Hybrid Cars – Past And Future

Cars as a form of private transport have been around for over one hundred years. The model T Ford produced in 1908 is considered to be the first mass produced car. It became very popular with ordinary people as it was affordable to the vast majority of the population. The original cars were powered by gas guzzling engines and had limited speed. As technology improved during the 20th century the speed, performance and style of the automobile changed. By the 1960’s America was churning out muscle cars. Automobiles which were powered by V8’s and could reach speeds of over 100mph. They were heavy on fuel but this was not a concern as fuel was so cheap.

Towards the end of the 20th century it became apparent to many that the fuel supply would not last forever and that these combustion engines were polluting the environment. The big automobile manufacturers started to look for a new way of powering a car.

Hybrid Cars – Past And Future

One of the new technologies that have been developed is the hybrid engine. Any vehicle which is powered by two or more sources of power is a hybrid. The usual combination is a gasoline engine coupled with an electric motor. The electric motor is usually there to collect wastage energy. Heat produced by the brakes is normally wasted. It is known as kinetic energy and a hybrid converts this into electricity which is used to recharge the car battery. Hybrids also have electric generators which are spun by the gasoline engine and create electricity. This electricity can be used to power the electric drive motors. Electric drive motors can move the car a set distance before running flat. They can also be used to start and stop the engine whenever you stop. Often this is combined with driving away from a stopped position on electric and the gasoline engine cutting in at a certain speed.

The electric motors utilized by hybrids remove the strain on the gasoline engine. Reducing the workload means the gasoline engine will produce far less emissions and be better for the environment. It is also better on the owner’s pocket. Hybrid cars tend to have smaller gasoline engines than an equivalent size gasoline car. They also do not use their gasoline engine all the time so are able to produce exceptionally good miles to the gallon figures.

The hybrid was born in 1901 when Ferdinand Porsche created a car powered by a gasoline engine and an electric engine. At the time it was an expensive project with no real world application. Towards the end of the 20th century as oil prices started to increase, it became apparent that there was a place for this technology and Toyota launched the Prius in 1997. This was closely followed by Honda’s Insight in 1999. Within five years most major manufacturers had a hybrid car available for the discerning consumer. Today they occupy a growing section of the automobile market. There have been over nine million sold since the first Prius hit the market and America is the second biggest purchaser of these vehicles.

Types Of Hybrid Motor Currently Available

Whilst a hybrid needs to have at least two sources of power not all hybrids are the same. There are several different types of hybrids:

  • Series Hybrids – These have two engines. The electric one is connected to the drive mechanism and is capable of powering the car.
  • Parallel Hybrid – This is the cheapest and most common option used by car manufacturers. The two engines work together creating additional boost when needed and alleviating the drain on the gasoline engine from electrical components in the car.
  • Series-Parallel Hybrid – This attempts to utilize the best bits of both the above technologies. The electric motor can work with the gasoline motor to boost power or it can be used to drive the car for short distances. These engines are linked via a computer which decides the best application of their respective powers depending upon a variety of variables.

The Future

Considering the current concerns regarding the environment and the spiraling cost of oil it is likely that the interest in hybrid technology will continue its dramatic increase in popularity. As more consumers switch to the new technology automobile manufacturers will plough more funds into research and development. This should result in some interesting and significant changes over the next five to ten years.

There are other factors which will push manufacturers into producing more of these vehicles:

Governments are slowly decreasing the amount of emissions new cars are allowed to produce. Switching to hybrid technology makes it far easier to meet these new targets and stay in business.

The environment is no longer just the concern of environmentalists. Now everyone is aware of the harm that humans do to their own planet. The outcome of this is an increased interest in the application of electric motors which have zero emissions.

Batteries are improving. Many automobiles with excellent potential have been limited by the distance they are able to travel without using the gasoline engine. There has been a lot of research into batteries and there are now batteries coming onto the market which should be able to power a car for around 180 miles. Manufacturers are intent or improving this figure to the 400 mile mark.

As the technology has become more proliferant the cost of the components is decreasing rapidly. Manufacturers will soon be able to build a hybrid car for the same price as a standard gasoline automobile. This will have a significant effect on the market.

America’s government and military arm in particularly are pushing hard for electric power. This will provide energy security for the future. Not being dependent on oil will ensure no other country can negatively affect America in times of need. The military have the financial power to research and develop this technology and this technology always filters down to everyday consumables.

Whatever your opinion on the subject it is clear that hybrid vehicles are here to stay. The real question should probably be “How long will it be before you are unable to purchase a new purely gasoline vehicle?”

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