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Hybrid Technology

Updated on May 23, 2012


The world is in an energy crisis. The economization of fuel and energy expenditure is of the utmost importance as we move into a new era of technological advancement. As a result of this advances in new energy sources and ways of utilizing energy are being research and instituted. Of these are the ground breaking advances in gasoline-electric hybrid engine technology. As companies strive to maintain a cutting edge in their competition with other companies the hybrid technology has been subject to much research and advancement. However, what is the efficiency in comparison to gasoline run engines? What age population is most likely to benefit and/or use this technology? Are their environmental and economic repercussions of this technology? What does this technology mean in regards to political and economic relationships with oil producing companies?


There are numerous models from different manufactures of hybrid vehicles. For the purposes of this paper only the top 5 will be discussed. Each has its own technology, benefits, shortfalls and environmental impact. Yet they all share one common trait, they reduce our countries dependency on foreign oil. Does this mean more savings for the American people because of reduced need for foreign oil as a source of fuel? How economic are these hybrid engines with regards to fuel efficiency and consumer cost? Is there a balance between the cost and the savings on fuel associated with the hybrid vehicles? How does this technology actually work? The standard idea is that the car will run one or more batteries as a primary source of power for the operation of the vehicle. The gas powered engine is only utilized to recharge the batteries through energy transferred to the alternator from the engines cyclic force. The fluctuation of use between the electric and gas powered motors may vary between technologies but the idea is the same; incorporate rechargeable electrical power with gas power to maximize liquid fuel burning efficiency.


Leading the pack in overall ratings is the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid. The Ford Fusion Hybrid averages a cost of $23,342. Incorporating a gas-electric hybrid engine the Fusion model increases fuel economy to “700 miles per fill-up in the city.” (Wilson, T 2010) The major features of the Fusion model are the safety features including airbag deployment for the driver, side head, full side, passenger, rear head and rear body along with Electronic Stability control, child safety locks, traction control and an emergency trunk release. Yet most of these features can come in any vehicle hybrid or conventional. What is unique to the hybrid class of vehicle is that they use a combination of gas and electric power to sustained operation of the vehicle. The Fusion carries a gas powered 2.5 liter 4 cylinder with 136lb/ft. torque and a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor supplying 275 volts of electricity giving a combined 191 horsepower. It also uses fuel at an average rate of 38.5 miles per gallon. (Ford.com 2012) As a way of comparing conventional with hybrid technology Ford manufactured a gas only model of the Ford Fusion. This model although containing a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine only produces the normal 175 HP. In addition to this the gas only model only averages 28.5 miles per gallon fuel economy. In a more positive light the gas-only model is much less expensive averaging around $20,000. These are both much lower ratings than the Fusion. (Automobile Magazine, 2012) These features are definitely beneficial to economizing fuel.


Next in line at #2 is the 2012 Toyota Prius. The Prius is more expensive than the Fusion starting around $30,000. It contains a gas 1.8 liter Aluminum 4-cylinder 16-valve engine coupled with a - permanent magnet AC synchronous motor. Although the price is higher several aspects of the Prius leave it less desirable than the Ford Fusion. Compared to the Fusion the Prius only boasts a 178 Hp as opposed to the Fusions 191. It also suffers from recharge times of 3 hours. On the plus side the Prius averages around 50 mpg. The Prius also benefits from an increase in torque up to 153lb-ft. ”(Toyota.com 2012) The concept driving the Prius is that it shuts of the gas engine when not needed such as when stopped at an intersection of if it is idling. On battery power alone the Prius can travel about 15 miles at 62 mph before needing to be charged. The Prius also offers the option of plugging in the vehicle to either a 120v outlet or a 240v outlet and also acquires a charge from the “regenerative brake system” (USNews.com 2012) The regenerative braking system is common on hybrids as it uses the kinetic force of the moving vehicle to store energy in the battery. Although varied in some ways from the other hybrid vehicles the Prius shows a momentous jump in fuel economy.


