, when one is thinking of a hybrid car, it is usually a gasoline/electric hybrid, as that is what is currently available commercially. (There are diesel-electric concept cars (not in production), and there are diesel-electric locomotives, submarines, and heavy construction equipment…) Usually a dual-fuel vehicle, like a CNG-gasoline or LPG-gasoline vehicle isn’t in the hybrid definition, but those are usually aftermarket-fitted anyways.

      How a hybrid car works depends on the technology that a manufacturer decided to use to make it a hybrid. Not all hybrids are created equal.

      As the lowest common denominator, hybrids usually have a larger motor (for starting the gasoline engine or for charging the hybrid battery), larger/additional hybrid battery pack to drive the electric motor, auto-stop (gasoline engine turns off at idle), regenerative braking (coasting or light braking will cause the motor to act as a generator, capturing some of that lost kinetic energy and storing it as electricity in the hybrid battery), improved fuel economy, and lower emissions.

      More improved hybrid systems allow for tuning for higher performance (more power or acceleration), or for more fuel efficiency (usually through using a smaller engine, where the electric motors help out). On the more improved hybrid systems, you could see:
      - ability to act as a standing generator to power equipment off-site
      - additional peak power, by the electric motor assisting the gasoline engine as required (for acceleration or hill climbing, for example), similar to a turbo
      - electric-only propulsion (short periods of the electric motors/hybrid battery alone powering the car, for low power requirements (such as coasting, driving on the level, low speeds)
      - reduction in weight and ability to move accessories from belt-driven to electrically-driven (smaller wires needed)

      The Ford/Mercury hybrid system and the Nissan hybrid system is fairly similar to the older Toyota THS system (seen on the 2001-2003 Prius). Toyota/Lexus hybrids are currently using the THS-II or HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) system. Honda is using their IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) hybrid system. GM’s newer hybrids are using their BAS (belt-alternator system), while their older “hybrid” pickups are pretty much the lowest common denominator listed above.

      For general overviews:
      http://auto.howstuffworks.com/question262.htm
      http://www.howstuffworks.com/hybrid-car.htm

      Specific to manufacturers, how it works (and use a Flash-enabled web browser!):
      Toyota Prius: http://www.toyota.com/vehicles/2008/prius/key_features/hsd.html
      Toyota hybrids in general: http://www.hybridsynergydrive.com/en/quick_guide.html
      http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/tech/environment/hsd/index.html
      http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/tech/environment/ths2/index.html
      Lexus hybrids in general: http://www.hybridlexus.com/how/index.html
      Ford Escape Hybrid: http://www.fordvehicles.com/suvs/2008escapehybrid/ (use the Hybrid Technology 01 button on bottom left)
      Mercury Mariner Hybrid: http://www.mercuryvehicles.com/mariner/technology.asp
      Honda Accord Hybrid: http://automobiles.honda.com/accord-hybrid/performance.aspx
      Honda Civic Hybrid: http://automobiles.honda.com/civic-hybrid/performance.aspx
      (I couldn’t find anything substantial on the NissanUSA.com site for the Altima hybrid’s system. GM only notes that they have “hybrids” here: http://www.gm.com/explore/fuel_economy/hybrids.jsp )

      and for the Honda Insight (which in general also covers the Honda IMA seen in the HCH and HAH above):
      http://www.insightcentral.net/encyclopedia/enmodes.html
      http://www.insightcentral.net/encyclopedia/enhybrid.html

      There are no commercially-available plug-in hybrids on the market so far. Some hobbiests and aftermarket companies have been altering a few hybrids (Prius, Ford Escape Hybrid/Mercury Mariner Hybrid) to make them plug-in capable. Typically this requires adding additional hybrid batteries, besides the ability to charge off the mains.
      For more information, check out http://www.calcars.org/vehicles.html

      For cost reasons, unless you are a fleet owner or other high-mileage driver it probably will not be worth the cost of the PHEV conversion for you. (Conversion pricing is high due to startup costs and low volumes, besides the pricing of the needed additional battery packs.)

      To note, converting to a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) does not reduce the vehicle’s range. It gives the owner the option to recharge the (newly added larger) hybrid battery pack at night (cheap electricity and off-peak electric load which would otherwise be lost). The vehicle would run for a certain distance (longer than stock) on the stored electric power alone, and when the battery pack is depleted to a certain point the vehicle reverts back to its original hybrid self and runs on a combination of the gasoline engine (which will also recharge the battery) and the electric motor. A PHEV would add a greater all-electric range to the existing hybrid, besides the ability (but not the requirement!) to plug it into an electric source.

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