There’s no doubt that internal combustion vehicles will eventually be obsolete. We’ve already seen the advancements with locomotives; from steam locomotives, to diesel locomotives, to electric and magnetic monorails. Cars will be no different; though it’s highly unlikely they will run on magnets or rails. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have actually existed since 1901, when Ferdinand Porsche developed the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid, the first ever gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle. HEVs didn’t become widely available until 1997 when Japan released the Toyota Prius. Similarly, all-electric vehicles have existed since the late 19th Century, but advances in internal combustion made it cheaper to mass produce gasoline powered vehicles. The 1970s and 80s saw a brief renewed interest in electric vehicles, but it didn’t catch on until the mid 2000s with highway capable cars such as the Tesla Roadster and Nissan Leaf.
Issues facing HEVs and EVs
Which vehicles really have the edge? Hybrid electric vehicles still have to rely on an internal combustion engine, but they can store and make use of some of the energy that would otherwise be lost when braking. No matter how well integrated the electric and gasoline powertrains are, this will never be the most efficient option. Conversely, an all-electric vehicle requires a battery with a great enough capacity to equal that of a liquid fuel tank. These batteries are large, heavy, and prohibitively expensive. In addition, these batteries are recharged through stations either at your home or in a city that may be run by non-renewable resources such as burning coal. Between that and the energy lost transmitting all that electricity to your vehicle, is it really making efficient use of the energy you save?
It is possible to generate your own electricity through solar or wind power right at your home and use that to recharge your vehicle, but this adds considerable cost to an already expensive vehicle. Not to mention there are not very many recharging stations throughout the country, making your range of travel very limited and often out of the way. An HEV that relied on a hydrogen fuel cell rather than gasoline would exponentially increase its range, but the efficiency issue remains in that it takes a considerable amount of energy to compress the gas enough to be inserted into a vehicle, let alone gas stations do not carry hydrogen.
So, which vehicle is better? Hybrids tend to be more cost effective, but it’s likely the world will eventually shift to an efficient all-electric vehicle once recharge stations are more widespread and the energy can be readily acquired through renewable resources like solar, wind, or hydroelectricity.
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