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Old 10 May 2007, 06:32 PM
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Blow Your Top Hybrid Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage

Comment: Last seen a week ago - looks like the gas out has overwhelmed
everything:

Hybrid Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage

For all you hybrid lovers out there

This is not an article by a GM friendly writer, just a neutral
observer. This is something you won't hear in most of the biased press
that almost refuses to write anything bad about Toyota. Another fun
fact is that Toyota had more vehicles recalled last year than they
produced, and these were not minor repairs. In talking to a friend of
mine who runs a dealership, he talked to his local Toyota dealer, who
told him that the Toyota store hasn't had any time to do regular
customer repair work because all they are doing is recall work,
including new front ends, all new ball joints, etc. These have been
major repairs, that the press has chosen not to report on. Even the
other Japanese automakers are at a loss as to why Toyota seems to get
a free pass from the American press. Here is a story worth reading
about the Prius.

Interesting Article from Connecticut State University:

Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage By Chris Demorro Staff
Writer The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our
society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a
premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them,
their ultimate 'green car' is the source of some of the worst
pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to
produce than a Hummer.

Before we delve into the seedy underworld of hybrids, you must first
understand how a hybrid works. For this, we will use the most popular
hybrid on the market, the Toyota Prius.

The Prius is powered by not one, but two engines: a standard 76
horsepower, 1.5-liter gas engine found in most cars today and a
battery- powered engine that deals out 67 horsepower and a whooping
295ft/lbs of torque, below 2000 revolutions per minute. Essentially,
the Toyota Synergy Drive system, as it is so called, propels the car
from a dead stop to up to 30mph. This is where the largest percent of
gas is consumed. As any physics major can tell you, it takes more
energy to get an object moving than to keep it moving. The battery is
recharged through the braking system, as well as when the gasoline
engine takes over anywhere north of 30mph. It seems like a great
energy efficient and environmentally sound car, right?

You would be right if you went by the old government EPA estimates,
which netted the Prius an incredible 60 miles per gallon in the city
and 51 miles per gallon on the highway. Unfortunately for Toyota, the
government realized how unrealistic their EPA tests were, which
consisted of highway speeds limited to 55mph and acceleration of only
3.3 mph per second. The new tests which affect all 2008 models give a
much more realistic rating with highway speeds of 80mph and
acceleration of 8mph per second. This has dropped the Prius's EPA down
by 25 per cent to an average of 45mpg. This now puts the Toyota within
spitting distance of cars like the Chevy Aveo, which costs less then
half what the Prius costs.

However, if that was the only issue with the Prius, I wouldn't be
writing this article. It gets much worse.

Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer
that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already
noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel.
The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This
plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding
environment that NASA has used the 'dead zone' around the plant to
test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for
miles.

The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius' battery
and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually. Dubbed the Superstack, the
plague-factory has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario,
becoming every en vironmentalist's nightmare. "The acid rain around
Sudbury was so bad it destroyed all the plants and the soil slid down
off the hillside," said Canadian Greenpeace energy-coordinator David
Martin during an interview with Mail, a British-based newspaper.

All of this would be bad enough in and of itself; however, the journey
to make a hybrid doesn't end there. The nickel produced by this
disastrous plant is shipped via massive container ship to the largest
nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel hops over to China
to produce 'nickel foam.' From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the
completed batteries are shipped to the United States, finalizing the
around-the-world trip required to produce a single Prius battery.
Are these not sounding less and less like environmentally sound cars
and more like a farce?

Wait, I haven't even got to the best part yet.

When you pool together all the combined energy it takes to drive and
build a Toyota Prius, th e flagship car of energy fanatics, it takes
almost 50 percent more energy than a Hummer - the Prius's arch
nemesis.

Through a study by CNW Marketing called "Dust to Dust," the total
combined energy is taken from all the electrical, fuel,
transportation, materials (metal, plastic, etc) and hundreds of other
factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle. The Prius costs an
average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles -
the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.

The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to
put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That
means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use
less combined energy doing it.

