From Hybrid to PHEV
A few columns back I wrote about the lack of development and the demise of EV (electric vehicle) technology. This year I was further disheartened to see that GM's fleet of EV1s were removed from service and have been destroyed -- or are slated to be destroyed.
I have also been very critical of the proliferation of, what are in my opinion, inefficient hybrids (touted as efficient) and the shepherding of the public towards the purchase of these hybrids. My main problem with the hybrids currently in production is as follows -- in their current form they are too inefficient* to have an impact on our dependence on gasoline (oil) and their very existence just prolongs our dependence on gasoline (oil) while hindering almost all organized efforts toward developing or improving alternative power sources such as hydrogen or better EVs. (*Yes I know that they are supposed to be able to make 60mpg, but in everyday use the numbers have been significantly lower and even 60mpg is not that great...)
Enter the "Plug-in" Hybrid (PHEVs)?
Just when it all looked like electric vehicle technology would be stifled for a long time to come, some forward-thinking people looked at the situation and decided to make something really interesting happen! A few entrepreneurial developers are taking the current inefficient hybrids to a level of efficiency that actually makes sense.
CalCars, an organization of engineers and entrepreneurs based in Palo Alto, California has created a "plug-in" hybrid that is capable of 80 miles per gallon. They added a battery pack, which can be recharged through an electrical outlet. These additional batteries allow the vehicle to utilize the electric motor portion of the hybrid drive-train for everyday short trips. The ability to radically reduce the use of the gasoline engine in the vehicle seriously decreases the need for gasoline.
250mpg???Energy CS from Monrovia, California is creating EDrive Systems to market conversion kits to allow hybrid owners to enjoy up to 230mpg. They have already converted two Priuses, which currently attain very impressive mileage.
No surprise here...
It appears that the auto industry is less than enthusiastic about "plug-in" hybrids... and industry spokesman are trying to downplay the "plug-in" technology. I imagine that within the next few months though, we're going to see some very dramatic changes on several fronts. Auto-industry competition for implementing the technology should start to develop within the next two years and I imagine that there will also be a response by the oil industry -- which will come in the way of price changes (up or down?). With "peak oil*" fears looming, gasoline prices could soar exponentially unfettered. "Peak oil" refers to a period in time when oil production "maxes out" and begins to trickle -- many possibilities could result from the realization of this event -- the economic ramifications are obvious, however it could also force grand scale development and serious deployment of PHEVs and other existing alternative power-source vehicles -- many, which manufacturers are holding in reserve, simply awaiting consumer demand to swell.
"The genie is out of the bottle..."The principal "environmental" argument against "plugging in" has traditionally revolved around the fact that increased electricity demands will result in more fuel being burned at the generating plants -- this may be true, but there are also a variety of environmentally friendly methods to generate electricity, such as hydro-electric, wind, solar and geo-thermal.
If the public demands this type of PHEV technology, it will serve as a catalyst to promote the advancement of battery and electric motor technology -- both will take huge leaps forward.
Gigliotti, Lorenzo. "From EV to Hybrid - From Hybrid to PHEV." The Random Times
The quixotic mind of Lorenzo Gigliotti
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