Hybrid vehicles are selling like hot cakes and everyone is wondering where this will lead. Will hybrid technology evolve as fast as computers did, so that every 18 months the latest model is twice as efficient as the old model?
Unlike computer evolution, there is a road map of sorts for the journey ahead for hybrid car and truck owners. The current hybrids available from Toyota, Ford, Chevy, GMC, Honda and others are designated HEV vehicles, which stands for ?Hybrid Electric Vehicle.? This technology employs an internal combustion engine and an electric drive train. At city speeds the HEV runs on mostly electric power, reserving the expensive gasoline power for highway speeds. The electric batteries are recharged by capturing the energy that is normally wasted during braking and idling. So what could be better than that?
Plug-In Hybrid Electric vehicles (PHEVs) will do everything that their predecessors do, but they will be able to travel farther on electric-only power, and will be equipped with a plug-in battery charger for use at night when electric rates are lower. It has been estimated that if all U.S. vehicles were replaced with PHEVs today, national consumption of oil would go down by 70 to 90 percent by tomorrow. This happy scenario would make the U.S. completely self-sufficient for supplying its own oil needs.
The other good news about PHEVs is that even if every one was recharged at night by a coal-fired electric plant, the CO2 emissions involved would be half what they are today for standard gasoline and diesel powered engines.
After-market conversion kits now are in the works for do-it-yourself types who can?t wait for the factory version.
The automakers are already working on this next step and DaimlerChrysler has built a PHEV prototype of its Dodge Sprinter cargo van.
How much gasoline will you save with your new hybrid vehicle? If you drive 18,000 miles per year, you might use 600 gallons with a conventional vehicle, 400 gallons with an HEV and 80 gallons with a PHEV.
But the evolution of the automobile does not stop here. Eventually the PHEV will give way to the PHEV with batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. This will then give way to the PHEV with fuel cells that do almost all the work, no longer drawing much from the batteries. This will be eclipsed by the plug-in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that no longer has a gasoline engine.
HEV: Hybrid Electric Vehicle PHEV: Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle PHEV-RFC: PHEV with regenerative hydrogen fuel cells RFCV: Regenerative hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will not have a gas motor
PHEV-RFC and RFCV systems will be plugged in for nighttime recharging, which will use grid electric power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen fuel cell will be recharged with this home-made hydrogen, eliminating the need for hydrogen fuel stations. At this point in the evolution of the automobile, the vehicle itself will no longer pollute.