So, if you are really an environmentalist - ditch the Prius.
Instead, buy one of the most economical cars available - a Toyota
Scion xB. The Scion only costs a paltry $0.48 per mile to put on the
road. If you are still obsessed over gas mileage - buy a Chevy Aveo
and fix that lead foot.

One last fun fact for you: it takes five years to offset the premium
price of a Prius. Meaning, you have to wait 60 months to save any
money over a non-hybrid car because of lower gas expenses.
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  #2  
Old 10 May 2007, 07:15 PM
songs78
 
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Not sure how realistic it is to be driving at 80 mph during rush hour traffic.
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  #3  
Old 10 May 2007, 07:23 PM
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Open Mike Night Open Mike Night is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Comment: Last seen a week ago - looks like the gas out has overwhelmed
everything:
Another fun fact is that Toyota had more vehicles recalled last year than they produced, and these were not minor repairs.
That really sucks for the Automotive industry, since Toyota has the lowest warranty costs and claimes of all of the North American auto producers. They are considered the benchmark in the industry for warranties, at least half the cost of the big three.

Quote:
Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer
that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already
noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel.
The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This
plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding
environment that NASA has used the 'dead zone' around the plant to
test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for
miles.
The Sudbury environmental problem is getting better all the time. A vast majority of the damage was caused decades ago. Planting of new plant life has dramatically improved the area since 1979.
Some pictures for perspective. The damage caused by Sudbury was way befor the advent of nickel batteries.

Quote:
The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius' battery
and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually.
Out of the approx. 100,000 tons they produce annually. I note that they author didn't consider the amount of nickel that would go into the steel in a Hummer. Toyota also recycles the nickel from the batteries, and at the current price of nickel, it would be smart to do so.

All done and said, this is kind of a half assed look at the cradle to grave issues that surround these cars. Without a full look into all of the components of each vehicle, this wouldn't be enough information to make a decision.
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  #4  
Old 10 May 2007, 07:28 PM
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Lainie Lainie is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Another fun
fact is that Toyota had more vehicles recalled last year than they
produced, and these were not minor repairs.
Consumer Reports would disagree, I think.
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  #5  
Old 10 May 2007, 07:35 PM
Doug4.7
 
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Glasses

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
The new tests which affect all 2008 models give a
much more realistic rating with highway speeds of 80mph and
acceleration of 8mph per second.
I drive some rather open highway to get to work and I don't average 80 mph. If the EPA is going to run their highway test at 80 mph, the aerodynamics of the car becomes the #1 problem.
Quote:
So, if you are really an environmentalist - ditch the Prius.
Instead, buy one of the most economical cars available - a Toyota
Scion xB. The Scion only costs a paltry $0.48 per mile to put on the
road. If you are still obsessed over gas mileage - buy a Chevy Aveo
and fix that lead foot.
If mpg is your things, get a diesel.
Quote:
One last fun fact for you: it takes five years to offset the premium
price of a Prius. Meaning, you have to wait 60 months to save any
money over a non-hybrid car because of lower gas expenses.
I could believe that one.

I did the math for my use, and the small diesels were the best. Of course, they don't make them for the US market anymore, so the next was a gas car that got near 40 mpg highway. I don't drive enough city miles to justify the cost of a hybrid.
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  #6  
Old 10 May 2007, 07:43 PM
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erinker74 erinker74 is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
Consumer Reports would disagree, I think.
But Consumer Reports is part of the main stream media, Lainie! They are part of the conspiracy! Wake up! Why do you hate America?!

Erin "happily drives a Toyota that has never been recalled" Rinker
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  #7  
Old 11 May 2007, 03:03 AM
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musicgeek musicgeek is offline
 
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FWIW, there's no "Connecticut State University" - There's a Western Connecticut State U., an Eastern, a Southern, and a Central, but no "Connecticut State" without a regional designation.
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Old 11 May 2007, 03:14 AM
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The author, Chris Demorro, is from the Central Connecticut State University.
Here a link to the original article

And I know Chris a little bit personally. And I mean just a little bit, he was a fellow roleplayer in an MMORPG. And from what I remember about him is, that he is not necessarily one who would put much faith into a hybrid, but one who is more a fan of fast cars.
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Old 14 May 2007, 04:42 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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As much as I disagree with the logic the article use to reach the conclusion, there is some sense in it.

