Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Plug In Hybrid

I am just now finishing a large document on Plug In Hybrids.

Here is a sneak peak at a very small part of the report.

The idea of a plug-in hybrid is rather new, even though the concept is rather old. From one perspective, a plug in hybrid is just an all electric car with a small on board generator to keep the batteries charged. In this sense, the engine is a range extender.

An example of this kind of plug-in is found in the Renault Kangoo Elect’road. It is a small electric van with a range extender. It uses a nickel –cadmium traction battery that provides a 60 mile all electric range. A 15 kW engine, fed by a two-gallon gasoline tank, drives two alternators to recharge the battery. With the engine running, the range is extended to over 125 miles. Renault views the extender as a stress reducer as much as anything.

But the plug-in hybrid that has captured the imagination of policy makers, utility planners, and energy planners is a much more sophisticated device.

Take this definition from the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security:

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are hybrid cars with an added battery. As the term suggests, plug-in hybrids - which look and perform much like "regular" cars - can be plugged in to a 120-volt outlet (for instance each night at home, or during the workday at a parking garage) and charged. Plug-ins run on the stored energy for much of a typical day's driving - depending on the size of the battery up to 60 miles per charge, far beyond the commute of an average American - and when the charge is used up, automatically keep running on the fuel in the fuel tank. A person who drives every day a distance shorter than the car's electric range would never have to dip into the fuel tank.”

Thus in the minds of many, Plug-in hybrids have thus become the ideal transportation appliance for unifying the electric sector with the transportation sector.

Much of the plug-in research in this country has occurred at the University of California.

Since mid 90s, the Mechanical Engineering department has pretty much lead the way in developing plug in hybrids. They have found that the plug-in parallel hybrid strategy maximizes energy efficiency and brings air emissions to the lowest levels.

The department has demonstrated its conversions on the Ford Taurus, the Mercury Sable, a Chevy Suburban, and a Ford Explorer. The Suburban had a 60 mile all electric range.

The engines can also run on ethanol based fuels.

The Ford Explorer, which has a 45 mile all-electric range is estimated to be able to handle more than 50% of the miles driven by the standard SUV driver. Perhaps more importantly, the vehicle is more powerful than a standard Explorer. Its acceleration time for 0 to 60 is 2/3s of that of a conventional Ford Explorer. This comes from the 325 HP available from the combined power of the 200 HP electric motor and the engine.

Another utility working on transportation unification appliances is Hydro–Quebec. HQ is developing, through its subsidiaries, a parallel drive train, a battery, and it has even signed an agreement with a French airplane design firm to develop a body for a future plug-in hybrid vehicle.

Some groups are already converting existing hybrids into plug-ins. These groups are changing out the battery and they are hacking into the control system. They have been able to create a plug-in hybrid that drives like a standard hybrid, but because of the greater battery capacity, is capable of extending the gas mileage of the car to almost 100 mpg.

It is important to note that these vehicles use the electrical energy purchased from the utility as a fuel extender. This is almost precisely the opposite idea from the all- electric car with a gasoline engine range extender. However, it is an important development.

Plug-in hybrids do not need to alter the way a standard hybrid performs as they increase the mileage efficiency of the already efficient hybrid.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles avoid two of the biggest problems with all electric standard electric vehicles. One, they are not limited by range. And two, there is no charge time when the car cannot be driven.

Plug–in hybrids can in fact be more convenient by allowing for convenient home refueling at night.

Sometimes, really good ideas emerge and everyone in the field suddenly realizes that it is an idea that has more than merit; it may be an idea whose time has come.

We need to unify the transportation sector

with the electric sector

Plugins look like the answer.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I presently drive a plug-in hybrid. My hybrid is a Ford Ranger pickup converted to an electric vehicle with an on-board 50 kW charger. To extend range for long trips, I can tow a small trailer carrying a gasoline driven AC generator to power the battery charger. CF

1:10 PM  
Blogger oZ said...

And do you buy green electricity for your green car?

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how often do you have to change out the batteries, and how much is it when you do?

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for explaining this so carefully. I love it when the future starts arriving just in the nick of time.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The electricity for my plug-in hybrid is 100% wind energy purchased from Green Mountain Energy. Cost of electricity for the hybrid is very low compared to purchasing gasoline, but battery replacement costs make cost of operating the hybrid slightly higher than operating a gasoline car.

I change the batteries after about 500 charge / discharge cycles or about every one and one half to two years. Replacement with lead-acid batteries costs less than $2000. CF

7:07 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

nice. thanks for the comment CF

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are the big car companies going to begin to build these?

12:33 PM  
Blogger oZ said...

we'll see, Toyota is changing its tune and Mitsubishi is looking good.

9:35 AM  

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