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Transportation Earth

Plug-In Hybrids Aren't Coming, They're Here 495

Posted by kdawson
from the fiull-'er-up dept.
Wired is running a story about the small but vocal, and growing, number of people who aren't waiting for automakers to deliver plug-in hybrids. They're shelling out big money to have already thrifty cars converted into full-on plug-in hybrids capable of triple-digit fuel economy. "The conversions aren't cheap, and top-of-the-line kits with lithium-ion batteries can set you back as much as $35,000. Even a kit with lead-acid batteries — the type under the hood of the car you drive now — starts at five grand. That explains why most converted plug-ins are in the motor pools of places like Southern California Edison... No more than 150 or so belong to people like [extreme skiing champion Alison] Gannett, who had her $30,000 Ford Escape converted in December. Yes, that's right. The conversion cost more than the truck."
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Plug-In Hybrids Aren't Coming, They're Here

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  • Efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06, 2008 @04:16AM (#25270695)

    Doesn't efficiency call for a better designed vehicle, rather than just a different fuel source?

    • by marcushnk (90744) <senectus AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 06, 2008 @04:20AM (#25270711) Journal

      You're obviously a Linux user...

      • Re:Efficiency (Score:4, Insightful)

        by somersault (912633) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:20AM (#25270933) Homepage Journal

        Or, someone who thinks it's pointless to start with a friggin truck if you're trying to be fuel efficient..?

        Think of all the excess weight in a truck that she just doesn't need (and then she goes and makes it heavier with extra motors and batteries).

        And as I'm sure others will point out, she's just shifting the emissions to a power plant, which may end up being worse than burning fuel in her car depending on the fuel the plant uses, and the amount of leakage she gets from her batteries and so on. Unless she just charges the batteries from the engine all the time, which to me would again seem more inefficient than just using the engine unless she's stopped in traffic a lot.

        I do like the idea of electric vehicles btw, I just think a standard truck is a dumb place to start. Though the Ford F150 was the best selling vehicle in the US for 23 years, so in a way trucks are a good place to start - but not with current models IMO. They would need to make them lightweight (but still strong, obviously) to get the best efficiency. Electric motors have good torque too so they'd be good for hauling, as long as they have enough charge..

        • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

          by LackThereof (916566) on Monday October 06, 2008 @06:17AM (#25271157)

          she's just shifting the emissions to a power plant, which may end up being worse than burning fuel in her car

          You're mistaken here, for the simple fact that internal combustion engines are horribly inefficient. You're lucky to get 20% efficiency out any car engine, most of the energy in the gasoline/diesel/ethanol is given off as waste heat.

          Electric motors run closer to 90% efficiency, and most of our fossil-fuel power plants are pushing 40% efficiency now; some new natural-gas plants are even hitting 60%.

          That's a big difference.

          • Re:Efficiency (Score:4, Interesting)

            by electrictroy (912290) on Monday October 06, 2008 @06:41AM (#25271245)

            Well according to environmental group ACEEE.org, an EV1 car is no more clean than a Prius or Civic Hybrid. (On a hundred-point scale, they score 52, 53, and 51 respectively.) So the grandparent poster was correct that simply switching to electric does not automatically create a cleaner car.

            As for ICE efficiency, Toyota says their Prius gasoline engine achieves 40% and Volkswagen determined their 3-cylinder Lupo diesel engines are at 50%.

          • That's fine if they're charging from the grid for the majority of the time rather than their onboard engine, and if they don't let charge go to waste (perhaps feed it back into the grid if you know you're not going to use the car for a while), but in that case it would still be more efficient to get rid of the petrol engine completely.

            Electric only vehicles would of course currently be impractical for anything but short to medium range commuting until a publicly available automobile charging infrastructure

            • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

              by magarity (164372) on Monday October 06, 2008 @06:56AM (#25271303)

              Adding charging points to gas stations shouldn't be a big job technically, the only problem is politics and the lucrative oil business
               
              Oy vey - you really missed it. The problem with adding charging points at gas station is hanging out at one for four hours waiting for your car to charge. Chargers are needed at places like parking garages so you can let it charge while at work or shopping at the mall, not service stations. The smart service station owner is looking at franchising insert-your-card-$x-per-kWh widgets in downtown parking lots.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by somersault (912633)

                Hmm I spose so. Well what about swappable batteries? You could just sign up for a scheme where you swap your spent battery for ready charged batteries at a service station.

