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Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 007
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~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0007 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [firstname.lastname@example.org]
In This Issue:
— Hybrid Cars Almost Missing from Presidential Debate
You might hear the presidential candidates mention hybrid cars in passing, but is the issue getting fair play in the media? And what’s at stake?
– Hybrid Regenerative Braking Explained
The ability for hybrid cars to reclaim energy from slowing down and stopping—and put it to good use—is one way that hybrid cars stand apart from conventional vehicles. But how does it really work?
– Friendly Rivalry Between Prius and Civic Hybrid Owners
Will owners of different hybrid cars continue to claim bragging rights as the "best hybrid?"
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Summer’s over and school is starting. I suppose now is the time to put our brains to the test to tackle the intellectually challenging topics of presidential politics and hybrid vehicle engineering. So, without delay, here’s issue number seven of the hybrid cars newsletter.
The vast majority of hybrid car drivers draw some kind of a line between their car choice and the larger environmental and political implications of their decision. As the presidential campaign—with all its spinning, slinging, posturing and pontificating—reaches a feverish pitch, is it possible to understand the candidates’ position on hybrid cars and energy policy?
Well, we certainly won’t be seeing Bush and Kerry debate the finer points of regenerative braking or argue about the relative benefits of a full or mild hybrid drivetrain. Instead, the issue of supporting hybrid cars and energy efficiency will be used as a wedge into the most pressing campaign issues: jobs, the economy, terrorism and the Iraq war. For example, the almost identical Bush and Kerry sound bites on energy policy cast the issue in terms of jobs.
Bush: "To make sure jobs are here, we need a national energy policy that makes us less dependent on foreign sources of energy."
Kerry: "That’s what I want to talk about today – how we can make our country stronger and safer by working together to build an energy-independent America…We can control our own destiny; we can create the jobs of tomorrow.”
Bush and Kerry on Incentives, CAFE, and Global Warming
"Kerry has not articulated a position on energy policy that is radically different from President Bush,” said Alan Goldstein, a 52-year-old photographer and supporter of conservation and alternative energy sources, in a recent Boston Globe article. In the August 28 story entitled “Soaring Oil Prices Largely Falling Flat as a Campaign Issue” by Charlie Savage, he writes, “even as consumers have been hammered at the pump, the issue has not made a dent in polls. While about 50 percent of Americans now say their family is feeling the pinch from higher gas prices, few seem to direct that anger at the presidential campaign.” Other polls indicate that the voters care deeply about environmental issues. Regardless, the voter and the media have failed to place sufficient importance on the candidates’ positions regarding energy and fuel-efficient cars:
Kerry promises to give $10 billion of tax incentives to the auto industry to help convert its plants to build more fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrids, along with as much as U.S. $5,000 in tax incentives for hybrid buyers. Meanwhile, Bush has called for $4.1 billion in tax incentives through 2009 to promote the use of hybrid cars and solar powered home heating. (I’ve not been able to find out exactly how much Bush would offer consumers.)
Many insiders feel that raising CAFE is the best way to promote efficient vehicles, such as hybrid cars. A Kerry bill, co-sponsored with John McCain, raises CAFE to 35 or 36 mpg. This increase amounts to a 50% increase in fuel economy, which eventually becomes a 33% reduction in consumption. That’s good for a few million barrels a day by 2025. By contrast, Bush is proposing a paltry 1.5 mpg increase for light trucks only.
It should be noted that Kerry is showing signs of backing off his proposal to increase CAFE standards, most likely in order to court auto workers.
On global warming, Kerry has called it “the biggest threat since the Cold War,” while top Bush environmental officials have called it “a hoax.”
Energy Efficiency and the Iraq War
Differing proposals about global warming and CAFE standards may not have registered with the public, but the Iraq war certainly has. "John Kerry fired the first campaign attack on U.S. dependence on Saudi Arabian oil – and it was clearly a hit with the public,” explained Pollster Dr. Frank Luntz. “The Bush campaign risks falling behind if they appear silent on this very emotional issue. The political party that incorporates ‘energy self-sufficiency’ into its energy plan may seize an electoral advantage in this polarized election year.”