A electric/petrol hybrid runs in two modes:

* On petrol, during which the batteries are also charged.
* On batteries.

The point here is that charging batteries is not free. If the batteries were ideal, exactly as much energy must be produced by the petrol engine and put into them as the electric engine will eventually use.

Assuming the driver doesn't change driving style between modes of operation, this means that we are at break-even. You could just as well have removed all the electrical propulsion bits as they are just a way of "using the energy from the petrol a bit later".

But, batteries are not ideal, neither is electric motors. For every link in the energy chain, we lose energy. Batteries, generator and an extra motor is also a lot of weight to haul around. In other words, it's a loss.

If it makes it easier to think about, take the batteries out of the equation. Batteries can't make power, just store what you put into them, so they clearly don't add anything to the energy equation. A battery is more or less a jar to store electric charge in. Just hook the petrol engine up to a generator and the generator to an electrical motor which drives the wheels. Does it make sense that such an awkward construction is more efficient than just letting the petrol engine drive the wheels?

The only way electrical power will be truly effective is if it is fed to the car directly from the outside, like a bumper car. Then, electrical power can be generated in huge, effective and clean hydroelectric or nuclear power plants. This will require extensive infrastructure changes which will cost so much that it's unlikely to happen.
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Old 14 May 2007, 05:02 AM
Zachary Fizz Zachary Fizz is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
As much as I disagree with the logic the article use to reach the conclusion, there is some sense in it.

A electric/petrol hybrid runs in two modes:

* On petrol, during which the batteries are also charged.
* On batteries.

The point here is that charging batteries is not free. If the batteries were ideal, exactly as much energy must be produced by the petrol engine and put into them as the electric engine will eventually use.

Assuming the driver doesn't change driving style between modes of operation, this means that we are at break-even. You could just as well have removed all the electrical propulsion bits as they are just a way of "using the energy from the petrol a bit later".
But the whole point of the hybrid is it ensures that the petrol engine is always operating near peak efficiency, whether it is directly driving the car or creating energy to be stored in the battery to be used later. Evidently this allows better than break-even (by which I assume you mean not having a battery) efficiency.

You can see for yourself what I mean if you ever have the misfortune to drive a Volvo with the fuel consumption meters. If you set the display to show current, rather than averaged, consumption, you'll quickly get depressed by how much fuel gets used in slow, stop-start driving. Whizzing along at 100 kph is much more fuel efficient. The Prius is effectlively allowing the petrol engine to generate energy in the efficient, 100kph phase, even though some of the energy is actualy used at lower speeds.
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  #11  
Old 14 May 2007, 05:42 AM
Class Bravo
 
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Aren't we all forgetting the most important thing? Once people start buying hybrids, the smug levels increase exponentially to new and dangerous levels!

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  #12  
Old 14 May 2007, 05:52 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
But, batteries are not ideal, neither is electric motors. For every link in the energy chain, we lose energy. Batteries, generator and an extra motor is also a lot of weight to haul around. In other words, it's a loss.
I don't see how you could have come up with that opinion even if you had only read the (flawed) OP article. As it clearly states: "The battery is recharged through the braking system..." In other words, ordinary gasoline engines waste a lot when braking without storing that energy. Hybrids store a great deal of that energy for reuse. That's just one way that a hybrid system is not a loss, or rather, that the conventional gasoline engine has more losses.

Furthermore, hybrid cars have a number of other tricks for using energy more efficiently, such as storing energy on steep slopes, etc. When a hybrid gets stuck in traffic, barring use of air conditioning, both motors shut off. This and a couple of other tricks could possibly be used in a conventional car, such as by turning off the engine when idling, but the fact that they have not been says something about the ease of engineering such features in hybrids vs. conventional cars. For example, if the car needs to move a few car lengths, there's no need to start the gasoline engine again, in a hybrid. So you reach the wrong conclusion despite having starting from a basically true premise.

These savings are, of course, in addition to those mentioned by Zachary.

