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

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the fiull-'er-up dept.

Transportation 495

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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Efficiency (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25270695)

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

Re:Efficiency (4, Funny)

marcushnk (90744) | about 6 years ago | (#25270711)

You're obviously a Linux user...

Re:Efficiency (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about 6 years ago | (#25270933)

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 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271137)

Ignorant comments like these make me sad. And too depressed to rebuke you with facts that are available to anyone not illiterate.

Re:Efficiency (0, Troll)

somersault (912633) | about 6 years ago | (#25271247)

Ignorant comments like these make me sad. And too depressed to rebuke you with facts that are available to anyone not illiterate.

Quit complaining if you aren't going to help the ignorant then, Mr Troll.

Re:Efficiency (5, Insightful)

LackThereof (916566) | about 6 years ago | (#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 (3, Interesting)

electrictroy (912290) | about 6 years ago | (#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%.

Re:Efficiency (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271253)

Aside from the fact that the converted truck is probably significantly heavier, you've forgotten that charging/discharging the batteries is far from 100% efficient - lead acid batteries are around 75%. All those factors combined may result in more pollution from the converted vehicle than the unconverted vehicle.

Re:Efficiency (1)

somersault (912633) | about 6 years ago | (#25271277)

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 is made available (no, the grid doesn't count unless you like going up to strangers and asking to use their power outlets). Adding charging points to gas stations shouldn't be a big job technically, the only problem is politics and the lucrative oil business..

Re:Efficiency (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | about 6 years ago | (#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:Efficiency (1, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about 6 years ago | (#25271383)

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:Efficiency (0, Redundant)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | about 6 years ago | (#25271557)

Can we start calling them changing points please?

Everyone understands the problems associated with high voltage wiring as a replacement for gasoline.

The problems associated with exchanging batteries are the social problems we should be dealing with.

With proper regulation (American: "Oh shit a socialist!") exchanging batteries could be done in seconds. It could be fair, cheap, reduce points of failure and if you could still purchase batteries and recharge them from outlets increase the freedom of the user.

This entire article is a cynical negative spin on a positive development.

$5000 to hybridize a vehicle isn't a bad price, hybrid sedans have a similar premium and are successful, it seems likely there are areas where hybridizing engines makes sense and this development allows the marketplace to find those areas.

We know we're not going to Easter Island [wikipedia.org] ourselves on gasoline, we've got nuclear. IMHOH we should strech the glory days of cheap powerful fuel as long as makes sense, hybrids are an efficient way of doing that.

Re:Efficiency (2, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | about 6 years ago | (#25271163)

"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 (4, Interesting)

teridon (139550) | about 6 years ago | (#25271173)

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 (2, Informative)

Peet42 (904274) | about 6 years ago | (#25271175)

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.

But... Think of the children! (4, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 6 years ago | (#25271205)

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

 

Re:Efficiency (1)

collywally (1223456) | about 6 years ago | (#25271317)

Ummm... She is a professional skier. I think a Truck is a great place to start for her since she has to drive up mountains all the time.

Re:Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271395)

A reasonable power-to-weight ratio is all you need to drive up mountains.

Trucks add nothing except extra weight, unless you actually need to haul something. Trucks can actually be a liability in the snow. Any other feature you are associating with trucks can be had in other, lighter vehicles.

As a skier, she needs to haul skis, safety gear, and luggage. She could practically get by with a coupe.

Re:Efficiency (5, Funny)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 6 years ago | (#25271425)

How about she uses a ski lift like everyone else, the lazy hussy.

Re:Efficiency (1)

collywally (1223456) | about 6 years ago | (#25271453)

Last time I was leaving the mountain the parking lot was full of people who couldn't even get their cars out of their parking stall since it snowed so much during the day. Funny thing was, all of the ones that were having trouble where the low to the ground little cars.

That extra weight actually helps, by the way. Living in the far north where it's so cold they don't even bother to salt the roads most people, including myself, would put sand bags in the trunk to help with traction on the mostly ice roads. ( and you always had a supply of sand if things got a little too slippery)

When it comes to driving on roads that are covered in snow and the gravel truck or snow plow hasn't been by I would rather be in a 4x4 then a Miata. It's much easier to drive safe in those conditions in the former then the latter.

