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Toyota Unveils Plug-in Hybrid Prius

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the whiiiirrrrrrr dept.

Power 555

phlack writes "Toyota has announced a plug-in hybrid vehicle, based on their popular Prius. So far, it will only have a range of 8 miles on the battery (13km). They are going to test this vehicle on the public roads, apparently a first for the industry. From the article: 'Unlike earlier gasoline-electric hybrids, which run on a parallel system twinning battery power and a combustion engine, plug-in cars are designed to enable short trips powered entirely by the electric motor, using a battery that can be charged through an electric socket at home. Many environmental advocates see them as the best available technology to reduce gasoline consumption and global-warming greenhouse gas emissions, but engineers say battery technology is still insufficient to store enough energy for long-distance travel.'"

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what I do (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20018937)

I plug in to you mother. (fp)

Please explain (2, Interesting)

Feminist-Mom (816033) | more than 7 years ago | (#20018959)

what is the environmental advantage of electricity for cars ? It's mostly made with fossil fuels. I've never understood this. Am I missing something ?

Re:Please explain (3, Interesting)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20018973)

Well I guess it would be a great idea if we got all of our energy from non fossil sources. Solar, wind, fission, fusion. So in a sense I agree, but one day they could be useful.

But there's really no reason to rule out a giant rubber band.

Re:Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019055)

Exactly, most of our electricity comes from fossil fuel burning. The little environmental gain we're gonna get from moving is the improved efficiency of newer models, not the different energy source.

Re:Please explain (4, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019367)

It isn't all about the environmental gain. Oil is in short supply, at least oil that can be acquired as cheaply as the oil we are burning now is. Coal on the other hand we have plenty of and wouldn't involve any foreign dependence.

From an environmental standpoint, no this isn't a one stop solution. But it does centralize the problems. First, with electric cars many will have the choice to live fossil fuel free because there are already solutions available to live off the grid on renewable energy sources. Second, this eliminates oil as an enemy and allows everyone to consolidate their efforts on energy generation from renewable sources.

Re:Please explain (3, Insightful)

Nikron (888774) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019205)

Power Plants are a great deal more efficient than cars

Re:Please explain (4, Insightful)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#20018983)

Since electricity is produced in stationary plants, it's easier to make it more efficient, pollute less, etc. That's awfully difficult to do when you have tons and tons of little gasoline engines all over the place.

Re:Please explain (3, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019089)

Big fossil fuel generating plants are more efficient, and that's one factor, but also, a considerable amount of energy is produced by sources like hydro, nuclear and to a lesser extent, solar, wind and so forth. All of these are non-polluting. Further, we have the ability (if not the collective intelligence) to build more nuclear plants. Solar is becoming more efficient. As the grid moves from fossil fuels to non-polluting sources, these types of vehicles will continue to be close to zero impact (they'll still need lubricants and so on, but they won't expel them into the atmosphere.) In addition, electricity transport doesn't require tankers and is non-polluting itself.

One thing about the summary, though — in the end, it won't be batteries, it'll be ultracaps [ideaspike.com] running these things. Batteries - frankly - haven't got a lot to recommend them. They are extreme polluters, hugely difficult to dispose of, expensive and complicated to recycle, charge slowly, can't deliver much power at once, and perform worse and worse as they get older (and not a lot older, for that matter.) I look forward with great anticipation to the day I can say "no more batteries." I'd say that day is about ten years off at most based on the rate that ultracaps have been advancing the last three years.

Re:Please explain (4, Informative)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019223)

The amount of energy stored per unit weight is considerably lower than that of an electrochemical battery (3-5 Wh/kg for an ultracapacitor compared to 30-40 Wh/kg for a battery). It is also only about 1/10,000th the volumetric energy density of gasoline.

Re:Please explain (5, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019465)

The amount of energy stored per unit weight is considerably lower than that of an electrochemical battery (3-5 Wh/kg for an ultracapacitor compared to 30-40 Wh/kg for a battery).

Exactly. So it may take quite a bit less than the ten years I specified; I was just being conservative. Thanks for pointing out that ultracaps are only one order of magnitude back now; a little while ago, it was two. And there are numerous technologies on the bench that show a lot of promise. We just have a tedious wait between lab pokery and commercialization.

The gasoline energy density is irrelevant, of course; gasoline is used up and is non-renewable. Ultracaps aren't used up and are reusable millions of times (consequently, your car will wear out before they do.) Gasoline is energy, in a sense; ultracaps aren't - they're gas tanks. So you have to watch out for those kind of misleading comparisons.

When you say that gasoline carries 10,000 times the volumetric energy of an ultracap, the reader may be misled into thinking that ultracaps can't deliver power. Not so. Designing an 1000 HP drive system that uses ultracaps is a matter of plugging a 250 HP motor onto each wheel, adding a controller and pressing the accelerator. Now you have a 1000 HP, non-polluting, sporty machine. Designing an 1000 HP drive system that uses gasoline means you are going to need your own mechanic, you're going to be producing one heck of a lot of pollution, and the cost will make the electric vehicle look positively thrifty.

