Energy and Hybrid Cars
As the cost of oil prices rise, consumers are becoming more aware of the gas prices as they fill their cars. For many commuters, walking and biking are not an option to and from large cities and public transportation continues to leave something to be desired. Although most people are not concerned with the rapidly depleting oil supplies around the world, they are feeling the pinch at the pump. This brings the attention to the possibility of hybrid cars, with their claims of superior gas mileage. But what is a hybrid car and does it serve as a possible solution to decrease our oil consumption?
Combining gasoline and electricity, car makers have designed a hybrid automobile, utilizing the basic electric principles to power the machine. A parallel hybrid “has a fuel tank, which supplies gasoline to the engine. But it also has a set of batteries that supplies power to an electric motor. Both the engine and the electric motor can turn the transmission at the same time, and the transmission then turns the wheels”1. The alternate option is the series hybrid, where a gasoline engine turns a generator. This generator powers either an electric motor or charges the batteries. Gasoline is never used to directly power the car in a series hybrid1. Each car contains a gasoline engine, smaller than those in most cars and reduces emissions and increases efficiency, and a fuel tank, which stores the energy for the car. “The electric motor on a hybrid car is very sophisticated. Advanced electronics allow it to act as a motor as well as a generator. For example, when it needs to, it can draw energy from the batteries to accelerate the car. But acting as a generator, it can slow the car down and return energy to the batteries”1. Although the cars also can have a generator, it only works to produce electrical power and is found mostly in series hybrids. The battery serves as an energy storage device and the electric motor draw energy from the batteries while also putting energy into them. Finally, the cars contain a transmission, which remains very similar to those in traditional cars1. But the question remains, how does this new complex system help the environment?
The hybrid car was created not only to improve mileage, a benefit for consumers who dreaded the weekly trip to the pump, but also to reduce emissions from the tailpipe. Both these goals help the environment, as decreasing emissions should reduce the risk of eminent global warming, and improved mileage means less oil would be consumed by the cars. In normal automobile, 13% of the energy in the gasoline is actually used to move the vehicle2. The major losses in energy efficiency come from acceleration, aerodynamic drag, and rolling resistance. Making a high strength lightweight material reduces the overall mass of the material and hence reduces the energy needed for acceleration. Smoother shaped vehicles dramatically reduce drag and...