                That would of course be quite the logistics challenge, getting the right amount of batteries for each location, and storing/charging them all. You're right, I missed it. Sorry for my idealism and slowness :D

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by cayenne8 (626475)
                  "Hmm I spose so. Well what about swappable batteries? You could just sign up for a scheme where you swap your spent battery for ready charged batteries at a service station.

                  That would of course be quite the logistics challenge, getting the right amount of batteries for each location, and storing/charging them all. You're right, I missed it. Sorry for my idealism and slowness :D"

                  I think we still are far off from using all electrics for a long time, till the top mileage increases to that of a current gas

                  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:14AM (#25272169)
                    My nightmare is having an electric car during and evacuation for a hurricane. It is hard enough now to find gas to get out, not to mention if you screw up, and are in traffice for up to 20 hours (hot days with the AC running). You'd be stranded pretty badly in an electric car [...]

                    ... unless you bring a generator, of course. Bonus points for mounting it on top of the car.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                Oy vey - you really missed it. The problem with adding charging points at gas station is hanging out at one for four hours waiting for your car to charge.

                This is where more convenient energy transport solutions, such as Hydrogen become interesting. I call Hydrogen an 'energy transport' solution because you have to use electricity to produce it, and in turn you need something else to produce the electricity. Once you have the problems of storage and transportation sorted out then Hydrogen becomes viable, unt

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Rakishi (759894)

                  Hydrogen cuts your efficiency by something like 60% and requires transport which pretty much kills any gains compared to just using gasoline.

          • Hear! Hear!
            Add this: Converting your car to electricity eliminates a point-source of pollution. If you moved all of your transportation's emissions back to the power plant, we can deal with them better. (The pollution controls at the power plant are better than the ones on your car: they don't get bumped around, have more consistent operating conditions, etc.)

            Now if EVERYONE did this, we might get enough concentration that we could actually DO something with it. Problem is, our pollution's too diffuse to

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by couchslug (175151)

          "Think of all the excess weight in a truck that she just doesn't need (and then she goes and makes it heavier with extra motors and batteries)."

          A truck is only a bad place to start if you don't want a truck. A PHEV work truck could run all sorts of good stuff WITHOUT A SEPARATE GENERATOR. That goes a long way to paying for a conversion. I'd love to have one for a welding truck for obvious reasons.

        • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Interesting)

          by teridon (139550) on Monday October 06, 2008 @06:23AM (#25271173) Homepage

          It pains me that so many people drive cars larger than they really need, but consider this: A few mpg increase for a truck has much more impact than the same mpg increase in an already fuel-efficient vehicle.

          For example, let's say a truck gets 20 mpg. After doing simple things like checking the tire air pressure, driving conservatively (slowly), etc, it might get 25 mpg -- that's a 25% increase.

          But if you start with a car that already gets 50 mpg and you increase it to 55 mpg, that's only a 10% increase in efficiency.

          • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Comboman (895500) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:00AM (#25272029)

            It pains me that so many people drive cars larger than they really need, but consider this: A few mpg increase for a truck has much more impact than the same mpg increase in an already fuel-efficient vehicle.

            For example, let's say a truck gets 20 mpg. After doing simple things like checking the tire air pressure, driving conservatively (slowly), etc, it might get 25 mpg -- that's a 25% increase.

            But if you start with a car that already gets 50 mpg and you increase it to 55 mpg, that's only a 10% increase in efficiency.

            You're just playing a math game by showing percentage improvement rather than absolute improvement. It's like saying a $1000 raise is a higher percentage of the income of a poor person than a rich person; so if your getting a raise, it's better to be poor.

            If both vehicles drive the same number of miles per week, then a 5 mpg improvement will save them both the same amount of gasoline, the same amount of money and the same amount of carbon emissions. In every way that could possibly matter, the savings are the same.

            • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Informative)

              by Goaway (82658) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:10AM (#25272127) Homepage

              That would be true if you were talking about gallons-per-mile figures. However, miles-per-gallon is different. A five-mile-per-gallon increase in fuel efficiency is, indeed, less in absolute terms if your fuel efficiency was already high.

              To use the numbers given by the grandparent poster, the number of gallons used to drive 100 miles are:

              20 mpg: 100 miles/20 mpg=5 gallons.
              25 mpg: 100 miles/25 mpg=4 gallons.
              Savings: 1 gallon.

              50 mpg: 100 miles/50 mpg=2 gallons.
              55 mpg: 100 miles/55 mpg=1.818 gallons.
              Savings: 0.182 gallons.

              The rest of the world tends to measure fuel efficiency as liters-per-100-kilometers for this reason.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Peet42 (904274)

          I would have thought a flatbed truck was the ideal starting point at th moment; batteries are still bulky, so just raising the bed of the truck by a foot to fit in a palette of batteries underneath seems like the best use of space.

        • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday October 06, 2008 @06:33AM (#25271205)

          If you have a truck, you'll be able to mow down a whole group rather than just the front rank!

           

        • >> And as I'm sure others will point out, she's just shifting the emissions to a power plant, which may end up being worse than burning fuel in her car depending on the fuel the plant uses,

          With Xcel In Minnesota you can specify wind source.

        • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

          by transporter_ii (986545) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:33AM (#25271433) Homepage

          And as I'm sure others will point out, she's just shifting the emissions to a power plant

          There is one other huge difference. With oil, we are getting the bulk of it from people who hate us and want to use the money they make from us, to build an army up and come over here and kill us.

          With electricity, which granted isn't perfect, either, most of the fuel is being produced here in the United States and the money is a real benefit to our economy.

          Transporter_ii

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          this is not about fuel economy. It's about playthings for the rich.

          Dropping $30,000 into a ford escape Is raging stupidity. You will save NOTHING over the life of the kit or truck. Calculating at $5.00 a gallon he has over 500 tank fillups before he even breaks even on the cost of the kit not including his time. or expense of the plug in electricity spent. That's well over 10 years before it breaks even.

          Only a fool, or a rich guy trying to play with the newest tech would do that or buy that.

          It's why I d

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Firethorn (177587)

          Or, someone who thinks it's pointless to start with a friggin truck if you're trying to be fuel efficient..?

          First - I kinda object to calling a Ford Escape a 'Truck'. A Truck has a bed, normally uncovered. The Escape is a SUV.

          Going on - it depends on what you need. If you need a truck, and there are people who do, does it make sense to try to punish you by restricting you to the old wasteful power systems? Or do you go ahead and come out with a hybrid truck, even a PHEV?

          Consider the taxis in NYC. NYC, in all it's glory, has decided that the only vehicle that meets the needs to be a taxi is a stretched crown

    • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Monday October 06, 2008 @04:26AM (#25270735)

      That depends on how you measure efficiency.

      In this case:
      (electric+petrol) miles / (petrol only) gallons

      The electric efficiency is being ignored completely, and the miles driven on electric power are being used to massively inflate the petrol efficiency.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah well even that wouldn't work if they actually did some extra-urban driving in these things.

        My Golf gets the same fuel efficiency on extra-urban as a Prius.

      • by ThosLives (686517)

        Personally I think we should start lobbying to get vehicle economy listed in miles per kW-h or some other unit that doesn't erroneously grant massive miles-per-gallon figures when that metric is meaningless. It will also show relative efficiencies between fuels much more easily, as well as between US and UK gallons, liters, etc.

    • by smchris (464899)

      Succinct. I think you've hit it. Saw a Prius conversion and a couple lead-acid conversions, including a 'vette, in August and the latter in particular just seem wrong. You're pushing around this huge, solid mass of batteries.

      I was more impressed with a couple ground-ups from among a handful on display. About 40 mph at 40 range seems to be the current gold standard. One was a large and attractive scooter about the size of a smaller motorcycle. Owner said it would do 60 for shorter mileage. Another was

  • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Monday October 06, 2008 @04:28AM (#25270741)

    From a previous article:
    "Plug-in Hybrids May Not Go Mainstream, Toyota Says"
    http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/10/02/210250 [slashdot.org]
    translated (directly from the accounting department): "We have run the numbers, and the industry is set to lose X billions of dollars through lost part sales over the coming decades as the masses step from hybrids to full electric for that around-town runner.
    No, we never want to help or see hybrids go mainstream, ever. Keep it all business as usual: hard to maintain combustion engines are expensive for the consumer and good for our bottom line. Furthermore, it essentially costs us nothing to FREELOAD the longer term consequences of combustion engines onto the environment and society as a whole, so it is a sound short term strategy to satisfy our immediate obligations to investors."

    • Keep in mind, that hydrids still have a combustion engine, that's why they call it a hybrid and not an electric car.
      Adding extra parts (generator, batteries, electric motor) only makes the car more complex, harder to service and more expensive.
      Hybrids are pushed onto the consumer so car companies get an incentive to invest (R&D) in electric vehicles, making them cheaper,
      more reliable and more efficient in the future.

      As an added bonus, the on-board computer is so powerful, they had enough

      • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:42AM (#25271021)

        Keep in mind, that hydrids still have a combustion engine, that's why they call it a hybrid and not an electric car.
        Adding extra parts (generator, batteries, electric motor) only makes the car more complex, harder to service and more expensive.

