Where Hybrid Cars Are Going

OP-ED by Editors

In the beginning of the twentieth century, it made environmental sense to buy hybrid vehicles despite the prices meaning that only celebrities could really afford to drive them. But now hybrids are passé, and the move is toward all-electric (EVs).

If you think about this, it is incredibly slow. If only a few people drove hybrids twenty years and now only a sizable minority drive hybrids it will probably take another twenty years for them to become the norm and that’s only hybrid cars, not electric cars.

A ban on passenger cars (just passenger cars it seems) with the usual Internal Combustion Engine (I.C.E.) has been mapped out but it is believed that hybrids will stick around until 2035.

New Hybrids

A self-charging hybrid was the traditional way these cars gained power; the energy when you decelerate or operate the brake feeds power back into the power system. The batteries didn’t hold that much energy meaning that any electricity generated won’t last you a mile and you can’t drive in electric mode for more than 30 mph. These aren’t considered EVs.

Even on paper, the new version, plug-in hybrids, are so much better with larger batteries and the electricity generated can reach about 30 mph or so. They do need to be fully charged in order to get the right amount of benefit.

Another point about plug-in hybrids is that they are good if you don’t want to go fully electric. If you drive them on electric power, they don’t emit pollution from the battery. They require a 120V outlet in order to fully charge. Some models switch to hybrid at about 60-70mph as well as stopping the engine when the car is at a red light or if it is in traffic.

As with the other form of hybrid, the energy created through braking is stored in the engine which is smaller than a combustion engine.

Why aren’t Hybrids Quickly Being Replaced?

A battery electric vehicle has no back up system and relies entirely on the electric stored within it. There are no emissions from this engine at all. However, if you want to take trip, say over 300 miles you’ll have to stop for 20 to 30 minutes every couple hundred miles to charge it.

Other drawbacks to EVs include the environmental impact to mine the battery material, the damage to the environment when disposing of the batteries (which only last so long), and the fact that our electrical grid wasn’t built to charge all the cars as well as power houses. In fact, many places still use coal to generate electricity so one might ask, “how environmentally sound is powering your car with electricity?”

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

The new type of electric vehicle is the fuel cell electric vehicle where the battery converts hydrogen gas into electricity which can be used to power the car. This would alleviate the range issues. These types of cars are only just appearing on the market.

Car manufacturers Toyota, Honda and Hyundai seem to favour fuel cells, especially as it allows power to be charged in a matter of minutes. The hydrogen fuelling infrastructure still isn’t in place yet, and it’s hard to say how tricky that will be to build.

One study for Energy magazine in 2016 says people won’t go for fuel cells unless they are cheaper than battery power. The study author went on to state that this is unlikely to happen in the near future.

The car manufacturers who wish to keep with battery power include Chevrolet and Tesla. It will be interesting to see if they move to fuel cells in the future, especially Tesla. Tesla is an all-electric car manufacturer founded in 2003. It’s gone from the side-lines to a major player in that time. But any hybrid or electric car manufacturer is worth watching because it’s big business at the moment.

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