Hybrid cars Essay
Automakers are facing energy instability and higher gas prices, and customers are pushing for cleaner and more efficient solutions. New vehicles and fuels are gaining traction as Americans seek to address the world’s most pressing concerns-terrorism and global warming. These forces have converged in the hybrid phenomenon-millions of automobile owners choosing hybrid and alternative fuel platforms to promote the greening of the automobile business. American manufacturers, late to the game, are working overtime to catch up to, and eventually surpass their Japanese competitors.
The hybrid phenomenon is about saving time and money at the fuel pump, but it’s also about saving a part of the world every day. Transportation is responsible for about a quarter of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, and the United States is the greatest greenhouse gas contributor on the planet. Hybrids have saved more than an estimated one million barrels of crude oil, three million pounds of smog-forming gases, one million metric tons of carbon dioxide and an estimated 125 million of gasoline (Motavalli 2007). The hybrid phenomenon is allowing drivers to change the world and feel good about it.
In business and commerce, hybrid dollars help stimulate economies and create jobs. The movement also is creating global virtual communities and empowering people to promote environmental sustainability. The Phenomenon shouts globally and acts locally every day. Yet, few people appreciate what a large role this technology will play in the future of the transportation sector, how intense the coming industrial battle over the hybrid market will be, and how, indeed, the hybrid phenomenon has only just begun. These are momentous times for the global automotive industry.
Extraordinary economic growth in China and India, regional conflicts in the Middle East, population growth, climate change, and natural disasters have converged in recent years; it has underscored the profound need to secure our energy future through advanced technology. Its is unlikely that oil alone can supply the world’s rapidly growing automotive energy requirements, even with continued improvements in fuel efficiency, so the global auto industry is challenged to develop alternative sources of propulsion, based on alternative sources of energy.
The need for action is underscored by the fact that there are currently 800 million vehicles on the world’s roads today. In 15 years, that number will grow to 1. 1 billion cars, trucks, vans, SUV’s, etc (Future Survey 2007). It’s amazing to think that the hybrid phenomenon emerged primarily from Toyota Prius, originally an odd-looking concept car developed in the 1990’s. Approximately 1,000 Toyota engineers drew up and then abandoned 80 designs to reduce gas consumption, only to settle on a 100-year-old technology, the hybrid, which simply increased efficiently and doubled mileage.
In the 1890’s, when horseless carriages were as likely to run on steam or electricity as on gasoline, a young engineer named Ferdinand Porsche was asked by his boss, Jacob Lohner, to design a better electric car. Lohner-Porsche successfully offered a hybrid alternative a few years later. It filled up on gasoline, but electric motors turned the wheels (Professional Engineering 2007). The hybrid solved the electric-vehicle problem of limited speed and range. The world’s first hybrid was about four times more efficient than today’s average cars.
Gasoline-powered cars had taken over the passenger car market by the 1920’s, thanks to the electric starter and Henry Ford’s assembly line, which made Model Ts affordable for most families. Still, industrial uses for hybrids flourished during the rest of the twentieth century. Diesel-electric hybrid trains and heavy equipment helped to industrialize America. As for cars, many can incarnations of hybrid concepts were built, but none took significant market share until the Prius, which emerged out of Japan in 1997 and hit the United States in 2000.
The Honda Insight 2000 was actually the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, but the 2001 Prius and its successors have been the runaway best sellers (E Magazine 2007). Providing efficiency and flexibility, hybrids are sustaining an auto industry in crisis. More-efficient power management and the ability to recycle energy serve to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. From 1997 through the first half of 2006, aggregate global hybrid sales for new cars and light trucks totaled 820,000 units.
In 2005, 20% of sales took place in Japan, and 68% went to the largest market, the United States. Toyota dominated the aggregate market with more than 720,000 units sold by July 2006, or almost 9 of every 10 hybrids in the world (Wong 2007). The demand for the Prius exceeded everybody’s expectations, and the hybrid market grew faster than any other. Hybrids have become the most efficient, business-disruptive and flexible transportation platforms ever invented, compatible with just about any fuel and vehicle.
For example, hybrids are compatible with gasoline, diesel, ethanol blends (E10, E85, E100), electricity, hydrogen, natural gas, hydraulic gas, air, steam, nuclear, and alternative fuels, such as biofuels made from garbage to plant material to wood. Also hybrid technology can be implemented not only in cars but also in trucks, trains, buses, ships, submarines, and spacecraft (Ogando 2007). While the Prius remains the best-known hybrid model, these cars actually come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Hybrids fall into four main platforms: full hybrids, mild hybrids, light hybrids, and plug-in hybrids.
The most efficient and widely used hybrids are called full hybrids, which can run on electricity alone. At low speeds, full hybrids can use batteries, computers, and a complicated transmission to move the car without burning any fuel. The Prius has enough technology to run electrically for several miles. This feature increases gas mileage and eliminates smog and noise pollution, which impresses consumers. Both full and mild hybrids recycle electricity through regenerative braking, a system that converts a vehicle’s kinetic energy into electrical energy, thereby increasing energy efficiency.