        This assumes your not running on electric for most of the day and are actually using the combustion. There are a few sources around that claim to demonstrate that most drivers are not traveling far from home - i.e. electric will do the job even if the car is hybrid. Which leads to the original point I was make in my post above: "as the masses step from hybrids to full electric". Its a short leap from a hybrid to full electric, especially when the consumer see's that they are not using the combustion for around-town, so why pay more to lug such a heavy inefficient piece of metal on those around-town trips? Just make the second household car a full electric == lost part sales, so big Auto does not want Hybrid stepping stones.

      • by shmlco (594907)

        "... only makes the car more complex, harder to service..."

        Must be why hybrids like the Prius require less maintainence and Toyota recommends longer periods between checkups than is needed for traditional gasoline-only vehicles.

        "Hybrids are pushed onto the consumer..."

        Funny, I always thought that the desire for more flexible, extended-range vehicles was driving consumer demand. Though you're entirely correct that a lot more R&D is needed before pure electric-powered automobiles are suitable for the majo

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kitgerrits (1034262) *

          I didn't say they required more service, it's just that when they require service, it's more complex than your everyday gas engine check-up.
          From whay I see, Toyota is very busy training mechanics to service the hybrids, but not every garage keeps up with the times as quickly as the rest.

          Now that gas prices have soared everybody want a hybrid but, a few years ago, you couldn't give them away with a pack of Cheerios.
          Now that some people hafe felt the sting of a battery replacement (not helped by car dealers t

          • "Now that some people hafe felt the sting of a battery replacement..."

            Ummm.... got facts to back that up? As far as I know they've not had to replace any out-of-warrenty. Nor have I seen any indication that the increased "complexity" has resulted in higher-than-normal repair bills, or a corresponding increase in consumer dissatisfaction.

            • You mean this? [hybridcars.com]

              "My 2001 Toyota Prius lasted five years and 113,000 miles. And then the batteries seemed to die. My dealer estimated the replacement cost at $7,000. They recommended scrapping the car for parts."

              From what I can see, a lot of those problems are caused by corrosion on a battery termina, which can be fixed by swapping out that one cell ($1,345, all in).
              However, repair shops seem to prefer selling a full set of batteries for $3000 over replacing a simgle battery for $1300.

              If you read the comments after the article, you can see that there's quite a few people that have had this happen.

              Well I hate to rain on your parade, but I just got a quote on a battery replacement for a 2003 Honda Insight with 150,000 miles.
              Try $6312.70 !!!!!!!
              The battery (refurbished) replaced and 2 control modules plus labor.

              We have a 2003 Civic Hybrid we bought for what we thought was a great price. Now the IMA light comes on and the dealer says it it the battery pack.

              The battery problem is real. My 01 Prius with 158,000 miles has just been diagnosed with failing batteries; all at once with no warning; $3600 plus tax. As salvage the car has almost no value.

              The battery in my 2001 Prius has failed after 109K miles, repairs estimated at $4000+. Warranty is 100k miles. Toyota Corp does not offer any help at all. My dealer has offered to replace with parts at cost and no labor charge, but that only amounts to a few hundred dollars.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's this attitude that will kill most of the major car companies in the end. Smaller companies are starting to compete and they are willing to simply make a profit off the sale of the car itself and not depend on parts. The larger car companies are dinosaurs that are loosing the ability to compete since they are locked into an obsolete business model. They have a monopoly right now but that is going to shift fast. The people that can aford to shift to the higher priced electrics will much as early adopters

      • by Tuoqui (1091447) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:30AM (#25270979) Journal

        If I had $109k... Tesla Motors Roadster [teslamotors.com].

        Oh BTW, Tesla Motors is also planning on a 'family' type car in the $50k range soon if I remember one of their press releases correctly. Thats getting pretty close to the sweet spot for people to buy into electric car technology. As the price of oil and gasoline keeps going up, it will make more and more sense to buy a slightly more expensive car that you can fill up the charge on for a measly 12 cents.

        All they need to do is use a less powerful engine that gets the 'family' type car to 80 MPH instead of the 125 MPH the Roadster gets to cut a portion of the costs.