Re:Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271693)

I rather drive a "super" beetle than a miata... RR layout for the win!

Re:Efficiency (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about 6 years ago | (#25271409)

Depends if it's RWD or 4x4.. I usually think of big dumb American trucks as RWD. I'd want a proper Landrover/Rangerover with low gear ratios, a buggy, or maybe even something like a Hummer to get up mountains.

I doubt she'd drive up to the top of mountains anyway. She'd use a lift like everyone else, otherwise she'd have to go back up for the car or get someone to deliver it back down. And if she does really crazy wilderness stuff may just get a helicopter ride out rather than drive!

Re:Efficiency (1)

maxume (22995) | about 6 years ago | (#25271505)

The lift doesn't always start at the bottom of the mountain...

Re:Efficiency (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about 6 years ago | (#25271695)

Last time I visited Colorado I was suprised that there were very few SUVs up in the mountains. Everyone owned an old Subaru or Toyota Truck. The only new SUVs I saw had out of state Plates.

There was a post a while ago on a similar thread by a guy in a Nordic country who thought owning SUVs was insane. They get much more snow and get by with Saabs and other nomal cars. (If an SUV was NEEDED, don't you think a car company started in a place that gets tons of snow would have invented an SUV before say the USA?)

Re:Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271399)

They would need to make them lightweight (but still strong, obviously) to get the best efficiency.

LOL! You think they make them heavy just for the hell of it? Maybe the manufacturers are saying "screw profits, throw some extra steel in there!"?

Sure they could make them lighter but it's going to cost a whole lot more if you want the same strength. That extra cost (in terms of energy) eats up any of the gains in efficiency. Conservation of energy and all, it all comes from somewhere. If your truck costs an extra $50k, well that's pretty much enough gas for the life of the non-efficient truck anyway.

Not necessarily shifting emmissions (2, Insightful)

Organic Brain Damage (863655) | about 6 years ago | (#25271405)

>> 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 (4, Insightful)

transporter_ii (986545) | about 6 years ago | (#25271433)

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

Re:Efficiency (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | about 6 years ago | (#25271465)

Maybe the environmental issue isn't important to her. Maybe she's done her sums and worked out that using electricity rather than diesel will save enough money in the long run to make the conversion pay.

A truck can cost a phenomenal amount to run, so i'd imagine any savings on fuel costs would add up very quickly.

Re:Efficiency (1)

thetartanavenger (1052920) | about 6 years ago | (#25271479)

she's just shifting the emissions to a power plant

I don't know about you but having one source of pollution in one location seems much easier to make efficient or to try and cut back on emissions from, that to have millions of poorly maintained ones dotted around the country. And what's to stop the power station from being/becoming emission free.

I don't claim for this to be a solveall, but this is a step in the right direction, albeit an expensive one for now.

Re:Efficiency (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 years ago | (#25271499)

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 dont drive a hybrid. The cost difference between my suzuki 4X4 and the same sized ford escape hybrid will pay for all my gas at $5.00 a gallon for the life of the car.

They need to get the costs down or the price of fuel to $10.00 a gallon or higher before hybrids and plugin kits make any financial sense.

Re:Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25270947)

Actually, no. I'm an Windows XP Pro user.

But what I was trying to get at is this...

This is going to sound like whining, but we need to focus on vehicle design. This means size. Compare these new "efficient" vehicles of today with those compact cars of a couple decades ago.

1. Miles per gallon is a poor way to measure something that also uses electricity. I'd want to know how many kilowatt hours it uses to go a certain distance, and the price associated with buying that electricty you feed into your vehicle.

2. I think the goal of an SUV is to hold more stuff. More people, or more things in the back. But how often would someone need to drive an SUV for those purposes anyways? How about focusing on making highly efficient compact cars, for the purpose of getting us from point A to point B.

Re:Efficiency (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271079)

You're obviously a Linux user...

as nicely as I can say it.
DUH!
But the other Linux whores will not get it :-/

thanks,
Feltope

ps: screw my karma I build plenty every day at work as a chef!!!

Re:Efficiency (5, Informative)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | about 6 years ago | (#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:Efficiency (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25270855)

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.

