Are Plug-In Hybrids the Answer to The Growing Environmental Problems?

Over the next couple of days, I will be writing about the different types of vehicles that people believe could ultimately help slow or reverse global warming.  I’d like to go over the pros and cons of each of the vehicles and talk about how they might be able to be a little more environmentally friendly than our current vehicles. 

Just as a side note before I get too much into this, I believe global warming is a very real phenomenon and that it has been caused solely by human beings.  Whether or not you agree with me isn’t of any significance, but I just felt compelled to give you a heads up that there will probably be some sort of slant in my writing.

Now that we’re past that, today I would like to talk about plug-in hybrid vehicles.  Essentially, plug-in hybrids combine the qualities of a normal hybrid car with many of the qualities of an electric car.  While plug-in hybrids still use gasoline, they are able to average double or triple the gas mileage of regular hybrids thanks to the additional battery capacity – which can be recharged by simply plugging the car into an electric socket.

For short trips or trips that don’t require fast acceleration or high speeds – like a trip to the grocery store – a fully charged plug-in hybrid will use only its batteries.  For longer trips, or trips that require higher speeds, the plug-in hybrid will still use batteries, but the regular engine will do a bulk of the work.

So, here’s a list of pros and cons that I pulled together from a couple of different resources:

Pros:

  • The technology is already available.
  • The infrastructure (i.e. gas stations) is already available.
  • It can be driven long distances thanks to the fact it’s still powered by gas.  One of the common complaints surrounding the electric car is the “limited” distance it can go between charges.
  • The plug-in hybrid can average well over 100 miles per gallon.
  • They’re quieter than regular cars, and they’re easier and cheaper to maintain.
  • Seems to be the next logical evolution for gas friendly vehicles.

Cons:

  • It still burns fuel, so it’s not a zero emissions vehicle.
  • The energy to charge the batteries has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is probably from a power plant that’s burning fossil fuels (i.e. polluting).
  • The batteries for plug-in hybrids require nickel, which is very environmentally unfriendly to mine from the earth.

Personally, I am very intregued by the plug-in hybrid and I think if you look at the mainstream acceptance of regular hybrids, I don’t think it takes a very big leap of faith to think that plug-in hybrids can become a popular, environmentally friendly vehicle.

For additional information regarding plug-in hybrids, check out CalCars.org and Wikipedia.

Comments

  1. kevin frieden says

    Li-ion metalized phosphate batteries have about 75% the storage capacity of common LI-ION batteries. LiFePO4 batteries, similar in weight to Li-ion batteries, are already on the market and there seems to be little in the way to encumber mass production. Or….If we wait awhile…..
    …SOFC (solid oxide fuel cells) will get cooler and we can do away with the ICE altogether. SOFCs use common petrol/alcohol based or gaseous fuels to create electricity. Though, SOFCs convert fuel to electricity at about 50% efficiency (twice that of an ICE) they operate in the 1000s degrees Fahrenheit. Also, SOFCs, are far less poluting than the greenest ICE.

  2. Brian Carr says

    Kevin – thanks for the comment. I agree that as this technology continues to hit the mainstream and more money is pumped into battery technology that we’re going to find more efficient ways to increase their lives and capacities.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Those that enjoyed our Electric Car Revisited, A Vision for a Better Future, and Solar Energy – Free Deliveries Daily stories might want to keep an eye on the Daily Fuel Economy Tip blog over the next few days, as they’re going to look at the pros and cons of various transport-of-the-future type scenarios. […]

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