  • Through simple driving tweaks, many of these vehicles could make much better gas milage without costing a dime. And then if you NEEDED to spend money, there are much cheaper ways, up to and including whole engine swaps that are still cheaper and as efficiant or BETTER than converting to "hybrid." I just dont get the alure of hybrid, while its nice to be as free of gas as possible, responsible driving will go a lot further than a half battery power car ever would.
    • by paul248 (536459) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:10AM (#25270887) Homepage
      Maybe you're just being short-sighted. If our goal is to eliminate our dependence on oil for transportation, then commercializing (partially) electric storage and drive systems is certainly a step in the right direction.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by falcon5768 (629591)
        except if your REALLY trying to reach that goal you would not be making a HYBRID engine. Your still using gas, there is no going around that fact. And as I pointed out your likely still using MORE gas than many various ways you can make a non-hybrid powertrain use less. You can try to play with MPG figures all you want with your hybrids, but I can still see a 20 year old Geo that gets better gas milage than a hybrid prius or insight without the useless weight of a electric motor, and I can still see trucks
    • by Tuoqui (1091447) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:16AM (#25270913) Journal

      You are entirely right. A hybrid car makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever. Todays hybrids basically use a big gas motor and an electric motor to help go easier on the gas. The problem with this method is that its carrying TWO BIG ENGINES so more weight means you have to be that much more efficient. If you want to help save the environment you'd build a fully electric car but the problem with that is electric motors are retardedly simple and surprisingly clean to maintain (only a little grease/oil on the moving parts).

      The idea behind plug-in hybrids is to make the electric motor the big engine and have a small gasoline motor who's only job is to charge the batteries when they get low. This makes a bit more sense than the current hybrid model does as your primary source of 'fuel' is your batteries. If you don't go very far like what is it 60-80 miles a day you probably don't need an Internal Combustion Engine in the first place. Electric cars have a 60-80 mile range currently and that pretty much covers your typical urbanites driving habits well enough. A plug-in hybrid with a gasoline engine for recharging purposes would be more than enough for anyone except for long haul trips for those things like gasoline and possibly hydrogen or biodiesel in the coming years might be popular for road trips.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rm999 (775449)

        "If you want to help save the environment you'd build a fully electric car but the problem with that is electric motors are retardedly simple and surprisingly clean to maintain"

        That makes no sense - simple and easy to maintain would be win-win for everyone. The reason why pure electric cars aren't common is the pricey battery required to push a *mainstream* car a decent distance. Americans simply aren't ready to make the jump to the ultra-light tiny cars that would be viable in an all electric model.

        To put

      • You are entirely right. A hybrid car makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever. Todays hybrids basically use a big gas motor and an electric motor to help go easier on the gas. The problem with this method is that its carrying TWO BIG ENGINES so more weight means you have to be that much more efficient.

        To the contrary, Toyota Prius MPG-Real World Numbers make a whole lot of economic sense. Throw in the much reduced need to bring it in for servicing and you have a good real-world counter example to the "two big moters==worse than one" logic you are using. Look them up for yourself: http://www.google.com/search?q=toyota+prius+mpg [google.com]

      • by shmlco (594907) on Monday October 06, 2008 @06:28AM (#25271185) Homepage

        "The problem with this method is that its carrying TWO BIG ENGINES so more weight means you have to be that much more efficient."

        Think you'll not have to prove your point if you write BIG often enough, and CAPITALIZED, no less? Ah, well... Wiki says:

        The Prius uses a 1.5 liter 4-cylinder "1NZ-FXE internal combustion engine (ICE) using the more efficient Atkinson cycle instead of the more powerful Otto cycle. Because of the availability of extra power from the electric motors for rapid acceleration the engine is sized SMALLER [all caps just for you] than usual for increased fuel efficiency and lowered emissions with acceptable acceleration."

        Now, the Volt does what you propose, and uses the gasoline engine simply to recharge the batteries. As such, it should be much SMALLER. Let's see, it's... oh my, a 1.4 L 4-cylinder engine. Tenth of a liter difference? Doesn't sound that much smaller, now does it?

        Huh. Well, also according to your theory the Prius is going to need a huge electric motor in addtion to the gas engine in order to cart around all of that extra weight. So... the Prius has a 30 kW (40 hp) electric motor, while the Volt, a pure series hybrid, has... a 111 kW (150 hp) electric motor.

        Double huh.

        See, the flaw in your reasoning lies in the fact that it takes X amount of power to propel a 2,000 lb vehicle at Y speed for Z distance. Once the battery gets low, the extra power in a PHEV has to come from somewhere. And it does, in the form of an engine powerful enough to recharge the battery while ALSO providing enough juice to keep things in motion.

        Bottom line? A tensy, tiny 2-cycle lawnmower engine isn't going to cut it.

        And the Volt needs an electric motor 3X larger because it's the only thing moving the car. The gasoline engine is just so much dead weight in that regard, UNLIKE in a Prius, where the engine can also kick in to help out when needed in a much more symbiotic relationship.