Additionally, the transmission system juggles two fuels to deliver one smooth connection to turn the wheels. The extra costs associated with the computerized drivetrain transmission make full hybrids the most difficult and expensive to manufacture of all hybrid types. However, leading automakers have provided an array of consumer benefits through hybrid drivetrains. Toyota has branded its Hybrid Synergy Drive to several models, and licensed technology to Ford and Nissan, which also produce full hybrids (Kliauzovich 200). Hybrids that rely primarily on an internal combustion engine are called mild hybrids.
The electric motor increases efficiency by assisting the engine. But it cannot move the vehicle on electricity alone. Mild hybrids provide the same driver benefits as full hybrids, but to a lesser degree. They use conventional transmissions and are cheaper to manufacture than full hybrids so they cannot be converted to plug-ins. The Honda Civic Hybrid, Saturn Vue Green Line, and the Hyundai Accent Hybrid are all examples of this popular type of vehicle. Light hybrids do not recycle energy, although they perform as typical hybrids in other ways.
They reduce fuel consumption by shutting the engine down when the vehicle is stopped. The stopping and restarting of the engine is computerized so the driver need not be bothered with this process (Professional Engineering 2007). General Motors (GM) is the leader in this technology and markets highbred trucks to contractors and similar businesses. Light hybrid versions of the Silverado and Sierra use oversized starter/generator technology that produces 120-volt electricity, accessible via electrical outlets for power tools and offering additional fuel savings.
Plug-in technology is the next step in making full hybrids into electric vehicles. Plug-ins use larger battery packs that can tap into external electricity. Drivers enjoy all the benefits of full hybrids to a greater degree and can fill up with electricity. This provides the flexibility to be able to rely on two fuel sources, including high voltage electricity that is available free by many governmental and some private organizations. Full gasoline electric hybrids are the most prevalent hybrids, followed by mild then light. Plug-ins that uses more electricity is expected to hit showrooms within the next few years (Frank 2007).
In 2005, Toyota made aftermarket kits available for Prius owners who wanted to convert their full hybrids into plug-ins, which achieve over 100 miles per gallon (mpg). Toyota is developing a plug-in Prius for the showroom, but they were beat to market by GM, who recently debuted the world’s first production plug-in, the Volt. Car manufacturing, the world’s farthest-reaching industry, changed drastically from 200 to 2006. Markets, technologies, and consumer behaviors all evolved seemingly overnight. More than 40 different hybrid and alternative fuel models-8 million cars and light trucks-suddenly appeared on American roads.
Thirty-five more models will be introduced through 2007 (McManus 2007). The challenge for the U. S. domestic automakers, which have made their reputation on vehicles with utility and muscle, and the German automakers, which have focused much of their time on performance and power, is to reorient them to their emerging understanding. They should use hybrids and other new technologies to satisfy new consumer demands and expectations. The Japanese automakers, while currently in the lead, need to continue to both advance the technology and widen its application in order to retain and expand their market share (Attwood 2007).
Automakers, particularly in the United States, are scrambling to find new strategies in an industry that is evolving rapidly in response to several macro forces: cheap oil has reached peak production, governmental regulators are beginning to encourage green consumption, information technologies are disrupting the manufacturing sector by making corporate behavior more transparent and allowing fuel-efficiency advocates to better collaborate, share information, influence policy, innovations are helping consumers to choose green, and more people have become familiar with the energy issues surrounding global warming.
Hybrid makers are constantly changing strategies as consumers switch to new vehicle platforms and fuels. CEO’s are being challenged to bet on numerous new technologies and vehicles. Increasingly, innovation in fuel efficiency is being driven by parties outside of the boardroom. Engineers are hacking hybrids and increasing gas mileage. Entrepreneurs are starting up battery, electric car, and fuel companies. Environmentalists are collecting used cooking oil and filling up old diesels. Farmers are increasing corn production for trucks, vans, and SUV’s that can run on ethanol.
Homeowners with battery charges or natural gas units can fill up in their own garages. Venture capitalists are sinking billions into alternative fuel industries and clean technologies. Politicians are planning energy and oil independence and a cleaner future (Teschler 2006). The Big Three U. S. automakers (GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler) are so far behind in the hybrid phenomenon that the situation is likely to result in the largest trade war ever to invade the U. S. auto industry. Both U. S. and Japanese automakers directly impact the world’s two largest economies-the United States and Japan.
Every car or truck sold goes straight to the trade war’s bottom line. Every slow-selling vehicle is a casualty in a long-unfolding battle, as plants are shuttered and model lines replaced. Fast-selling alternatives and hybrids promise market share, new jobs, and new future. Clearly, the hybrid phenomenon is playing a major role in the future of jobs, companies-as well as in our world-view of energy, transportation, and the environment. After all, our cars connect everything in our lives, from family to work to entertainment to the environment, and trucks deliver almost everything we consume.