The best way to think of ultracaps today is that they are like gas tanks; they hold energy electric motors can use, just like batteries do. They're too small of a "tank" (today) to compete with batteries. A decent metaphor is the walls of the tank are too thick and the volume where the energy is stored is too small. And because they're made in small quantities, they are expensive. But they are improving rapidly and they don't use particularly exotic materials, so there is every reason to think they'll be good enough and inexpensive enough to replace batteries very shortly.

Re:Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019535)

we have the ability (if not the collective intelligence) to build more nuclear plants...
We have the ability to build them, but not the discipline/intelligence to operate them properly. I'd bet we could engineer the plants to be more forgiving, but we won't want to pay for it. Such is life.

Re:Please explain (1)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019545)

Big fossil fuel generating plants are more efficient, and that's one factor...

I don't buy this. A converting hydrocarbon combustion to high-voltage AC, transmitting the AC over great distances, transforming to mains voltage AC, converting to DC, storing as chemical energy, converting back to DC, to power an electric motor... there's no way on earth that is more efficient than an internal combustion engine, which utilizes the mechanical energy of hydrocarbon combustion directly.

Re:Please explain (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019003)

Yeah, but there are several ways to get electricity that doesn't require a fossil fuel (or at least much less of a fossil fuel), be it solar, wind, etc. You don't just abandon an entire idea because of one configuration where coal or oil might still be burned. This isn't going to be completely resolved in one step.

Re:Please explain (0, Flamebait)

rindeee (530084) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019009)

Que the fan-boys who will yell that burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and then pushing that power over hundreds of miles of cable is more efficient and environmentally sound that directly powering a vehicle via fossil fuel. I'm all for alternative power, and hybrids are a step in the right direction IMO, but plug-in electric? Sorry, it just doesn't make sense.

Re:Please explain (3, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019065)

Sorry, it just doesn't make sense.

Do you buy a household generator for your electricity generating needs?

Exact same reasoning applies, both pro and con. The determents to an all-electric car are battery weight and battery cost, not electricity generation.

Re:Please explain (1)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019081)

The electricity lost via transmission is about 7%. Considering that a power plant doesn't have to worry about things like being mobile, it's not hard to make that up.

And that's assuming you're getting your power from fossil fuels instead of nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, or solar.

Or you could put solar panels on your roof and charge your car that way.

Re:Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019147)

Are you slow?

Let me spell it out for you: Its A LOT easier to reduce emmisions at a single large source than on hundreds of thousands of smaller sources. It's much more cost effective to install state-of-the-art CO2 scrubbers on fossil fuel plants than it is making sure every single car out there is at peak operating efficiency.

Re:Please explain (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019503)

Que the fan-boys who will yell that burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and then pushing that power over hundreds of miles of cable is more efficient and environmentally sound that directly powering a vehicle via fossil fuel.

Power plant generators are greatly more efficient than car ICEs. Transmission losses are, as others have said, about 7%. In terms of CO2 production, one directly comparable measure, even with a coal or gas-fired plant, the electric car would be much more efficient. It's on that sort of measure that the Tesla claims 135 MPG equivalence.

Re:Please explain (4, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019037)

Switching to grid electricity is good for national security. We need to distinguish between the energy requirements of the transportation sector from all other sectors. USA and Europe are self sufficient in non-transportation energy sector. There is enough coal, natural gas, tar sands, nuclear and renewables to keep the grid juiced up. But transportation ...

Gasoline for cars, diesel for trucks, furnace oil for ships and kerosene for the jets all come mainly from imported crude oil. The shortfall between domestic crude production and the demand has widened very rapidly in the last decade. To keep sending more and more money to the Middle East to import oil is madness. Sooner we kick the imported oil addiction better it is for the West. Plug in hybrids would reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Re:Please explain (1)

Dantu (840928) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019581)

Switching to grid electricity is good for national security.


Am I the only one who remembers the blackout of pretty much the entire eastern portion of Canada and the US not so long ago? An entire collapse due to one line going down at a bad time. I've also heard numerous stories about researchers complaining that our power grid is poorly protected (remotely-configurable high-power transforms/breakers that can be adjusted by anyone with the right phone number, a modem, and a user-manual). One researcher claimed he could easily take down the power grid for most of North America in such as way that huge amounts of equipment would be destroyed fairly easily. I suspect that taking down the power grid would be MUCH easier than a blockade of North America.