        • I know you are trying to prove a point, but a 1.5 or 1.4l engine is STILL a big engine. Its not a V8 no, but its much bigger than 1.1l engines many cars of the 80's had that got better milage than the prius WITHOUT being a hybrid.
          • by shmlco (594907)

            How many emission control systems, catalytic converters, airbags, reinforced side panels, crumple zones, and other additional environmental and safety features were those vehicles carting around?

            I might also question your use of the word "many", as I seem to remember "many" Cadilacs, Lincolns, Buicks, Olsmobiles, Mustangs, Cameros, 'Vettes, station wagons and decked-out vans that we lucky to get a third of the mileage of a Prius. If that. Care to go up to fueleconomy.gov and do some research?

            Even a 1985 Hon

      • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:11AM (#25271663) Homepage

        The idea behind plug-in hybrids is to make the electric motor the big engine and have a small gasoline motor who's only job is to charge the batteries when they get low.

        I've always wondered if having a regular gasoline engine to turn the generator is as efficient as a small turbine. Supposedly turbines are most efficient at constant speed/load, which the generator would be. Anybody have any hard numbers?

    • Are these really Hybrids (I can't tell from the article) if they are just a vehicle with two motors (one Petrol one electric) then it is not a true MPG figure and the whole point of a hybrid is to make the petrol engine more efficient (by using regenerative energy) not just have an electric and petrol car?

      I also note "some of them require ditching the spare tire" thus making it illegal in Europe...

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Monday October 06, 2008 @04:34AM (#25270761)

    A tiny number of wealthy people custom-retrofitting cars at uneconomical cost isn't really what advocates of plug-in hybrids have in mind, so I wouldn't say the concept is "here" yet.

  • A start (Score:5, Interesting)

    by delirium of disorder (701392) on Monday October 06, 2008 @04:45AM (#25270793) Homepage Journal

    I converted my POS gas car to a "mild" plug in hybrid: removed the alternator and added a deep cycle battery. I reduce the mechanical load on the engine by removing the alt. I have more power available for speed and acceleration and I get better mpg. I recharge the battery using solar and since I park outside at home and work, it gets plenty of time to charge. All the parts were originally for a full home solar system that I have yet to make space for, so there isn't any additional cost for the car conversion. Some data shows [metrompg.com] that you can get up to a 10% increase in efficiency by going alternatorless.

    • by timmarhy (659436)
      what do you do on long trips, or when you park your car in the shade? sounds like a real pain in the ass to me
    • Re:A start (Score:5, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:26AM (#25270957) Journal

      removed the alternator and added a deep cycle battery.

      That's a bit insane.

      Batteries are meant to give you just enough power to reliably start the vehicle, for good reason. Batteries are horribly inefficient, and generating electricity on the fly is much better all-around.

      Deep cycle batteries are expensive, large, heavy, etc., and no batteries last long when you're regularly charge/discharge cycling them.

      And safety would be a serious problem. Your headlights will be substantially dimmer, and continue to dim throughout your drive, and would very likely drain your battery completely in perhaps 4 hours. Might not be a problem for summer-only vehicles, not too far outside the tropics, but horrible for most people.

      I bet you could get comparable results, for very little money less money, by just putting a (heavy duty) diode with a 2-volt drop, on the alternator line. Then, it puts out 12V, and the battery is only maintained at about 50% charge capacity. Never any over-charging or wasted energy trickle charging.

      For a bit more money (but far less than solar panels and a deep-cycle battery) you could REPLACE your alternator with a fixed-magnet generator, at least doubling electrical generation efficiency.

      • by compro01 (777531)

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was of the understanding that alternators are used in cars gather than generators as alternators are more efficient or produce more power at lower speeds than generators do.

        • by Gordonjcp (186804)

          alternators are more efficient or produce more power at lower speeds than generators do

          Lower engine speeds, not lower alternator speeds. Dynamos (remember them?) need a complicated arrangement with a commutator to give a DC output, and have only two stator windings. An alternator has usually got several stator windings combined into three phases, and a single rotor winding fed through slip rings. The AC output is fed to a three-phase bridge rectifier to get DC out. Because the rotor is simpler, it can

    • Ok, BS, lets do some calcs.

      allowing for around 20A of peak load (fans, lights, ignition, EFI, etc..) thats 240W.
      By the time we allow for a ton of inefficiency, thats still 1/2hp.
      Lets say your car cruises at 30HPish, thats 2%, and thats being generous (ie: a lot more load than probably average).

      BTW, those metrompg figures are VERY VERY far off, not even close - lossess get re-added in, and cruise HP is also a dreamed up figure.