Actually, (even as a hybrid owner) I do not disagree that it may be just as good for the environment to get a conventional car with good gas mileage. It depends a lot on what kind of driving you do and many other factors. The Hummer, however, sucks toads.

ETA -- I forgot to mention, we already discredited this same claim some time ago, on the old boards. The comparison of "energy it takes to build a Prius", as it turned out, including all of the historical research that went in to building the Prius! That would eliminate any new technology. As I think I pointed out at the time, energy prices in Japan and in most countries being quite a bit more than in the US, I find it highly unlikely that Toyota is taking a huge loss on the Prius. On the contrary, it seems to have been very profitable for them.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 14 May 2007 at 06:04 AM.
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  #13  
Old 14 May 2007, 06:13 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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I guess the recalls the OP is referring to were the power steering assist recalls. Contrary to the claim, the free repairs took about thirty minutes to an hour and, in any case, had nothing to do with the hybrid system.
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Old 14 May 2007, 06:59 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
You can see for yourself what I mean if you ever have the misfortune to drive a Volvo with the fuel consumption meters. If you set the display to show current, rather than averaged, consumption, you'll quickly get depressed by how much fuel gets used in slow, stop-start driving. Whizzing along at 100 kph is much more fuel efficient. The Prius is effectlively allowing the petrol engine to generate energy in the efficient, 100kph phase, even though some of the energy is actualy used at lower speeds.
I'd be careful about relying on those fuel consumption meters, as they just measure intake manifold pressure. They can give you an idea of "better or worse", but not much more.

Quote:
But the whole point of the hybrid is it ensures that the petrol engine is always operating near peak efficiency, whether it is directly driving the car or creating energy to be stored in the battery to be used later. Evidently this allows better than break-even (by which I assume you mean not having a battery) efficiency.
Correct, but only to a certain point. Most of this is because of the current trend of putting tiny engines on cars, making them more reliant on a certain RPM range. A larger engine has a wider range of operation where it is efficient.

My point is that electric power is not free, and you may be closer to break even than you think, and it's far from unreasonable that you may be over the line into the "less efficient country". This probably depends a lot on where you drive. In city traffic, hybrids may have the upper hand, but out on the open road, they don't stand a chance.

Quote:
I don't see how you could have come up with that opinion even if you had only read the (flawed) OP article. As it clearly states: "The battery is recharged through the braking system..." In other words, ordinary gasoline engines waste a lot when braking without storing that energy. Hybrids store a great deal of that energy for reuse. That's just one way that a hybrid system is not a loss, or rather, that the conventional gasoline engine has more losses.
Sounds good on paper, but there is only so much energy in the momentum of a car and it's expended quickly (batteries don't like getting a lot of energy shoved down their throat in one quick burst). If you, like me, are a notorious engine braker, it will have no effect at all.

Quote:
Furthermore, hybrid cars have a number of other tricks for using energy more efficiently, such as storing energy on steep slopes, etc. When a hybrid gets stuck in traffic, barring use of air conditioning, both motors shut off. This and a couple of other tricks could possibly be used in a conventional car, such as by turning off the engine when idling, but the fact that they have not been says something about the ease of engineering such features in hybrids vs. conventional cars. For example, if the car needs to move a few car lengths, there's no need to start the gasoline engine again, in a hybrid. So you reach the wrong conclusion despite having starting from a basically true premise.
Steep slopes might work, but realistically, how often do you drive down steep slopes? And even if you go down steep slopes a lot, you go up equally much, where you have to haul an extra engine, generator, heavy batteries and probably a heavy flywheel up the hill.

Shutting down the petrol engine is not necessarily a good thing, as they drink a lot when they are started, especially if it has had time to cool.

It's the laws of thermodynamics messing things up:

1. You can't win.
2. You can't even break even.
3. You have to play the game.

To make them work in an environmentally sound way, you have to move the generation of electric power outside the vehicle to a large, efficient facility not based on combustion.
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Old 14 May 2007, 07:04 AM
Zachary Fizz Zachary Fizz is offline
 
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So what you are saying, Troberg, is that notwithstanding anything that anyone else, including Toyota, may say, the Prius and all other hybrids are generally less fuel efficient than a regular 1.5 litre petrol car in normal use.