Next at #3 is the 2012 Chevrolet Volt starting around $39,000. This hybrid engine only uses the gas motor when the electric battery dies. It rates around 37.5 mpg in fuel economy. Unlike other hybrids the Volt contains two electric motors and an 83 horsepower gasoline engine. The engine acts as a “generator” for the electric motors after the battery has been depleted. One aspect that is a much needed improvement over other models is the electric motors ability to go about 35 miles before needing to be recharged. As with the Prius, the Volt also comes with a charging option for 120-240v outlets. (USNews.com 2012) Although lower in fuel economy the Volt maintains a higher ratio of electric motor use than the gasoline driven engine making the savings of fuel greater than with other hybrids.


The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ranks next according to US News Ranking and Reviews. The combination of gas vs. electrical use seems to be more heavily swayed toward the former as it uses a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine pumping out 166 horsepower yet the electrical motor is only capable of adding 40 horsepower to this. (USNews.com 2012) Either way the total output is around 208 HP which is much higher than the previously discusses hybrids. An interesting addition to the hybrid system is the unique use of lithium polymer battery packs. These battery packs are smaller than a license plate and very thin allowing them to be tailored for use. There is also a “blue mode” feature that puts the vehicle into gas conservation mode thus using more power from the battery to run the electric motors. (Thomas, D. 2010) The price for this model starts at $25,795.


Last in the top 5 hybrid vehicles is the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Starting around $25,895 this model has a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine putting out 178 Hp and an electric motor capable of 22 Hp totaling 200 Hp total outputs. This model seems to provide power at a less substantive price while conserving fuel at an average of 41 mpg. Although reports of the engine being loud the other features seem to out weight the issue as it has been rates an 8.4 out of ten by US News Rankings and Reviews panel. (USNews.com 2012)


Reflecting on the different vehicles previously discussed in regards to economy and lowered environmental impact I would say that for a student needing the most benefits at the lowest cost the best choice would be the Ford Fusion or the Chevrolet Volt. These choices are based on the limited travel distance of students therefore reducing the need to use the engine and burn gasoline. The student financial resources would greatly determine which one is chosen as they differ in price by about $7,000.


So it has been shown how hybrid technology combines the use of a gas engine in conjunction with a permanent AC magnet motor to increase fuel economy. Yet is the increase in price for this technology balanced by the savings in fuel consumption? In the local area the gas price is $3.75/gallon. If an average hybrid gas tank holds 15 gallons of gas it would cost $56.25 to fill the tank and garner 577.5 miles. The gas only Ford Fusion if it had a 15 gallon tank also would only garner 427.5 miles at a rate of 28.5 mpg. The hybrid version would increase the miles available per tank by 150. At an average of 38.5 mpg the hybrid would save around 4 gallons of gas per fill up or in monetary terms it would save the driver around $15 for each fill up. The cost difference between the gas only Fusion and the Hybrid is around $3,300. At a rate of $15 saved per fill up it would take 220 tanks of gas to pay off the difference. If the driver only fills the tank once per week it would take 4.23 years to make up the difference. Of course this does not include the increase of interest paid on the principle if the vehicle is purchased with a loan. Factoring that could add much more time to how long it will take to make up the difference.


Granted combining all vehicle use and applying a reduction in use of fuel by 4 gallons per fill up per driver could reduce the use of gasoline fuel by quite a bit, and this in turn would drastically reduce toxic emissions from the fossil burning gas engines. However, as much as a benefit this can seem there are more factors that attribute to the environment than just gas consumption. In regards to the hybrid engines that use batteries to run the vehicle the issues of their production, disposal and/or recycling must be addressed. It is known that battery packs offer the lowest emissions and oil consumption at the lowest cost yet that is very dependent on other factors such as high gasoline prices due to reduced consumption bases, creating a battery that is low cost and has a long life along with lower emissions from electricity production. (Michalek, J. J., Chester, M., Jaramillo, P., Samaras, C., Shiau, N. C. and Lave, B. L. 2011)