      Now, whats the cost and lifespan of that deep cycle?

      • by compro01 (777531)

        The cruise HP doesn't sound too far off to me, considering the low speed (70kph) he's going at. Remember, velocity is cubed. Traveling at 70kph requires roughly 1/4 the power traveling at 110kph does.

        Though I still think this is a bad idea, if only due to the fact this is going to result in your headlights dimming, which is a BIG safety issue.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:29AM (#25270973)
      In fact under running conditions cars are optimised to run with the standard charging voltage of 13.6V. As a result, the wiring systems are designed to allow a volt drop of up to 10%, because this is cheaper (less copper...). Boats, which spend most of their time running on battery, have their electrical systems designed for a volt drop of no more than 3% - on mine the critical circuits, refrigerator and C/H, are designed for a volt drop of 1%.

      The result of removing the alternator in cars can be sub-optimal lighting, ignition and fuel injection when running on battery only. This even applies to Diesels nowadays - because the injection is controlled by the EMC. The general rule has to be, and I cannot recommend this too strongly, the manufacturer designed it that way for a reason, don't fuck with it.

    • by nmg196 (184961)

      What a stupid idea. That means you can only safely use your car in daylight hours on very short journeys. Even a fully charged battery won't last long enough to run your car electrics and headlights for more than a few hours before they start seriously dimming. You'd also have to put a spare battery in, in case you flatten the one that's used to start the engine and power the electrics.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      You can do the same thing without all the hubub by simply making it possible to switch the ALT out of circuit. a decent ALt will simply freewheel and act like a idler pully when disengaged.

      Guys have been doing that in dirt track racing for decades... switch the ALT back on during caution laps to charge up a bit, switch it off for racing.

      Problem with your setup. 3 hour drive in the dark = dead battery and car. you HAVE to power that 110 watts of headlights and 25 watts of marker lights some how.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:03AM (#25270859)
    does this kind of conversion take into account the pollution generated by the production of all these batteries?

    also, i'm not seeing the point of TFA - rich people can afford expensive status symbols? electric cars and plugin charging has been around for a decade or more in this form....

  • Crash testing (Score:5, Informative)

    by femto (459605) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:25AM (#25270949) Homepage
    The problem in Australia is that every model of car that gets registered must undergo a crash test [ancap.com.au], and significant modifications count a as new model. That rules out one off conversions. You have to build at least two and hand one over to the authorities to get totaled. An expensive exercise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zironic (1112127)

      Isn't a one off conversion by definition not a new model, I was under the impression crash tests are only performed on mass produced vehicles.

      Anyhow atleast in Sweden all you'd most likely would have to do is to let a government mechanic go through your vehicle and approve it's safety(Which you have to do once a year either way).

    • Re:Crash testing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ishmaelflood (643277) on Monday October 06, 2008 @06:04AM (#25271101)

      You talk bollocks.

      One-off conversions are signed off by engineers.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Monday October 06, 2008 @05:30AM (#25270975)
    If we are going to accept an absurd pricetag for these bad boys, why not skip the dreaded battery idea entirely, and use SuperCaps instead? APowerCap [ http://www.apowercap.com/?pg=2&lang=eng&rand=81001670 [apowercap.com] ] (is just one brand that) offers supercaps with internal efficiency ratings of over 90%. (Meaning, more than 90% of the energy used in the charging process is able to be used in a useful manner.) This far exceeds the internal efficiency of even LiON battery packs. Additionally, these devices can reach full charge in a matter of seconds when provided with wall outlet power, and can do so safely without overheating. They can also deliver more charge, more quickly, and more efficiently than chemical batteries. From a technological point of view, they are just all around better, AND (Surprise) they even have a better energy density to weight ratio then LiON. Why even bother with batteries with this kind of budget, when there are FAR superior storage solutions?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by collywally (1223456)
      Yes but how long do they hold their charge? From what I recall they dissipate quite quickly compared to even lead acid batteries.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by srjh (1316705)

      From a technological point of view, they are just all around better, AND (Surprise) they even have a better energy density to weight ratio then LiON.

      Why even bother with batteries with this kind of budget, when there are FAR superior storage solutions?

      Huh? Your link doesn't give a value for the energy density of Lithium Ion, only for the "Best UC on the market", and their own supercap is at about 9 Wh/kg. Lithium ion? 160 Wh/kg [wikipedia.org].

      How is something that can fully charge in a few seconds with at most a few kW going to provide a usable charge over several hours for a car?