Re:Please explain (4, Interesting)

Cervantes (612861) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019045)

what is the environmental advantage of electricity for cars ? It's mostly made with fossil fuels. I've never understood this. Am I missing something ?
The efficiency of the little motor in your car is much less than the efficiency of, say, a nuclear power plant, or a gas-fired turbine, or even (iirc) a coal fired plant. And it's certainly dirtier than hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, or tidal. Additionally, gas and coal plants can (don't, but can) clean their emissions a lot better than your tailpipe. And finally, it cuts down on in-city pollution and smog.

Additionally, having an electric car means that when the electric company upgrades their plant, you're automatically greener. With a gas car, you're still polluting the same amount.

That's just off the top of my head, mind you.

Re:Please explain (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019167)

Yup, thats the important part... even coal power plants are infinitely more efficient than car engines. And of course, there are already quite a lot of places where hydroelectricity and other means are available. -MORE- than enough to make a significant difference.

Re:Please explain (4, Interesting)

bobetov (448774) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019053)

It comes down to how we transition off fossil fuels.

With internal-combustion-only cars, there is no migration path. Whatever method of energy generation you use, it all has to end up as gasoline (or similar fuel). This is, currently, enormously wasteful for energy sources that aren't fossil-fuel based.

With electric engines, you're right that *today*, we mostly use fossil fuels to generate it, and so it isn't a great solution.

But *soon*, we will be using more wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, you-name-it energy sources, and as that happens, we start to eliminate the need for fossile fuels.

My father in law lives in L.A., and has enough spare energy from solar to power a car, but there's no option on the market that will let him do this. Right now, he just sells it back to the grid. But with this type of hybrid vehicle, he could be almost completely self sufficient.

Electricity is fungible - you can turn anything into it, and turn it into just about anything. Fossil fuels are only good for burning.

Re:Please explain (0, Flamebait)

ZWithaPGGB (608529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019275)

Electricity is fungible? Really? I can turn it into steel, for example? What Physics classes did you take? As far as what fossil fuels can be turned into: have you ever heard of plastics? You must work in marketing.

Electricity is actually ephemeral. Unless consumed at the moment of availability, or stored in a pretty inefficient battery, it's wasted. I OTOH, am a EE.

Just one more thing the electric car fanboys ignore: our existing electric grid can barely support its current peak loads. Good luck with even 2% of the populace adopting plug-ins. All those cars charging in Silicon Valley when the State Operator declares an emergency, I can see it now!

Re:Please explain (3, Informative)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019589)

Just one more thing the electric car fanboys ignore: our existing electric grid can barely support its current peak loads. Good luck with even 2% of the populace adopting plug-ins. All those cars charging in Silicon Valley when the State Operator declares an emergency, I can see it now!
You missed somethings.

1) Not all places are stressed at peak loads. California is one, but they are pretty much in the minority.
2) The prime charging time for these vehicles will be AT NIGHT, when the loads are at their least.

Re:Please explain (4, Informative)

Copid (137416) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019439)

Others have answered fairly well, but it boils down to a few major things:

1) It allows us to use locally-produced fossil fuels rather than foreign fossil fuels.
2) Power plants are set up so they run at very high efficiency. Cars run at whatever efficiency they happen to be running at for the task they're doing.
3) Probably most importantly, when cars stop using fossil fuel and start using electricity, they're able to use any sort of power source out there as long as it can be converted to electricity. As our central generators become greener, so do our cars. Automatically. Think of it like software: Why duplicate the "convert resources into usable energy" functionality when you can put it in a centralized place that can be upgraded without disturbing the rest of the system? Electric cars are the reusable code of the automotive world. Whatever your infrastructure, they can tap in to it as long as you can give them the electricity they need.

God Smack Your Ass !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20018939)


God Smack Your Ass !!

The real question is... (5, Insightful)

the_flyswatter (720503) | more than 7 years ago | (#20018963)

How much electricity is needed to charge the sucker?

Re:The real question is... (4, Insightful)

OutLawSuit (1107987) | more than 7 years ago | (#20018977)

Or how long does it take to charge?

Re:The real question is... (4, Insightful)

schwaang (667808) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019103)

Any by extension, what is the cost/mile on electricity vs. the cost/mile on gasoline?

Re:The real question is... (3, Insightful)

bmac83 (869058) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019257)

And what is the environmental impact of generating the electricity? This matters unless we're proposing exclusively renewable sources of electricity generation. It's not only what you actually do yourself after all.

Re:The real question is... (2, Insightful)

schwaang (667808) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019419)

Good point. Dollar cost isn't all that matters, especially to most Prius buyers.

So what's the environmental impact / mile of gasoline vs. electricity, given the average mix of power sources used in the US? [Which is mostly coal, which has been pretty dirty, but also includes nukes, natural gas, renewables.]

Of course with electricity the consumer has options with varying environmental impact, whereas with gasoline the consumer has almost zero choice about the impact of refining the gas or burning it. (Once they've already chosen the Prius over a Hummer.)