Re:Efficiency (0, Troll)

WaXHeLL (452463) | about 6 years ago | (#25271051)

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.

What are you even talking about? The thread you replied to is talking about an alternator-less car to reduce the load on the engine. This is similar to what happens to your MPG with the air conditioner turned off, or the difference between driving downhill versus uphill. With or without an alternator, you're not driving on electric power, you're driving on an internal combustion engine.

Re:Efficiency (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | about 6 years ago | (#25271141)

The thread you replied to is talking about an alternator-less car to reduce the load on the engine.

Um, check again? That thread is BELOW my post on my screen, I replied to a thread talking about the article.

Re:Efficiency (1)

ThosLives (686517) | about 6 years ago | (#25271407)

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.

Re:Efficiency (1)

smchris (464899) | about 6 years ago | (#25271615)

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 a little truck that still had a spartan interior by Prius standards but at 40x40 it was very usable by it's electrician owner to scoot from job to job and not be an annoyance on neighborhood streets.

Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (4, Informative)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 6 years ago | (#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."

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (1)

kitgerrits (1034262) | about 6 years ago | (#25270927)

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 processor power to spare to build a cool LC Display in the dashboard.

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (4, Insightful)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (1)

kitgerrits (1034262) | about 6 years ago | (#25271113)

Ah, my bad, I didn't notice the full-electric bit.

Plug-in hybrid and full-electric will require some changes in the national electricity grid, but it will pave the way to full-electric.
I wonder how they will find a way to 'refuel' those batteries on long-haul trips.
Maybe Toshiba's new laptop battery [uberreview.com] will provide a solution.

(also, this means that people will need to look at how their electricity is generated, if they want to be 'greener')

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (4, Informative)

shmlco (594907) | about 6 years ago | (#25271273)

"Plug-in hybrid and full-electric will require some changes in the national electricity grid...."

Fewer than you might think. A recent DOE study indicated that we could swap out 84% of the vehicles currently on the road and replace them with PHEVs using the existing infrastructure.

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (0)

nyonix (1001721) | about 6 years ago | (#25271331)

That's why you probably wont see an successful electric car coming out of any car maker dinosaurs, they have too much too loose, change will come from new companies.

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (1)

shmlco (594907) | about 6 years ago | (#25271037)

"... 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 majority of the US market.

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (2, Interesting)

kitgerrits (1034262) | about 6 years ago | (#25271081)

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 that only want to replace the entire battery), they're not happy about paying $3000 they did not budget for.

Also, don't get me wrong, I really want to see this succeed, because this is indeed the start of the Electric revolution.
Maybe, in the future, we will get our flying car, powered by a Mr Fusion ;-)

Battery replacement... (1)

shmlco (594907) | about 6 years ago | (#25271241)

"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.

Re:Battery replacement... (1)

kitgerrits (1034262) | about 6 years ago | (#25271685)

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:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25270929)

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 in electronics which will fund the smaller companies to produce more afordable cars for the masses. There are far fewer parts in an electric so once battery costs drop they can be competitive and even have the potential to be cheaper. City dwellers can save a bundle since for the cost of a couple of tanks of gas a year they can drive all year. You may see some large cities even go all electric to fight pollution. It won't happen overnight but electrics will take over a big piece of the market one day and hybrids will eventually outsell gasoline cars.

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (5, Informative)

Tuoqui (1091447) | about 6 years ago | (#25270979)

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.

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (1)

maxume (22995) | about 6 years ago | (#25271555)

Oil isn't going to $200 for a long time. People stop using it at lower prices than that (it isn't insane to plan on gasoline staying under $6 for current purchases).

Re:Automakers never want hybrids to go mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271699)

Only if the price gets down near 30K or less.

It costs me around 1,200 a year or less for gas. Since I can buy a good used car for almost as low as 10K and run it for at least 10 years. That means the break even, even assuming gas prices double, is 34K.

Unless its below the break even it isn't worth taking a 10 year gamble.

Whole lot of stupidity (1, Redundant)

falcon5768 (629591) | about 6 years ago | (#25270759)

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.

Re:Whole lot of stupidity (5, Insightful)

paul248 (536459) | about 6 years ago | (#25270887)

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:Whole lot of stupidity (2, Insightful)

falcon5768 (629591) | about 6 years ago | (#25271389)

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 out there that make better gas milage than their hybrid versions as long as the driver knows how to actually drive and not pump the gas as hard as possible.