    • by gmarsh (839707) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:30AM (#25271785)

      They don't have better energy density. 160Wh/Kg for LiOn beats the pants off anything in production by Maxwell Technologies. EEStor claims ridiculously high energy density in their ultracapacitors, but I'm skeptical for now until their technology leaves the lab.

      Another thing is, batteries tend to keep their voltage as you discharge them - a LiOn cell may drop from 4 to 3.5V from full to 10% charge. Capacitor voltage is set by E=0.5CV^2 - an ultracapacitor charged to 2V will be down to 1V at 25% charge.

      Pulling "usable" energy (reasonably constant voltage) out of ultracapacitors requires wide-input-range switching power supplies. These require larger inductors, bigger transformer cores, etc. and are less efficient than narrow range SMPS. The charging circuitry for ultracapacitors will also be less efficient than LiOn charging circuitry for the same reason.

  • by djfake (977121)
    I've got four more years left of warranty on my 2005 Prius. With a 12 mile commute each day, I'd go from filling the tank once a month to maybe once every six months with a plug-in kit. But at $9999 (the crash tested Hymotion kit), forget about it being cost effective, it's simply not within my means. It's sad that Toyota is waffling about a plug-in Prius; seems to me that they are underestimating the rethink of the two car family: the "urban" electric car for short commutes, and the "guzzler" for distance
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Actually no. the Guzzler is even staying at home. My rich neighbors haven't taken their Giant extended cab Caddilac pickup truck out of the driveway all summer. they went camping with it and their 30' trailer once this spring. he came back complaining about how he spent $380.00 in gas just to get there and back... (WAHHH I thought) and it sat there.

      They even traded in their Caddilac STS for a smartcar.

      So toyota, GM, ford, and the others are not paying attention. If the over-extended-credit-rich-wannab

  • A joke! (Score:4, Informative)

    by louzerr (97449) <Mr.Pete.Nelson@gm a i l.com> on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:41AM (#25271481) Homepage

    She's green? And drives an SUV by herself? Why does this make no sense?

    What she is, would be non-petroleum - but not "green". So she uses coal instead of petroleum ... both are damaging to the environment, both are in limited supply.

    I would think she could get a Focus, or even a bicycle, for much less the cost of the hybrid plug-in. And then, she would actually be conserving!

    Not green ... just gullible. $35,000 gullible.

  • The fantasy that the American automobile is the penultimate mode of transportation will be our un-doing. The fact that we cannot imagine a world with less automobiles speaks volumes our selfishness and short-sightedness.

    At this point in time, America needs to be investing in other means of transportation and starting to alternative living arrangements that include, moving closer to work, building public infrastructure to move you around besides the car (subway, train, bus, street car, walking, cycling) an

    • by reovirus1 (722769) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:13AM (#25272161)

      A lot of us already have. I've converted my crappy mountain bike to electric and have been commuting to work on it for the past year. It does 50km/hr without peddaling, uses batteries out of dewalt drill packs bought off of ebay for reasonable prices and a simple hub motor. It goes in the rain, through snow with studded tires and is much faster than driving my car in traffic to work. Costs 5 cents a charge. I save 5 bucks a day in gas and 25 bucks a day in parking. And I've got this stupid grin on my face most of the day because it really is so much damn fun! I can even pedal if I want and get some exercise.

      http://www.endless-sphere.com/forums [endless-sphere.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zordak (123132)
      Okay, this isn't even being overly pedantic. This is just basic vocabulary. Penultimate means next to last, so you seem to be implying that the personal automobile is the penultimate mode of transportation, since you seem to be pining for the final (i.e., ultimate) utopian mode of transportation. And for future reference, M-W [m-w.com] still has a free basic dictionary, which is really easy to use.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by smellsofbikes (890263)

      For the record, 'penultimate' means one step away from ultimate. Your first sentence, as read, means that autos are seen as the second-best solution, which I don't think is what you meant. (For extra credit you can refer to antepenultimate, which means third-best.) I don't really think this is a grammar Nazi issue: it's more like talking about C when you mean to be talking about C++.

      As for:
      >Stuck on the freeway with no gas while the train goes by on its way to NYC?
      My own personal motto is that of a bi

  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:17AM (#25271703)

    I read about an interesting hybrid concept a while ago - it basically eliminated the transmission from the car to save weight. The car would use the (small) gasoline engine to charge the battery and drive the electric motors as long as the car was going below the normal highway crusising speed, and engage a clutch to directly power the wheels with the gasoline engine once the crusing speed was reached. Advantages were the lack of a transmission (= weight and space that can be used for batteries instead) while still being able to power the wheels directly (making use of the efficiency of the gasoline engine when cruising).

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