If a hybrid uses more electricity rather than depend on gas for powering the vehicle are we not simply shifting to a different source of fossil fuel as electricity production on mass scales is usually done by coal burning or nuclear reactors, both of which degrade our environment with toxic chemicals and waste? Perhaps this factor is balanced out by the use of lithium-ion batteries. The greatest benefit to the use of these batteries is not only their extended life but their recyclability. A total of %95 of the materials used to create these batteries is recoverable and recyclable. (Betterplace.com 2012) However the emissions from producing battery and electricity are also substantial in their effect on our environment, particularly with the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and the Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) models as a result of the Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) emissions from coal fires power plants. (Michalek, J. J.et al. 2011) Another major issue is that of our dependency on foreign oil. Because of this dependency we have established trade routes and trade agreements with other countries in regards to the acquisition of their oil resources.


Currently the U.S is responsible for 23% of the global oil produced. A sudden disruption of this trade could have a major effect on the global oil price with such a withdrawal of demand. Another major facet to be considered is the United States military and its “oil security policies”. In a report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the United States military’s cost due to oil consumption is $.03-$.16 per gallon of gas. How much money would be saved by our government if we were not spending billions on securing oil futures? Many countries that rely on the exportation of their oil resources could stand to lose a lot of needed revenue which could have effects on the economy of that country.


In summation the idea of a vehicle that uses less fuel thereby saving the American people money and lowering the negative environmental impact resulting from production, use and post-consumer use is viable. Yet it would seem that in reality the difference in toxic emissions is not that great and in effect are just being re-dispersed across more than one medium rather than just gasoline use. In an attempt to save money of fuel costs by creating a hybrid vehicle the real issue of unsustainable energy has failed to be addressed. Until research and development is allowed to focus on sustainable energy disregarding profitability the world will always suffer from the use of fossil fuels.

References

Betterplace.com

Batteries, The Solution, Bettreplace.com, 2012. Retrieved on May 20th 2012 from http://www.betterplace.com/the-solution-batteries

Ford.com

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Ford Motor Group, 2012. Retrieved on May 19th from http://media.ford.com/images/10031/2012_FusionHybrid.pdf

Michalek, J. J et. Al.

Lifetime Ownership Costs and Damages, Valuation of plug-in vehicle life-cycle air emissions and oil displacement benefits, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011. Pp. 1-3 Retrieved on May 20th 2012 from http://www.cmu.edu/me/ddl/publications/2011-PNAS-Michalek-etal-PHEV-Valuation.pdf

Thomas, D

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Expert Reviews, Cars.com, 2010. Retrieved on May 20th 2012 from http://www.cars.com/hyundai/sonata-hybrid/2011/expert-reviews/?revid=56695

Toyota.com

Specs, Prius Plug-In, Toyota, Toyota.com, 2012. Retrieved on May 19th 2012 from http://www.toyota.com/prius-plug-in/specs.html

USNews.com

2012 Chevrolet Volt Trims & Specs, Best Cars and Trucks Home, USNews.com, 2012. Retrieved on May 19th 2012 from http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Chevrolet_Volt/2012/specs/

USNews.com

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Performance, Best Cars and Trucks, USNews.com, 2012. Retrieved on May 19th 2012 from http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Toyota_Camry-Hybrid/Performance/

References Continued

USNews.com

2012 Toyota Prius Performance, Best Cars and Trucks Home, USNews.com, 2012. Retrieved on May 19th 2012 from http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Toyota_Prius/Performance/

USNews.com

2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Performance, Best Cars and Trucks, USNews.com, 2012. Retrieved on May 19th 2012 from http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Hyundai_Sonata-Hybrid/Performance/

Wilson, T

Review: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, MSN Autos, MSN.com, 2012. Retrieved on May 19th 2012 from http://autos.msn.com/research/vip/review.aspx?year=2012&make=Ford&model=Fusion%20Hybrid&cp-documentid=870805


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