Re:Whole lot of stupidity (3, Informative)

Tuoqui (1091447) | about 6 years ago | (#25270913)

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:Whole lot of stupidity (2, Interesting)

rm999 (775449) | about 6 years ago | (#25271017)

"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 it into perspective, my Altima Hybrid (which by many measures could be considered an average and desirable size for most Americans) weighs 3500 pounds and can drive about 1 mile with just its 100 pound battery. Propelling this car any decent distance would require literally a ton of batteries and cost tens of thousands of dollars. To put things in perspective, my engine weighs less than 300 pounds. You *could* start cutting out serious mass, but most Americans I know wouldn't be willing to sacrifice the comfort and safety of their sedans.

Of course, this doesn't even bring up another sticking point - most people like the freedom of being able to travel more than 50 miles without plugging their car in for hours.

Re:Whole lot of stupidity (1)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 6 years ago | (#25271087)

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]

TWO BIG ENGINES? Really? (4, Informative)

shmlco (594907) | about 6 years ago | (#25271185)

"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.

Re:TWO BIG ENGINES? Really? (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | about 6 years ago | (#25271369)

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.

Re:TWO BIG ENGINES? Really? (1)

shmlco (594907) | about 6 years ago | (#25271571)

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 Honda Civic topped out at 38, and that was pretty much best-in-class at the time. (Which was 1.3L, BTW.)

Re:Whole lot of stupidity (4, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 6 years ago | (#25271663)

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?

Re:Whole lot of stupidity (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 6 years ago | (#25271381)

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...

Re:Whole lot of stupidity (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 6 years ago | (#25271745)

I mentioned an article a while back by a guy that designs racing cars in the UK, who said that if cars were 100kg lighter, that would save more energy than making it a hybrid. I'm sure you can find 100kg of junk you can lose...

I'm not sure I'd call that being here (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:I'm not sure I'd call that being here (3, Interesting)

taniwha (70410) | about 6 years ago | (#25270941)

of course it's 'here' - when Mr Bell made the first telephones they were 'here' too ....

You have to start somewhere - plugin hybrids weren't really even on anyone's radar before the various Prius hackers started making their own and getting press about it

Re:I'm not sure I'd call that being here (1)

collywally (1223456) | about 6 years ago | (#25271345)

I would rather people spend their excess money on something like this the latest Prada purse or big screen TV. There is something about rich people caring about the environment that almost makes me believe in humanity.

We've got to start somewhere. Let the rich be the first to make it cheaper for the rest.

A start (4, Interesting)

delirium of disorder (701392) | about 6 years ago | (#25270793)

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.

Re:A start (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 6 years ago | (#25270845)

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 (1)

LiENUS (207736) | about 6 years ago | (#25270905)

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

Not to mention reduced fuel economy. Your alternator produces very little load unless there is a large demand on the system and during that time you need the alternator or your voltage will drop reducing the amount of spark your car sees.

Re:A start (4, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | about 6 years ago | (#25270957)

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.

Re:A start (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 6 years ago | (#25271053)

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.

Re:A start (2)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 6 years ago | (#25271075)

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 be spun a lot faster without flying apart - something that used to happen to dynamos at high speed!

Re:A start (1)

thesupraman (179040) | about 6 years ago | (#25270961)

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?

Re:A start (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 6 years ago | (#25271103)

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.

This is not a good idea (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is not a good idea (1, Interesting)

ishmaelflood (643277) | about 6 years ago | (#25271095)

Gosh, that sounds very technical.

It is however a load of crap.

Modern EECs are designed to work correctly down to 8V, and will be as happy as Larry above 11V.

And the lights, and the steering, and the aircon? (3, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 6 years ago | (#25271609)

Enough with the sarcasm already. Perhaps I'm technical because I have actually worked in vehicle R&D and know something about it?

The fact that the CPU and the electronic peripherals will run down to 8V - which is necessary because of battery volt drop on cranking - is irrelevant. It is the lights and the actuators that are affected by reduced battery voltage. In fact, looking at the linked article, the guy admits that he does not run without an alternator after dark, which at least shows some element of self preservation.