Luntz and the Hudson Institute conducted telephone interviews with 800 likely voters between August 13-15, 2004. The Hudson Institute is described on disinfopedia.org as a “hard-right activist think tank that…campaigns heavily on environmental issues—pro-GM, anti-organic.”
The key findings of the survey:
- By an almost 3 to 1 margin, Americans prioritize "reducing our reliance on foreign oil" over "cheaper prices for oil and gas."
- 91% of Americans agreed (74% strongly agree) "when it comes to energy, we need an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation – not the Saudi royal family."
- 83% of Americans agreed "reducing our dependence on foreign oil must be a top priority for the next administration."
The study also identifies that a majority of Americans see a link between oil money and al-Qaeda, and that they identify “Saudi Arabia as the greatest backer of terror in the world.” So, if any mention of hybrid cars is quickly couched into a debate about oil dependency, which then quickly morphs into an issue of fighting terrorism, what do the candidates plan to do about it?
Consumption, Production and Drilling
For Kerry, it’s conservation. For Bush, it’s increasing production. According to the Hudson Institute study, voters in almost identical numbers support both sides. 59% of respondents said that they would have a more favorable opinion of Bush if his energy plan included "tax incentives to car manufacturers who build hybrid vehicles in the U.S.” However, nearly as many people, 57%, said that the U.S. government should allow energy companies to explore for oil in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Kerry opposes drilling in ANWR and Bush supports it. Voters can clearly see a difference between the two on this issue. Kerry has long been a vocal opponent of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The current Republican energy bill pushed by Bush, meanwhile, would finance a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the continental United States, provide billions in tax credits to encourage oil and gas exploration, and would build a nuclear power plant in Idaho.
In the Boston Globe article, Charli Coon, senior policy analyst for energy issues at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the left’s portrait of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney as retrograde oilmen is "unfair and biased." She says that it will take many years for the current fleet of cars to be replaced, so sooner or later the country will have to drill in places that are now off limits. "Someone has to be pragmatic about this and make some tough decisions," she said.
The same debate has played itself out on the talk shows, like CNN’s show, the Money Gang:
JEN ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): One flash point in the energy debate, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. Bush has been pushing for the expansion and believes the increased supply would send prices lower.
MIKE CATANZARO, BUSH DEPUTY POLICY DIRECTOR: ANWR right now could provide us with up to a million barrels of oil a day. In a market that we`re seeing right now is so tightly constrained at the margins, that`s going to be very significant.
ROGERS: Senator Kerry`s team opposes drilling in the environmentally rich region.
ROGER ALTMAN, SR. ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO SEN. KERRY: There just isn`t enough oil there to make a dent in our energy consumption to make it worth disturbing that special wildlife refuge.
Hybrid Cars as Life and Death Matter
In this kind of television tit-for-tat about oil drilling, Kerry’s efforts to raise fuel economy standards (and his message) get weakened if not entirely lost. (Any backing off by Kerry on CAFÉ would make matters worse.) The lines between the two have blurred enough to warrant criticism for both men for their lack of vision or courage. The August 9 “Daily Analysis” from the World Markets Research Centre says, “Neither Kerry nor Bush are really talking about energy independence, because they realize it is something that is simply not achievable without the implementation of draconian measures, or at least higher taxes, as has been the case in Europe.” The piece blames both politicians for not yet attempting to compel consumers to abandon their SUVS for hybrid cars by increasing gas taxes. It describes Bush’s plans for increasing supply and Kerry’s plans for reducing demand as “equally inconsequential.”
Dr. Gal Luft, of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, takes it a step further. In his essay “What the 9/11 Commission Missed,” he connects America’s insatiable thirst for oil (“one out of every four barrels of oil is consumed in the U.S.”), the well-documented flow of cash from the gas pumps to terrorist organizations, and the folly of spending billions of dollars to fight the same terrorists that we are supporting by being gas gluttons. Luft challenge both men, the media, and the voter to view energy efficiency (and hybrid cars if you will) as a life or death situation:
"If the same type of leadership required to overhaul America’s defense and intelligence bodies were to be applied to the sphere of energy policy the U.S. would finally be able to break the yoke of its energy dependence and hence stop fueling the terror machine. A bold yet balanced energy policy based on existing technologies can reduce the role of oil in our energy basket by commercializing next generation fuels and vehicles. Until such policy is implemented the price we pay for driving Hummers at home will always be more Humvees in the Persian Gulf."
