Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hybrid Electric Vehicle

A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a vehicle which combines a conventional propulsion system with an on-board rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) to achieve better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle without being hampered by range from a charging unit like a battery electric vehicle, which uses batteries charged by an external source. The different propulsion power systems may have common subsystems or components.

Regular HEVs most commonly use an internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric batteries to power electric motors. Modern mass produced HEVs prolong the charge on their batteries by capturing kinetic energy via regenerative braking, and some HEVs can use the combustion engine to generate electricity by spinning an electrical generator (often a motor-generator) to either recharge the battery or directly feed power to an electric motor that drives the vehicle. Many HEVs reduce idle emissions by shutting down the ICE at idle and restarting it when needed. An HEV's engine is smaller and may be run at various speeds, providing more efficiency.

HEVs became widely available to the public in the late 1990s with the introduction of the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. HEVs are viewed by some automakers as a core segment of the next future automotive market.[1] An article for the July-August 2007 issue of THE FUTURIST magazine titled "Energy Diversity as a Business Imperative"[2] included plug-in hybrid vehicles. GM vice president for environment and energy Elizabeth Lowery is quoted as saying, "Today, we are embracing multiple energy sources because there is no single answer available for the mass market…"


The variety of hybrid electric designs can be differentiated by the structure of the hybrid vehicle drivetrain, the fuel type and the mode of operation.

In 2007, several manufacturers have announced that vehicles will use aspects of hybrid electric technology to reduce fuel consumption without the use of the hybrid drivetrain. Regenerative braking can be used to recapture energy and stored to power electrical accessories, such as air conditioning. Shutting down the engine at idle can also be used to reduce fuel consumption and reduce emissions without the addition of a hybrid drivetrain. In both cases, some of the advantages of hybrid electric technology are gained while additional cost and weight may be limited to the addition of larger batteries and starter motors. There is no standard terminology for such vehicles, although they may be termed mild hybrids.

The 2000s saw development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which can be recharged from the electrical power grid and do not require conventional fuel for short trips. The Renault Kangoo was the first production model of this design, released in France in 2003.

Engines and fuel sources


Gasoline engines are used in most hybrid electric designs, and will likely remain dominant for the foreseeable future. While petroleum-derived gasoline is the primary fuel, it is possible to mix in varying levels of ethanol created from renewable energy sources. Like most modern ICE-powered vehicles, HEVs can typically use up to about 15% bioethanol. Manufacturers may move to flexible fuel engines, which would increase allowable ratios, but no plans are in place at present.


Diesel-electric HEVs use a diesel engine for power generation. Diesels have advantages when delivering constant power for long periods of time, suffering less wear while operating at higher efficiency. The diesel engine's high torque, combined with hybrid technology, may offer substantially improved mileage. Most diesel vehicles can use 100% pure biofuels (biodiesel), so they can use but do not need petroleum at all for fuel (although mixes of biofuel and petroleum are more common, and petroleum may be needed for lubrication). If diesel-electric HEVs were in use, this benefit would likely also apply. Diesel-electric hybrid drivetrains have begun to appear in commercial vehicles (particularly buses); as of 2007, no light duty diesel-electric hybrid passenger cars are currently available, although prototypes exist. Peugeot is expected to produce a diesel-electric hybrid version of its 308 in late 2008 for the European market.[4]

PSA Peugeot Citroën has unveiled two demonstrator vehicles featuring a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain: the Peugeot 307, Citroën C4 Hybride HDi and Citroën C-Cactus.[5] Volkswagen made a prototype diesel-electric hybrid car that achieved 2 L/100 km (140 mpg imp/120 mpg US) fuel economy, but has yet to sell a hybrid vehicle. General Motors has been testing the Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid. There have been no concrete dates suggested for these vehicles, but press statements have suggested production vehicles would not appear before 2009.

Robert Bosch GmbH is supplying hybrid diesel-electric technology to diverse automakers and models, including the Peugeot 308.[6]

So far, production diesel-electric engines have mostly just appeared in mass transit buses.

Design considerations

In some cases, manufacturers are producing HEVs that use the added energy provided by the hybrid systems to give vehicles a power boost, rather than significantly improved fuel efficiency compared to their traditional counterparts.[7] The trade-off between added performance and improved fuel efficiency is partly controlled by the software within the hybrid system and partly the result of the engine, battery and motor size. In the future, manufacturers may provide HEV owners with the ability to partially control this balance (fuel efficiency vs. added performance) as they wish, through a user-controlled setting.[8] Toyota announced in January, 2006 that it was considering a "high-efficiency" button.

Conversion kits

One can buy a stock hybrid or convert a stock petroleum car to a hybrid electric vehicle using an aftermarket hybrid kit.


Benefits of the hybrid electric design include:

Fuel consumption
Current HEVs reduce petroleum consumption (compared to otherwise similar conventional vehicles) primarily by using three mechanisms:
a) Reducing wasted energy during idle/low output, generally by turning the ICE off;
b) Recapturing waste energy (i.e. regenerative braking);
c) Reducing the size and power of the ICE, and hence inefficiencies from under-utilization, by using the added power from the electric motor to compensate for the loss in peak power output from the smaller ICE.

Any combination of these three primary hybrid advantages may be used in different vehicles to realize different fuel usage, power, emissions, weight and cost profiles. The ICE in an HEV can be smaller, lighter, and more efficient than the one in a conventional vehicle, because the combustion engine can be sized for slightly above average power demand rather than peak power demand. The drive system in a vehicle is required to operate over a range of speed and power, but an ICE has its highest efficiency is in a narrow range of operation, making conventional vehicles inefficient. In contrast, in most HEV designs, the ICE operates closer to its range of highest efficiency more of the time. The power curve of electric motors is better suited to variable speeds and can provide substantially greater torque at low speeds compared with internal-combustion engines. The greater fuel economy of HEVs has implication for reduced petroleum consumption and vehicle air pollution emissions worldwide[10]

Reduced wear on the gasoline engine, particularly from idling with no load. Reduced wear on brakes from the regenerative braking system use.
There's no definitive word on replacement costs of the batteries because they are almost never replaced. According to Toyota, since the Prius first went on sale in 2000, they have not replaced a single battery for wear and tear.
Environmental impact
Reduced noise emissions resulting from substantial use of the electric motor at idling and low speeds, leading to roadway noise reduction,[11] in comparison to conventional gasoline or diesel powered engine vehicles, resulting in beneficial noise health effects (although road noise from tires and wind, the loudest noises at highway speeds from the interior of most vehicles, are not affected by the hybrid design alone). Note, however, that this is not always an advantage; for example, people who are blind or visually-impaired, and who rely on vehicle-noise while crossing streets, find it more difficult to do safely.[1] Reduced air pollution emissions due to lower fuel consumption, leading to improved human health with regard to respiratory and other illness. Pollution reduction in urban environments may be particularly significant due to elimination of idle-at-rest.
One common misconception is: "However, one must remember the environmental stamp of HEV batteries, which must be replaced on a regular basis and are treated as extremely hazardous waste." This is not entirely true. Battery toxicity is a concern, although today's hybrids use NiMH batteries, not the environmentally problematic rechargeable nickel cadmium. "Nickel metal hydride batteries are benign. They can be fully recycled," says Ron Cogan, editor of the Green Car Journal. Toyota and Honda say that they will recycle dead batteries and that disposal will pose no toxic hazards. Toyota puts a phone number on each battery, and they pay a $200 "bounty" for each battery to help ensure that it will be properly recycled.