Re:A start (1)

nmg196 (184961) | about 6 years ago | (#25271045)

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.

Re:A start (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 years ago | (#25271543)

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.

DIY costs far less than $5k (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25270827)

There has to be a serious labor markup for SLA (lead acid) conversion being $5k

The motor and the controller are the most expensive parts, and you already have both of them in a hybrid. Perhaps the controller has to be replaced/augmented but there's some serious markup in a $5k price.

Granted SLA batteries have to be replaced annually and LiFePo4 would be every five years but the $35k price tag also stinks of incredible profiteering.

Re:DIY costs far less than $5k (3, Interesting)

kitgerrits (1034262) | about 6 years ago | (#25270971)

Have you seen the cost of high-power batteries?
Especially the ones that can survive the strain of driving electric-only (charge-drain-charge-drain)? try $3000,-- [about.com]
Unless you own a Hybrid, according to Car & Driver [hybridcars.com]

"battery replacement will cost $5,300 for the Toyota and Lexus hybrids, and the Ford Escape replacements run a whopping $7,200."

Also, someone needt to make room for those batteries somewhere in the car.
The required equipment (for modifying the car itself) and man-hours also cost money.

what do you do with the batteries? (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | about 6 years ago | (#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....

Re:what do you do with the batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25271123)

Anyone know the true cost of production and disposal of these batteries (usually NiMH, I think)? e.g. for a Prius battery?

I've heard wildly varying estimates for full mining of all raw materials and production, from "no more than a couple of battery's full of energy" (obvious fanboy bullshit) to "a substantial proportion of the lifetime energy savings of a hybrid car" (curiously believable).

Escape = Truck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25270925)

Bicycle = Harley-Davidson?

Crash testing (4, Informative)

femto (459605) | about 6 years ago | (#25270949)

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:Crash testing (2, Informative)

Zironic (1112127) | about 6 years ago | (#25271061)

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 (1)

powerspike (729889) | about 6 years ago | (#25271445)

There was an underworld boss in australia, that wanted to get his car fully bullet proofed etc etc, how ever they stated they needed a second one for crash testing to ensure it was safe.... .one off conversion...

Re:Crash testing (3, Insightful)

ishmaelflood (643277) | about 6 years ago | (#25271101)

You talk bollocks.

One-off conversions are signed off by engineers.

Why the absurd fixation on batteries? (3, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 6 years ago | (#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:Why the absurd fixation on batteries? (2, Interesting)

collywally (1223456) | about 6 years ago | (#25271291)

Yes but how long do they hold their charge? From what I recall they dissipate quite quickly compared to even lead acid batteries.

Re:Why the absurd fixation on batteries? (2, Insightful)

srjh (1316705) | about 6 years ago | (#25271321)

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?

the future starts now... (2, Interesting)

djfake (977121) | about 6 years ago | (#25271077)

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 driving.

Re:the future starts now... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 years ago | (#25271595)

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-wannabe's out here in suburbia are not driving their "look at me" vehicles and are buying smart twofours then I think that smaller and high efficiency vehicles are what people are looking for.

I just can't believe they leased the thing.

iCars (1)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | about 6 years ago | (#25271213)

"Wired is running a story about the small but vocal, and growing, number of people...The conversions aren't cheap, and top-of-the-line kits with lithium-ion batteries can set you back as much as $35,000... 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.

Apple is making cars now?

planet/population rescue not coming, already here (-1, Troll)

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Sounds like a great idea ... (1)

liamo (699840) | about 6 years ago | (#25271471)

until the battery explodes!

A joke! (4, Informative)

louzerr (97449) | about 6 years ago | (#25271481)

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.

Will we do nothing to escape the fantasy? (2, Interesting)

o1d5ch001 (648087) | about 6 years ago | (#25271533)

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) and have all of these system interconnected.

As we enter the decline of the age of oil, which side do you want to be on? Stuck on the freeway with no gas while the train goes by on its way to NYC?

We need to examine our motivations very closely here. Why are we so attached to the automobile. I think it might just come down to classism and racism. Why, you wouldn't want to have to associate with the blacks and the poor people would you?

Throw out the transmission. (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 6 years ago | (#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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