Here you go... (4, Informative)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019475)

How Much CO2 Do Electric Cars Produce?
 
...Given the same assumptions about electric vehicles as in the American analysis above, electric cars in Canada could expect on average to cause CO2 emissions of 0.2*1.1*236 = 52 g/km to 0..3*1.1*236 = 78 g/km, compared to ICE emissions of 167 to 224 g/km.

http://www.paulchefurka.ca/Electric%20Cars%20and%2 0CO2.html [paulchefurka.ca]

Re:The real question is... (5, Funny)

the_other_one (178565) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019467)

Any by extension, what is the cost/mile on electricity vs. the cost/mile on gasoline?

That depends on the cost per foot of your extension cord.

The answer is - the same. (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019369)

The amount of electricity needed is the same. The only difference is that you're getting the power from a plug rather than generating it using the gasoline engine in the Prius.

The difference is that the electricity you get from the plug is a whole lot cheaper and typically cleaner (depending on the source) than the electricity created from the from gasoline engine.

8 miles? (3, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#20018985)

8 miles? under ideal conditions, flat road, no a/c ... very disappointing. Toyota's engineering is very good. If this is all such great engineers can manage, it shows that batteries have a long way to go.

Re:8 miles? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019021)

"...engineers say battery technology is still insufficient to store enough energy for long-distance travel."

This is wrong. Sort of. Lithium-ion batteries can power a car for 200 to 250 miles, but they're expensive.

I think what they really meant is that "battery technology is still insufficiently cheap for long-distance travel."

The technology is insufficently advanced. (5, Funny)

Kaenneth (82978) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019355)

Any technology that is distinguisable from magic is insufficently advanced

Re:8 miles? (1)

sarhjinian (94086) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019485)

Lithium-Ion batteries also have a greater likelihood of overheating. Really overheating.

Re:8 miles? (1, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019111)

If this is all such great engineers can manage, it shows that batteries have a long way to go.

Perhaps they're not as good at this as they are at fuel based systems, because some people [teslamotors.com] have done a lot better. Apparently, Toyota needs a little schooling.

Re:8 miles? (4, Insightful)

Lost Engineer (459920) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019325)

Yes, the Tesla is also 98k+. Toyota is not interested in making a car that only Jay Leno can afford.

So far Toyota has made the most marketable hybrids to date and is actively trying to reduce costs. I'd say their engineering is spot on, given their goals.

Re:8 miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019449)

What you are lauding is Prius as it is now, not the new plug-in feature. And even then, Prius is not excatly an economobile.

How does this compare to the plug-in kit that people are fitting their Prius with?

Maybe Honda should bring back their '80s CRX. A version of the sucker got easy 40miles/gallon with straight gas engine, and plenty peppy.

Re:8 miles? (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019601)

I'd say their engineering is spot on, given their goals.

No, I'm sorry, but an 8-mile range without AC on flat ground isn't "spot on" for any car. It isn't even all that great for a riding lawnmower. The car has to be able to get to the next power supply, or it is useless.

The non mass produced, high end market Tesla's price is irrelevant; the point was 8 miles range and squirrel power are not the standard du jour for electric vehicles and such things reflect poorly on Toyota.

Re: Common Sense Killed The Electric Car (2, Insightful)

Slugster (635830) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019433)

Wow, what a deal. All you need to do to drive for one cent per mile is spend $98,000 for a Tesla roadster.

I wonder, how many Teslas have ever been sold, and how many Toyotas were sold.... -last month?....

-------------
Here's a fun comparison:
The Tesla costs $98,000, does zero-60 in 4 seconds, and the battery pack lasts 100,000 miles.

The 2006 Chevy Corvette Z06 costs $65,000 and does zero-60 in ~3.6 seconds.
The EPA mileage is 16/26 city/highway (let's use an average of 20 mpg, in use?)....
And to drive 100,000 miles at 20 mpg will take about 5000 gallons of gas. At $3/gallon, that's $15,000 in fuel costs.

So for $20,000 less, a 2006 Corvette has a faster zero-60 time, a faster top speed, better resale value, and,,,,,, with an 18-gallon tank, it has a range of 360 miles, and can be refueled at any gas station.

Hmmmm,,,,, decisions, decisions.....
~

Re: Common Sense Killed The Electric Car (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019523)

It's not dead, it's just pining for a better battery.

Common Sense plus shortsightedness = blindness. (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019543)

You remind me of the people who said cars would never be practical, explaining that there were no gas stations, and that you didn't have to crank a horse to start it.

The Tesla is a carefully crafted, rare, high-tech, high performance ride, very early into the market, and it is priced accordingly. A corvette is an assembly line commodity produced in comparatively huge volume after literally decades of absorbing engineering costs and marketing costs. When the automakers get around to putting a comparable electric car into mass production, the niche the Tesla occupies will close (and the cachet of having a high performance, non-polluting car will go away because they will no longer be rare.) If you think the Tesla's price represents an accurate measure of the price in a competitive market, you're not paying enough attention to how industry works.