Benefits of hybrid technologies go well beyond gas mileage and saving money. They lead toward new application and platforms. The hybrid has the potential to lead to greater innovations for a growing number of products and services. For example, Australian researchers have produced a prototype of a home hydrogen fueling station. It’s the size of a filing cabinet and can run on electricity generated by standard rooftop solar panels or a home wind turbine to turn water into hydrogen gas. The prototype can power a fuel cell vehicle or a hybrid with an engine converted to run on the hydrogen gas.
The vehicle can then cruise for 100 miles per fill-up, producing no pollution (Heckeroth 2007). Hybrid platforms can potentially increase the efficiency of almost any fuel and type of vehicle. The trade-off in cost seems minimal compared with the growing number of benefits. If users continue their present rate of investment, hybrid technology will surely become the core technology of the automobile industry. Surveys indicate that many hybrid owners joined the hybrid phenomenon not only to help themselves, but also to help the world.
Drivers save money on gas, leaving more oil for other purposes. They enjoy quiet rides allowing others to breathe clean air. They get to feel good about the car they drive. Their hybrids recycle energy and demonstrate how to enjoy life while saving our oil reserves and our planet. Drivers should be wary of putting too much faith in one technology to solve the environmental, economic, and political challenges that the automakers have helped create. There are no silver bullets for global warming and oil dependence.
Hybrids and advanced vehicle technologies are a path toward true zero-emission vehicles, but automakers can do more in the short term to improve fuel economy by using off-the-shelf conventional technologies throughout their vehicle fleets. Automakers could achieve similar reductions at low cost in all types of passenger vehicles. Pushing the hybrid market is a vital component, but cannot be seen as a replacement for a more widespread improvement in conventional vehicle efficiency. Consumers and lawmakers should never confuse an expanding hybrid selection with a “problem solved” mentality.
The same holds true with biofuels. This is why strong, performance-based standards, such as an improvement in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and the expansion of the California standards on vehicular global warming emissions, are needed. Right now, the Markey-Platts fuel economy bill in the House would deliver needed increases in CAFE standards. Automakers, politicians, and scientists are all fueling the hybrid phenomenon. But what will really accelerate this transition are those everyday choices that we, as consumers, make in terms of demanding new vehicle platforms and alternative fuel choices.
Such choices are what really matter in the quest for sustainable ways to live the good life-for everyone, not just the affluent few. The hybrid phenomenon represents millions of consumers making the decision to move away form oil dependence and toward a cleaner world. Minimizing dependence on oil is a challenge we all face. How our global community responds is the defining question of our era. At the end of the day, the success of hybrid technology in total will be in how much the technology is used to improve fuel economy and maintain the power of the vehicle, rather than just make a car go faster on the same gallon of gas.
Hybrids are just one of the first steps in the larger sea change taking place in the vehicle efficiency and in finding solutions to global warming and dependence on oil. As Daniel Attwood said, “The Motor industry is racing to reduce harmful emissions from vehicles. The ultimate goal is zero-emission cars, but this is decades away,” (2007). Works Cited: Attwood, Daniel. (2007). The Future of Green Motoring. Engineers Journal. May 20, 2007, Vol. 61. Issue 4, p239-244. Biodiesel’s Bright Future. (2007). Future Survey. July 2007. Vol. 29 Issue 7, p13-13. Frank, Andrew. (2007).
Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles for a Sustainable Future. American Scientist. March/Apr. 2007, Vol. 95 Issue 2, p158-165. Heckeroth, Steve. (2007-2008). Solar is the Solution. Mother Earth News. Dec 2007/2008. Issue 225, p5-56. Here Comes the Hybrids. E Magazine: The Environmental Magazine. March/Apr. 2007, Vol. 18 Issue 2, p29-29. In Brief. (2007). Professional Engineering. June 13, 2007. Vol. 20 Issue II, p4-7. Kliauzovich, Siarhei. (2007). Analysis of Control Systems for Vehicle Hybrid Powertrains. Transport (16484142), 2007, Vol. 22 Issue 2, p105-110. McManus, Reed. (2007). Hybrid Helpers. Sierra. March/Apr.
2007, Vol. 92 Issue 2, p16-16. Motavalli, Jim. (2007). Guide to Hybrid Hype. E Magazine: The Environmental Magazine. July/Aug. 2007. Vol. 18 Issue 4, p60-62. Ogando, Joseph. (2007). A Different Kind of Hybrid. Design News. July 16, 2007. Vol. 62 Issue 10, p75-78. Power Boost Allows Smaller Engines in Hybrid Cars. (2007). Professional Engineering. Nov. 7, 2007. Vol. 20 Issue 20, p45-45. Teschler, Leland. (2006). Save Energy: Don’t Recycle. Machine Design. July 13, 2006, Vol. 78 Issue 13, p10-10. Wong, William. (2007). Lending the Charge. Electronic Design. June 29, 2007. Vol. 55 Issue 14, p39-43.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 April 2017
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