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A Brief History of the Hybrid Vehicle

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Brief History of Hybrid Vehicle Development

First built in the early 1900s by inventors tinkering with combinations of the electric motor and the gasoline engine, hybrid vehicles were dropped when gasoline-fueled vehicles became more reliable and easier to start, and gasoline fuel more readily available. Research and development of hybrid vehicles was revived by concern about oil dependency in the1970s and about air pollution in the late 1980s.

A number of hybrid vehicles have been built and tested since 1980. Some of these vehicles have impressed analysts with their performance and low levels of exhaust and petroleum consumption. Interest in hybrid vehicles jumped in late 1993 with the announcement of funding for two major collaborations. The US Department of Energy signed a five-year, $138 million development agreement with General Motors and a $122 million agreement with Ford to design and build preproduction hybrid prototypes that could be marketed in less than 10 years.[1]

All these were done because hybrid electric vehicles are expected to be the future of vehicles worldwide.


One considers a vehicle to be a hybrid when it combines two or more sources of power. For example, a mo-ped (a motorized pedal bike) is a hybrid because it combines the power of a gasoline engine with the pedal power of its rider.

Similarly, the gasoline-electric hybrid car is a combination of both an electric car and a gasoline-powered one. That is, it makes use of both electricity and gasoline to provide the energy to turn the wheels of the car.

Figure 1 shows a gas-powered car.


Components Of A Gasoline Powered Car

The 4-cylinder engine converts gasoline into motion so that the car can move. The easiest way it does this is to burn the gasoline inside the engine. Therefore is acts as an internal combustion engine i.e. combustion takes place internally. Gasoline powered car engines typically have over 100 horsepower and operate at speeds up to 8000 RPM.

The fuel tank stores and supplies gasoline to the engine. It can typically store enough fuel to provide the engine with energy capable of moving the car through a distance of 300 miles or more.

Figure 2 below shows an electric car, which has a set of batteries that provides electricity to an electric motor. The motor turns a transmission, and the transmission turns the wheels.


Components Of An Electric Car

The batteries store and provide energy to the electric motor in an electric car just as the fuel tank does for the engine in a gasoline powered car. It usually gives the car a range of 50 - 100 miles which is much less than that typically provided by a fuel tank (300 miles).

The electric motor is the device that provides motion in an electric car. It converts the energy it receives from the batteries into motion which is used to turn a transmission which then in turn rotates the wheels. It is able to spin up to 15000 RPM and has up to 100 kW of power. Since this motion is connected to the transmission, the transmission also spins the wheel up to this rate. Thus, electric cars would tend to move faster than gasoline powered cars.

Components Common To Both The Electric Car And The Gasoline Powered Car

The transmission is the device that does the actual turning of the wheel in both cars.

There are several ways of combining the two sources of power found in a hybrid car.

The Parallel Hybrid Car: This has a fuel tank which supplies gasoline to the engine. In addition, it has a set of batteries that supplies power to an electric motor. Both the engine and the engine motor can turn the transmission at the same time and the transmission then turns the wheels.

Figure 3 shows a typical parallel hybrid. The fuel tank and gas engine connect to the transmission. The batteries and electric motor also connect to the transmission independently. As a result, in a parallel hybrid, both the electric motor and the gas engine can provide propulsion power.

The Series Hybrid Car: The gasoline engine in this car turns a generator and the generator can either charge the batteries or power an electric motor that drives the transmission. Thus the gasoline engine never directly powers the vehicle.

All of the components form a line that eventually connects with the transmission.


Hybrid Components

Gasoline engine - The hybrid car has a gasoline engine much like the one you will find on most cars. However, the engine on a hybrid is smaller and uses advanced technologies to reduce emissions and increase efficiency. The engine turns the generator. It is not able to power the car directly.

Fuel tank - The fuel tank in a hybrid is the energy storage device for the gasoline engine. Gasoline has a much higher energy density than batteries do. For example, it takes about 1,000 pounds of batteries to store as much energy as 1 gallon (7 pounds) of gasoline.




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