My point was that electric cars don't need to be either slow, or have an 8 mile range. The price is what, maybe 5x that of a Prius? That's not so far off, frankly. This is the beginning of the curve. Some of us see that clearly and are all about waiting a little; but others... are still looking at Corvettes.

Re:8 miles? (4, Insightful)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019527)

The Tesla Roadster also only has two seats, a trunk barely big enough for one set of golf clubs or a wheeled carry-on bag (check out the FAQS) [teslamotors.com] with the remainder of space holding the big battery pack.

The Prius has a full rear seat and cargo area, which limits the amount of space that can hold the battery pack. In addition, as has been pointed out, the Tesla also costs nearly 4x a Prius.

Now, you show me a Tesla four-door hatchback that can carry more that a set of golf clubs, and still match the performance specs of the Roadster, then you might be able to say that Toyota "needs a little schooling."

Re:8 miles? (1)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019305)

Keeping in mind this is Toyota, and Toyota has done a fantastic job with the strategy and execution of the Toyota Prius, the fact that the most reasonable plug-in they could produce could only go 8 miles, it makes you wonder:

Maybe GM didn't kill the electric car, and they were right all along?

Re:8 miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019327)

> Maybe GM didn't kill the electric car, and they were right all along?

Maybe GM's electric car could go a lot farther, because it wasn't hauling around a combustion engine, transmission, and gasoline?

Re:8 miles? (1)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019487)

Neither is Toyota's:

Unlike earlier gasoline-electric hybrids, which run on a parallel system twinning battery power and a combustion engine, plug-in cars are designed to enable short trips powered entirely by the electric motor, using a battery that can be charged through an electric socket at home.

Also, an EV1 cost about $80,000 at the time, according to Wikipedia (and by extension the Washington Post).

The thing is, while GM may have been 'right' to terminate the EV1 program, the failure to keep pursuing R&D for hybrids will continue to haunt the company for many, many years, or until it declares bankruptcy. I believe that they think in hindsight, shelling out a billion dollars a year to keep up their technology lead would have paid back much more in terms of company image, and at present, cars that get more than 30 miles / gallon.

120 miles? (4, Interesting)

ev1lcanuck (718766) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019329)

Toyota's engineering is very good. Meet the 78MPH-top-speed, 120-miles-per-charge 1997-2003 Toyota RAV4 EV: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_RAV4_EV [wikipedia.org] . I was passed by one this morning on the freeway, I felt so inferior in my comparatively gas guzzling Prius.

The batteries don't have a long way to go, they've just been forced out of the picture.

Re:8 miles? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019403)

if someone modded it to have a large enough solar panel it would go much, much further. Dunno the specs but who knows, maybe from the top to the bottom of California on a sunny day. Seriously, instead of a magic invention that burns the fuel at your city's power plant instead of in your car, why don't they put some solar panels on it to effectively get energy to travel on from "nothing" whenever possible, like whenever the sun's out.

Yep. This makes zero sense... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019553)

Why not just add the ability to the Prius to charge the batteries from household AC, and a switch which tells the car to prefer battery power? I picture it going 7 miles before the gasoline engine starts to recharge the batteries. That would be very much more practical, but still allow people to pollute remotely and feel good about themselves when going on short trips.

Re:8 miles? (1)

quantumdothunter (1133953) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019583)

A 13 km range from Toyota is ridiculous. There must be some obscure marketing reason for this, such as dousing interest, while admitting there is a demand. Hymotion, located here in the Toronto area, has a Lithium-ion pack for the Prius which stores 5kWh and gives a range of 50 km. It fits in the trunk. Tesla claims to have overcome Lithium-ion safety issues.

Before it is asked... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20018989)

The current 07 Prius will go about 2.5 miles on a full charge with the air conditioner off and level land...

-SenatorPerry

Hybrid is a misnomer (2, Interesting)

MushMouth (5650) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019115)

And where do the batteries get the electricity to go those 2.5 miles?

Oh yeah, you put gas in the tank, and the engine will charge the battery, or you could put gas in the tank and drive it up a hill and brake all the way down. Either way it is powered by gasoline.

Re:Hybrid is a misnomer (3, Informative)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019411)

And where do the batteries get the electricity to go those 2.5 miles?

Oh yeah, you put gas in the tank, and the engine will charge the battery, or you could put gas in the tank and drive it up a hill and brake all the way down. Either way it is powered by gasoline.
That electricity may have come from regenerative braking or that just-completed long downhill run.