Would you agree that you are taking a contrarian view yet again?


ETA:
Quote:
A larger engine has a wider range of operation where it is efficient.
Well, yes and no. My 5.7 litre coupe has much the same fuel consumption whether I am doing urban driving or cruising at 120-180kph. But that is not to say it is more economical than a 1.5 litre car.
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  #16  
Old 14 May 2007, 07:27 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
It's the laws of thermodynamics messing things up:

1. You can't win.
2. You can't even break even.
3. You have to play the game.
Let me add another one:
4. You can't understand even the rudimentary facts of hybrid engines.

I'm sorry to put it so bluntly but it's not a matter of thermodynamics "messing things up". The principle of the hybrid engine has nothing at all to do with trying to "win" over thermodynamics. The conventional engine wastes a lot of energy so there's plenty of room for improving its efficiency. The hybrid is one way to do that.

The fact of the matter is: in a wide variety of driving conditions and for most drivers, the hybrid beats the conventional engine. I'm not sure why people continue to say this kind of thing. Rent a hybrid and drive it on a few courses, measure your fuel efficiency, do the same with a conventional car and then get back to me.
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  #17  
Old 14 May 2007, 05:16 PM
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Dr. Winston O'Boogie Dr. Winston O'Boogie is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
It's the laws of thermodynamics messing things up:

1. You can't win.
2. You can't even break even.
3. You have to play the game.
Let me add another one:
4. You can't understand even the rudimentary facts of hybrid engines.

I'm sorry to put it so bluntly but it's not a matter of thermodynamics "messing things up". The principle of the hybrid engine has nothing at all to do with trying to "win" over thermodynamics. The conventional engine wastes a lot of energy so there's plenty of room for improving its efficiency. The hybrid is one way to do that.

The fact of the matter is: in a wide variety of driving conditions and for most drivers, the hybrid beats the conventional engine. I'm not sure why people continue to say this kind of thing. Rent a hybrid and drive it on a few courses, measure your fuel efficiency, do the same with a conventional car and then get back to me.
The laws of thermodynamics have nothing to do with hybrids. OK, not "nothing", but not a whole hell of a lot. The infernal combustion engine (spelling intentional) is incredibly inefficient. The processes for changing (wasted) physical energy to electrical (charging) energy is simple enough and can be done without increasing the inefficiency of the engine. There is so much physical energy available, you can easily tap it to aid the electrical energy.
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  #18  
Old 14 May 2007, 05:26 PM
Doug4.7
 
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One of the "main" reasons for a hybrid is to attempt to recapture the energy of braking and use it for power rather than just heating the brake shoes. The other idea is to size the engine for "average" use and use the electric to "boost" the power of the car when it is occasionally needed.

If they really wanted to do it "right", they would have the gas (or diesel) engine not run the wheels at all and have the car totally electric. The gas/diesel engine would only charge the batteries when needed. That way, you could have the engine run at a constant speed. You can make engines much more efficient if you have them run at a constant speed/load condition.

I think the reason they don't do that is the battery technology is still not good enough (or maybe its the gas motor to electricity link that is poor).
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Old 14 May 2007, 05:37 PM
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Someone ought to tell this group that they their list is all wrong.
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  #20  
Old 14 May 2007, 05:57 PM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug4.7 View Post
...
If they really wanted to do it "right", they would have the gas (or diesel) engine not run the wheels at all and have the car totally electric. The gas/diesel engine would only charge the batteries when needed. That way, you could have the engine run at a constant speed. You can make engines much more efficient if you have them run at a constant speed/load condition.
...
Which is actually the way that diesel (actually, diesel-electric) locomotives work. The other practical side is that electric motors give torque at any speed without needing to change gears.

ETA: I shoudl add, almost the way a diesel locomotive works. According to How Stuff Works, the power for the electric motors comes from a generator (powered by the diesel engine), not the batteries. Bit that's a minor quibble.

Nick

Last edited by Nick Theodorakis; 14 May 2007 at 06:03 PM. Reason: clarification
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