Posted By RichC on December 24, 2012
After catching up on a bit of automotive reading, I realized that improvements propulsion for cars is moving us toward hybrid vehicles and that there will come a day when “almost” all our day to day vehicles will have some sort of hybrid drive … be they battery electric or some other booster technology.
Mentioning “hybrid” I assume most think of the Toyota Prius and the Hybrid Synergy Drive, but there are other manufacturers with similar technology inching improvements year to year. In a few short years, every internal combustion car will see its efficiency improved by adopting some energy saving measure or measures. Some perhaps just enough to cycle the stop-start of the engine permitting accessories such as air conditioning and electronics to continue to run without burning fuel. Others “may” use compressed air, a spinning flywheel or wound spring to provide a start-up or acceleration boost. Advance capacitors may eventually do the same for the electric hybrid reducing the size of battery packs and the associated weight issue … currently one major drawback of EV and plug-in hybrids. Battery degradation is another major issue facing manufacturers as who wants to be hauling hundreds of pounds of battery when the charge efficiency drops? (link)
Cost and vehicle life is another issue, but cars are capable of far more miles in a lifetime than they were just a couple generations ago. My dad mentioned how he would sell cars when they neared the 70,000 mile mark as I noted that I rarely replace with cars with less than 200,000 miles nowadays. Car bodies no longer corrode as they once did and “rust-buckets” are rare on the road today. I recall patch mufflers continually when I was younger, not to mention using baling wire to hold bumpers in place and welding new metal with plenty of Bondo on fenders and rocker panels. Longer lifespans offset the higher price tag and become a factor in keeping a car on the road – it justifies the more complex “drive” components associated with hybrid systems.
As for performance, there isn’t any reason to assume “just because a car is a hybrid” that we have to give up on driver enjoyment. I suspect that we’ll eventually be able to “hot rod” (aka: computer tweak) high performance hybrid vehicles into desirable driver’s car – well perhaps not the Prius?
Hopefully for those of us who enjoy cars with a “little” more personality and driving appeal, we’ll see more attempts like the Volkswagen Jetta hybrid where the designers were unwilling to give up sporty handling and performance just to gain efficiency. Maybe VW’s next hybrid will also be a TDI diesel? That would be nice, although well behind another European automaker (Volvo V60 Diesel plug-in Hybrid).