In the end, you are correct in that all the energy ultimately comes from burning gasoline, but it's more efficient in the use of that energy. Consider a straight gas-powered car. It burns fuel to go up the hill, and you burn fuel coming down. You dissipate energy coming to a stop by turning motion into heat by the brakes. You burn fuel accelerating, cruising, stopping, or sitting idle. None of that energy is recovered

A hybrid will burn fuel going up hill, but then can recover some of that energy going back downhill for later use. The battery helps get the car up to speed when accelerating, periodically when cruising (sometimes taking over completely and allowing the engine to completely stop turning) and stores some of the recovered energy when stopping. Sitting idle at a stoplight or in traffic, and the engine shuts doen entirely.

Re:Hybrid is a misnomer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019507)

And where do the batteries get the electricity to go those 2.5 miles?

Oh yeah, you put gas in the tank, and the engine will charge the battery, or you could put gas in the tank and drive it up a hill and brake all the way down. Either way it is powered by gasoline.


What part of PLUGGABLE don't you understand, MushMouth? It's not from gasoline, but from electric outlet. So it's either coal, nuclear power, wind, water mill, hamsters, or whatever your power company uses. Most definitely not gasoline.

Works for me (2, Interesting)

Cervantes (612861) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019013)

My round trip to work is 7.5 KM. A little too far to walk or bike (and not be too fragrant for my cow-irkers), but perfect for this little beastie. In fact, even though I live in one of the worlds sprawliest cities, it's still enough to get me one-way somewhere, and I can plug in there for the trip home. I'm sure this would be great for most people and their little jaunts to the grocery store, or to get a movie, or insert the blank here. The majority of driving is short little trips, and this fills the bill.
Of course, I'll still keep my bigger, gas fueled beast for when I have further to go, but this should be a real option for many people.

Re:Works for me (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019083)

Indeed. I have never looked at statistics, but I wouldn't be surprised if, taking aside commercial uses (planes, vans, etc), the "short trips to the grocery stores or whatever thats 3 blocks away" account for most of the fuel use. Cars like that would be perfect for most use. Even better in places like in Quebec where electricity is produced relatively cleanly and is dirt cheap. That would pay for itself much, MUCH faster than current hybrids.

Re:Works for me (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019093)

Yeah, just like your cell phone that should have a charge for x hours really keeps a charge of about .75x after a year of wear.

You'll be cutting it close buddy. Not to mention when you are stuck behind a pileup with no way to get off that current road.

Re:Works for me (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019119)

Since he said round trip, he's not cutting it close at all. He can -almost- do the trip twice on one charge.

Re:Works for me (1)

mr_stinky_britches (926212) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019123)

You can't bike 4 miles before smelling like a pig? What has the world come to....

Thanks much, Mr. Waddams.

Re:Works for me (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019269)

What if he lives in some place like Houston Texas, where during parts of the year you'll smell like a pig after standing around idle outside for 20 minutes? (Or at least I would, but I think I have northerly genes. I like temperatures in the 50s.) What if he lives in the rockies and it's up a mountain?

Congratulations on passing judgment before knowing the first thing about his situation.

Re:Works for me (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019211)

7.5KM round trip is too far for a bike ride? How lazy are you? That's less than a half-hour bike ride each way. I mean, I know I'm on Slashdot, but yeesh, how bad of shape are you in?

Re:Works for me (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019385)

7.5KM round trip is too far for a bike ride? How lazy are you? That's less than a half-hour bike ride each way.

You may live such an idle life that an extra hour a day is easily spent; many of us do not.

During the school year, I have no idle period greater than five minutes between 7:15 am and 9:30 pm.

Re:Works for me (1)

bitingduck (810730) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019491)

7.5 km is much faster for me to bike than to drive to work. For distances that short it ends up being dominated by traffic controls and parking.

In my case I can also park closer to my desk when I bike.

Re:Works for me (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019443)

My round trip to work is 7.5 KM. A little too far to walk or bike (and not be too fragrant for my cow-irkers)...
---
Pedelecs are nice for that distance, no sweat.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedelec [wikipedia.org]

Re:Works for me (1)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019481)

"My round trip to work is 7.5 KM. A little too far to walk or bike..."

You are absolutely joking, I'm sure. A trip of 3.5-4.5 km should be well within the 10-15 minute range for a person on a bike, which is barely enough to make a me break a sweat (unless it is above 25 C out).

I'm sure with all the money you save by filling up once every month or two (since cars are great for grocery runs), you could get some pitstick to take with you if the odour is that bad. A car that does 13km round trips is great for winter, but useless in summer when it's no problem to bike.

Who killed the electric car? (2, Insightful)

FREAKHEAD (987013) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019041)

Only 8 miles??? http://www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectricca r/ [sonyclassics.com]

Re:Who killed the electric car? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019067)

Only 8 miles???

I could *throw* the thing further than that. What's next, Flintstone-style power?
       

