Joe Levi:
a cross-discipline, multi-dimensional problem solver who thinks outside the box – but within reality™

Hybrid Vehicles

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I Want One

For those of you who know me it should come as no surprise that I want a hybrid vehicle. My quest began some years ago when GM released their EV1 (and subsequently their 2nd generation EV1, or the EV1.5 as we referred to it).

The GM EV1

The EV1 was an all-electric, two-seater car that relied on the installation of a home invertor and (to a certain extent)an infrastructure of parking-meter rechargers. The nut-jobs politicians in Mexifornia California installed these in strategic places and allowed free use of them. Hey, it sounded good on paper.

Unfortunately, the EV1 program got brushed away, even with all the demand for them in California they never offered them for sale — only for lease… and only in very specific areas. Talk about restricting your market. (One guy in Colorado leased one and trailered it from his home back to the dealer in California for regular maintainence.) The second generation EV1’s had NiMH batteries which almost doubled their driving range.

Failures and Future Plans

With GM’s commercial failure (but success in R&D?), the electric vehicle’s of today won’t be coming to a dealer near you. Instead the powers that be are pursuing hydrogen. More specifically, making hydrogen safe. Good luck. In the meantime, they’ve got to do something to reduce pollution, increase gas mileage, and get us to pay more for our cars. So what have they come up with? Hybrids.

What’s a hybrid?

What’s a hybrid? Funny you should ask! A hybrid, in the most simple terms, is something that’s part one thing, and part some other thing. Oh! You meant what’s a “hybrid vehicle”!

A hybrid vehicle (commonly known just as “a hybrid”) is a car that runs on both gasoline and electricity. Technically we all have hybrid vehicles. (That radio runs on electricity, your power locks and windows run on electricity, even your winshield wipers run on electricity; not to mention the lights and stuff!) That’s not really a hybrid, and it’s not what we’re talking about here.

Assistive Hybrid Vehicles

The next step up in hybrid vehicles is roughly referred to as an “assisitive hybrid vehicle” (but you won’t hear them marketed as such). Basically, an assistive hybrid uses some recovered kenetic energy (braking, coasting, etc.) to store into a battery pack. The size of the engine is reduced, making it more fuel effecient and less polluting, but more whimpy less powerful. This is where the batteries and an electric motor come in to play: when your engine is too whimpy not powerful enough to give you the acceleration that you want the motor draws the stored power from the batteries and feeds it into the drive-train, thereby assisting the internal combutsion engine (ICE) and viola, extra power — or, rather, no noticable loss in power.

That’s not really a hybrid either. Sorry, but it’s just not. Sure, it helps a little, but the costs to make and maintain all the extra doo-dads don’t make up for the savings in gas. Most auto makers (including GM) are using this “almosta” hyrbrid crap technology in their vehicles.

Real Hybrid Vehicles

Okay fine, so what’s a “real” hybrid, you ask? A “real” hybrid will let you run on JUST the ICE (gas engine), JUST the electric motor(s), or both together (assistive). Not only that, but it will be smart enough to know which function to use in any given scenario — on the fly.

These vehicles usually get SUBSTANTIALLY better gas mileage than their ICE cousins, or even their “fake” hybrid siblings. Their gas engines can be even smaller because their electric motors are bigger, and their battery packs hold more energy.

With a bigger battery pack, that means a more efficient method of reclaiming energy (to put into said bigger battery pack) is needed, which makes the vehicle even MORE efficient. The Prius is one such vehicle.

The Future

Prius+ 100+MPG Prius modificationI’ve seen accessories for the Prius that add an additional battery pack and a power-plug to the vehicle. The theory here is to plug-in at night (not needed on the stock Prius’) and charge up the battery pack, then run off the added electricity in the battery packs and reduce the amount of time you need to run the gas engine. By so doing gas is saved and pollution is reduced. I’ll ask the unasked question: where does the electricity coming out of that outlet come from? Ah! The proverbial can of worms! A HUGE percentage of electricity is generated by burning coal, oil, natural gas (or even trash!). What does this put into the air? Yup, pollution. So by “plugging in” you’re really not “thinking green” unless you’re sure your power comes from wind, water, or solar (aka “renewable”) sources. In effect you’re just shifting the pollution from your backyard to someone elses backyard, right?

Let’s think about that for a minute… Wind, water, and solar power are all around us, all we have to do is tap into them. The power companies don’t like this fact, most people who own a house own enough roof space to power rough 75% of their home’s power needs (and if you factor in high-efficiency appliances and high-tech lighting, and eventually the migration from AC to DC electronics, sooner than we think we’ll be generating the nation’s energy from our roof-tops, not from mega-power plants).

So, what’s practical for a hybrid electric vehicle? Water power? Nope… Window power? The added resistance wouldn’t pay for the gained electricity. Solar? Ah… That’s the ticket!

Does a car have enough roof space to be indepentant of a gas engine? Unfortunatly, with today’s solar panels: no. But let’s ask the question: does the panel have to supply all the electricity for the car?


Since most of us drive our cars with the sun shining down on them, and many of us park (at work, while shopping, etc.) with the sun shining down on them, why not make use of that energy? After all, it’s there; it’s free; it’s just going to waste otherwise, right? The savings are notable, increasing the average real-world MPG by around 10%.

Another example of a Prius, with a more traditional solar panel.


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