Friday, 11 November 2011

Are Hybrids here to stay?

In today’s times of prohibitive prices of crude, and concerns regarding CO2 emissions, it appears pertinent to explore alternative energy sources to power our vehicles. In India, the Reva car is perhaps the only indigenous four-wheeled vehicle that completely runs on electricity. In scooters, various options are already available. Unfortunately, lead-acid batteries are the only viable and cheap options. However, lead-acid batteries have a limited shelf life, and their efficiency erodes over time. Lithium-ion storage batteries are a good alternatives, but then they come at a cost! It is in this context that hybrids come into play.
The theory behind Hybrid technology is that the vehicle retains the conventional petrol/diesel engine, albeit a less powerful one, and it is assisted by electric motors. Thus for starting and short drives the power is supplied to the drive train or the wheels through electric motors, and then when more power is required, the conventional internal combustion engine comes into play. The Mahindra Scorpio employs a concept called the Micro Hybrid technology in its M-Hawk series where the engine automatically shuts off when idling for a long period of time, and power is restored the moment you press the accelerator-pedal. It makes good sense! The Toyota Prius is one example of a vehicle which uses hybrid technology. Unfortunately, a hybrid car is costly, and few individuals can afford  it! It, however makes good sense as a corporate vehicle. A diesel/electric vehicle also requires frequent charging, and for this you require charging stations along the route of travel. Some vehicles require a charging time of seven hours, and a quick charging options which cuts down the charging time to three and a half hours! Not good if you have to make a long journey where time is at a premium. At present, hybrids are more suited to urban commuting where you would not cover more than a total of thirty to sixty miles! Volvo, the Swedish car maker has announced that by next year it will start sale of  a Premium-Hybrid car which will run 30 miles on pure battery power as well as 276 bhp conventional petrol motot and it will do 149 miles per gallon.
A Hybrid makes better sense today, because it means that if you run out of battery power, you won’t be stranded, because you always have the internal combustion engine to  take you on to your destination. Today, running on pure electric power is not feasible for long journeys. It makes good sense, therefore to pitch for hybrid technology, especially as it would be more economical, and moreover it would help cut down on Carbon emissions.

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