Promising technology (2, Funny)

BenjiTheGreat98 (707903) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019059)

This is out of my home town's paper:

http://www.t-g.com/story/1218203.html [t-g.com]
http://www.t-g.com/story/1232246.html [t-g.com]

Basically it is a car with no fuel and a self recharging battery and runs on a hydraulic pump system. They are getting a patent for it now, so they are trying to keep the details to a minimum. But they say from the fly wheel back the car is unchanged.

Reporters suck. Perpetual motion as straight news. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019289)

Happens every year or so.

These are the types of idiots who take courses in 'Critical Thinking' but for whom high school physics is a mystery.

Good job there liberal arts schools. Real 'well rounded education' they're providing.

Re:Promising technology (1)

MJOverkill (648024) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019557)

This is a scam to grab investment dollars. These things happen a lot but rarely get into the news.

You notice how no one can see the prototypes now that the initial report is out? Notice how they won't tell anyone how it works by claiming they are protecting their secrets, even though the underlying physics of the invention are not patentable? This should be bringing up red flags to the reader.

Perpetuating these types of 'reports' does not help us move closer to a renewable energy economy, nor is it even close to what Toyota is trying to achieve with plug-in hybrids.

8 miles... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019063)

That's far enough for me. I'm already thinking I can snake a line out of my office. How long does it take to charge, that's the question for me, because that determines how long after I get home from the office I can go back out.

7.9 miles, at least it's light enuf to push (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019113)

8 miles? Licking the battery leads will jolt you 9.
         

Tesla Roadster (2, Informative)

cepler (21753) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019117)

Get your $50k cash ready for the downpayment:

http://www.teslamotors.com/index.php [teslamotors.com]

100% Electric
0-60 in ~4 seconds
135 mpg equiv
Over 200 miles per charge
Less than 2 cents per mile

Now if they could get the price of this down to a reasonable level like a Honda Civic I'd buy it...and a buncha other people would too I'm sure. This would be an IDEAL car for me :)

Re:Tesla Roadster (1)

farkus888 (1103903) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019169)

damn, you beat me to it. I hear they are working on a more family friendly daily driver type of vehicle now that the roadster sold out the first 100.

Why the Prius?? (1, Flamebait)

oni (41625) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019121)

Someone please explain to me why the Toyota chose the Prius to be its hybird? The prius is the ugliest car they make. It looks like a damn turtle with those tiny little wheels (you know, just like the wheels on a turtle).

Toyota makes Scion and the Scion Tc is a nice looking car in the same size range as the Prius. Why aren't they sticking batteries in that sucker??

Re:Why the Prius?? (4, Interesting)

MushMouth (5650) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019159)

Considering there used to be a waiting list to buy a Prius (All models are hybrid, 50MPG), and used cars were selling for the same price as new, but you could walk to your local Honda dealership and buy a Civic Hybrid (48MPG) off the lot, they made the right decision. It is about the type of people who want a Hybrid, they want it to be clear they are driving a Hybrid, the Prius does that while the Civic does not.

In other words. It's a fashion statement! (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019301)

No wounder the smug clouds have been bad lately.

Re:Why the Prius?? (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019187)

The Prius was something of an experiment, so I don't think they wanted to retrofit an existing design. They wanted to start from scratch so they could design the car around it's needs instead of trying to shove that technology into a Corolla or something. The first Prius looked quite a bit like a normal car (although a little more egg shaped). The redesign made the car much more aerodynamic, and I think it actually made it bigger. It took some getting used to (I really liked the looks of the 1st gen), but I kinda like it now.

They didn't want to take things as far as Honda did when they designed the Insight (which was quite a bit more radical than the current Prius).

Now that the technology has proven viable (and even desirable), they are starting to put it into other cars ("normal" cars).

Re:Why the Prius?? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019407)

The Prius has always been a hybrid. Your question makes no sense.

-jcr

does no one know? (1)

farkus888 (1103903) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019143)

don't any of you know about the tesla roadster?

http://www.teslamotors.com/index.php

its faster, quicker, prettier, has a better range, and doesn't have a gasoline or diesel engine at all!

More Smug to come (0, Flamebait)

ZWithaPGGB (608529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019203)

Electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and damming rivers. Over 50% of the available energy is lost in generation and transmission inefficiencies. The storage medium, a battery, is a highly toxic item that adds so much weight to the vehicle that internal combustion only econoboxes with diesel engines (which can burn biofuels) get comparable mileage, without the polluting manufacturing and disposal issues attendant to the electric/hybrid car's battery.

So, what is the real benefit of the hybrid/electric car? Could it be more about fashion [washingtonpost.com] , kind of like those oil dripping gas guzzling, pollution spewing, 1960s VW buses I see with "Love your Mother" stickers on them, than reality?

There's a great "South Park" episode [wikipedia.org] about this.

Re:More Smug to come (1)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019297)

Electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and damming rivers.