Hybrid Regenerative Braking Explained
by Dave Reuter
Inertia, Force and Mass
Everything has inertia; if it has a mass, it has inertia. A hybrid reclaims energy through the fundamentals of physics. Do you remember any high school or college physics?
You apply a force to move an object, and you do the same to stop it. The equation for this is:
“F” being the force, “m” being the mass and
“a” being the acceleration
The faster you want an object to accelerate, the more force you have to apply.
Let’s just look at the electric motor for now. Energy from the battery (Watts) is applied to the coil windings in the motor. These windings then produce a magnetic force on the rotor of the motor, which produces torque on the output shaft. This torque is then applied to the wheels of the car via a coupling of gears and shafts. When the wheel turns, it applies a force to the ground, which due to friction between the wheel and the ground causes the vehicle to move along the surface. This is like if you were in a boat at a dock, and you grabbed the dock and pushed with your arm. The force you are generating is moving the boat relative to the location of the dock. The more force you apply, the fast you get the boat to move.
Friction in Hybrids
There is friction everywhere in the hybrid system. There is electrical friction between the atoms and electrons moving in the wires between the battery and the motor and through the motor itself. There is magnetic friction in the metal laminations that make up the magnetic circuit of the motor, as well as in the magnets again on the atomic level. Then, there is mechanical friction between every moving part, such as the bearings, seals, gears, chains and so on. The by-product of friction is heat. Take your hands rub them together and your palms get warm. The faster you do it, the faster they heat up. Also, the harder they are pressed together, the faster they will heat. Friction is energy lost to heat. When all of these losses are added up, that is what determines the efficiency of the vehicle.
Frictional Losses in Conventional Cars
A standard car generates torque to move the wheels to drive the vehicle down the road. During this time, it is generating friction and losses. When you apply standard brakes, it is just another friction device that has specially designed material to handle the heat from friction, which is applied to the drums and rotors that stop the wheel from turning. The friction between the wheel and the ground stops the vehicle. This standard vehicle has frictional losses to move the vehicle—and uses the fundamental behind frictional losses to stop the vehicle. So it’s a lose-lose situation.
Reclaiming Energy in a Hybrid
On a hybrid that has regenerative brakes, you can reclaim some of this energy that would normally be lost due to braking. Using the vehicles inertia is the key. What is inertia? It is basically what makes something difficult to start moving and what makes something hard to stop moving. Let’s review the boat at the dock. If you begin to push, you have to accelerate the mass of the boat and you. The heavier the boat, the more force it takes to get the boat to move. Also you notice that the heavier the boat, the longer you have to apply this force to get the boat to move. The same thing happens when you try to stop the boat. Once the boat is moving you find it takes similar amount of force to stop the boat and also it takes about the same amount of time to make it stop.
This is all about inertia—the amount of energy that is required to change the direction and speed of the boat.
Transferring Torque Back to the Motor
This inertia is the fundamental property of physics that is used to reclaim energy from the vehicle. Instead of using 100% of the foundation brakes of the vehicle, which are the friction brakes, we now let the linkages back to the motor such as the drive shafts, chains, and gears transfer the torque from the wheels back into the motor shaft. One of the unique things about most electric motors is that electrical energy can be transferred into mechanical energy and also mechanical energy can be transferred back into electrical energy. In both cases, this can be done very efficiently.
Thus, through the technology of the motor and motor controller, the force at the wheels becomes torque on the electric motor shaft. The magnets on the shaft of the motor (called the rotor—the moving part of the motor) move past the electric coils on the stator (the stationary part of the motor) passing the magnetic fields of the magnets through the coils producing electricity. This electricity becomes electrical energy, which is pumped back to the battery. This, in turn, charges the hybrid battery pack. This is where the comment “regeneration” or “reclaiming energy” comes from.