Isn't the electricity generated from fossil-fueled power plants much more efficient than the internal combustion engine? As for nuclear, well there aren't any pollutants released into the air from it. And a river dam? Kills some fish, but does that really hurt anything in the long run?

Re:More Smug to come (1)

ZWithaPGGB (608529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019515)

Not at the point of consumption, due to transmission losses.

Re:More Smug to come (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019499)

Hey smart ass, how many tanker trucks does it take to move electricity around the country?

Re:More Smug to come (1)

ZWithaPGGB (608529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019547)

And, BTW, those tanker trucks, which are Diesels, can burn biofuels.

Bio-Diesel makes a lot more environmental sense, not least because the WORST carbon footprint it can have is 0, than electric anything.

Re:More Smug to come (2, Insightful)

TheWickedKingJeremy (578077) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019571)

Even the dirtiest coal-fired power plant is far more efficient (read: cheaper, less polluting) a power source than your car engine is. Plus, using grid energy has the added benefit that, as grid power becomes more efficient/less polluting, your car is automatically "upgraded" along with it. While car engines will always be inefficient - grid power need not be.

As for hybrids - I agree that they are not the long term solution, but they can be a positive force. I get 60mpg in mine, and have since 2000. Tripling the national average isn't too shabby...

South Park is pretty funny, but probably not a very good database of information for this type of subject.

why wasn't the original plug in? (4, Insightful)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019227)

Most comments so far have dismissed the short battery-only range as mediocre; this article was even tagged "toy". The Toyota Plug-in HV isn't an electric only car. It's a hybrid. It can still go hundreds of miles a day like a regular car. Most of the miles on American's cars are from short day to day trips, not vacations. A plug in hybrid would mean that all those trips wouldn't require drivers to burn any gas (but would still allow them to take the occasional interstate drive).

Even if your daily commute is too significant to be made in electric-only mode (mine totals 40 miles and my employer won't let me recharge an EV at work), cutting some portion of the gas burning miles is still a major breakthrough. Running few power plants is more efficient than running millions of small engines to generate the same amount of energy. They physics of scale makes ICE cars look insanely wasteful. Electric cars aren't tied to any single fuel source--energy can come from coal, solar, wind, nuclear, etc. This makes EVs a great way to transition from a fossil fuel economy to any future power source. An all-electric car with lithium ion batteries and a several hundred mile range (at working class prices) would blow my mind. But I'm not going to complain if I can't have one yet. Plug-in hybrids may not be ideal, but they're a step in the right direction.

Re:why wasn't the original plug in? (3, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019493)

The break even on the already-more-expensive-than-a-Corolla Prius is somewhere in the 85,000 mile range. Add a thousand dollars more hardware and it goes over 100,000. People just don't like the environment that much.

Re:why wasn't the original plug in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019513)

Plug-in hybrids may not be ideal, but they're a step in the right direction.

Of course the next step will be figuring out where to plug it in.

Many people who live in apartments in major cities in the US or worldwide don't have luxury of living in houses with garages. Certainly in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and for a large part LA a considerable percentage of the population rely on street parking, and I would think this would be the norm in much of Europe. As I would think these folks are exactly who would be first to consider an electric car, this is a problem that needs to be worked out.

I know I can't run an extension cord from my apartment to my car parked halfway down the block..

nicad? (1)

NynexNinja (379583) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019259)

The article says that they are using older style nicad batteries instead of standard lithium ion batteries... all tests of the plugin hybrid vehicles have been using the standard lithium ion batteries. why would they go with the older style batteries which are technically inferior to the current batteries?

Re:nicad? (2, Interesting)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019423)

Li-Ion batteries are still very expensive, so a Li-Ion Prius would cost at least $10-15K more.

Nimh batteries would be a more cost effective option, and Toyota used them in it's all electric Rav4. Sadly, Chevron now owns the patents and won't let the technology back on the market -- http://www.ev1.org/chevron.htm [ev1.org]

Re:nicad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20019539)

This is why we need a new windfall profits tax. We need to punish the oil companies for this kind of behavior.

Crusing Range (1)

Vskye (9079) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019313)

"It's difficult to say when plug-in hybrids could be commercialized, since it would depend largely on advances in battery technology," said Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, in charge of Toyota's powertrain technology, told a news conference.

That's it in a nutshell. Maximum range will have to increase for me. How about if you go out at night, and then consider waiting at stop lights, etc?

Batteries pose their own environmental problems... (1)

rdean400 (322321) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019353)

Not as much as gasoline, but we need to keep pushing the envelope forward.

It isn't enough to get rid of the gasoline engine. Batteries that have reached their EOL are a disposal problem.

Sweet! A COAL powered Toyota! (1)

Tog Klim (909717) | more than 7 years ago | (#20019567)

Considering about 50% of US power comes from burning coal, I don't see how this is all that great...
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