That is the basics of how regeneration works. How much energy you can reclaim depends on a lot of factors. There are different regeneration theories and designs, which fall into two groups: one being called parallel regen and the other called series regen, which are different from the parallel and series hybrids. These regen groups strictly are design topologies for braking systems. It also matters how many wheels you are using to reclaim energy. Most vehicles to date are front wheel drive so you can only reclaim energy from the front wheels. The back wheels still waste energy to standard friction brakes unless they are somehow connected back to the electric motor. The other factor is battery state of charge and how hard can you drive that energy back into the battery.
With the upcoming release of so many hybrid car choices, we might be in the final months of the sibling rivalry between the Prius and the Civic Hybrid. Prius owners scoff at the Civic being only a “mild” hybrid, and Civic owner call the Prius ugly. Have consumers made a decision on which one is really “better?” In 2003, the Honda Civic Hybrid barely edged out the Toyota Prius in total nationwide vehicle registrations. Civic Hybrid registrants numbered 21,750, while the Prius reached 20,387. The Honda Insight was a distant third with only 1,298 registrations.
With the 2004 Toyota Prius taking one award after the next, and waiting lists for as long as the eye can see, it has certainly taken the lead spot in new hybrid sales for 2004. However, for many hybrid shoppers just beginning their research, it’s not such a no-brainer.
In a May 2004 survey conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 64% of respondents could provide the name of a single hybrid vehicle. (This is up from 45% from the year 2000.) When asked to provide the name of a hybrid car, only 13% named the Prius, while 10% generically gave “Toyota” as the answer. 15% generically said “Honda,” perhaps suggesting that Honda is the brand more closely identified with hybrids. With the release of the Accord Hybrid later this year, Honda will have three hybrids on the market.
Any questioning of the Prius’s hegemony in the hybrid market will come as surprise to those following the press about hybrid cars. The Prius continues to dominate the headlines. In fact, the new issue of Newsweek International practically gushes with enthusiasm poured specifically over the Prius:
"Toyota’s new hybrid may just be the biggest thing in cars since the combustion engine."
"The Prius is the first significant departure from the combustion engine to make any major inroads in the auto industry since Henry Ford invented the Model T in 1908."
At least one auto magazine has come to the defense of the Civic Hybrid. In its September 2004 issue, Car and Driver held a “Frugalympics,” pitting the Prius, the Honda Civic Hybrid, the diesel Volkswagen Jetta GLS TDI, and the Toyota Echo in a fuel parsimony contest. While the Prius did rank first in miles to the gallon, the Civic took overall first place. Writer Patrick Bedard describes all hybrids as “software cars,” which can decide on their own when to start and stop the engine—and praised the Prius for just how smart its system is, But he took off points on the Prius for having a “Microsoftian” personality and a “Star-Trekky” look. He even calls the Prius “as much a promise as it is a car.”
On the other hand, Bedard uses the words “regular” and “fun” to describe the Civic. The Civic’s first place ranking is finally contrasted to the Prius when Bedard says, “If you think frugality entails suffering, this Civic hybrid is proof to the contrary.”
“I don’t think there’s any rivalry [between Prius and Civic Hybrid drivers],” said Sam Williams, a long-time moderator of the Toyota Prius Yahoo Group. I interviewed Sam for the book “An Insiders Look at Hybrid Cars.” Sam described how the Prius and the Honda Insight owners used to compare notes when they came out within months of each other. “There were a number of Honda Insight drivers who were members of the group because they were really hybrid fans, as much as they were Insight or Prius fans. Inevitably, somebody would say something in favor of one over the other. And somebody would take offense at that. Somebody would say c’mon, we’re all hybrid fans here.”
A year from now, we may have over ten different hybrid models. As the technology continues to evolve and improve, one group of engineers and car owners will continually try to claim bragging rights as the “best” hybrid or the “only real” hybrid. This friendly competition, as long as it leads to increased fuel economy and a reduced environmental footprint, is good. I look forward to the day when the fuel cell car drivers and the plug-in hybrid folks put each other down.
That does it for our "back to school" issue. If you like this kind of detailed analysis, then check out the eBook, "An Insiders Look at Hybrid Cars." Also, please forward this newsletter to fellow hybrid drivers, and anybody you know that might be considering a hybrid. Thanks for your interest.
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