Ask the Best and Brightest: What's Up With Hybrids, Anyway?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

MB Chris posits the following:

A straight EV at this point isn’t very useful to many people because of the current technology’s limitations. And, for me, hybrids are far too expensive and complicated to consider buying. I’m an ASE certified mechanic (25 years) and work in automotive manufacturing (nobody very important). The big thing that I can’t figure out about hybrids is why have a conventional drivetrain at all? Why not have the car operate similar to a diesel electric locomotive? Drive a large alternator with a combustion engine designed to run most efficiently at [a certain] RPM. Have no idle at all. It’s either on driving the alternator or not running. NVH engineering would only be needed to cope with that one RPM and startup/stop. Put an electric motor to drive each rear wheel. Mount them inboard so unsprung weight will not be increased. Even 4 electric motors or one on each axle if you want AWD. No transmission, driveshaft or differential is needed. That would come close to offsetting the weight of the battery pack.

IC engines are controlled by wire so why not just control the output of electric motors? Seems to me that an engine designed to run most efficiently at one RPM would be far more fuel efficient than the current crop of hybrids. Some redundancy is automatically built in. If one electric motor quits you can still move with the remaining motor to a place of repair. If your IC engine quits you can still move a small distance to a repair center or safe place (depending on the battery state of charge). Same with the alternator failure. Making a system like this and able to be a plug in would be even better. This type system would work for daily commute as well as long trips. Finally, this system should be less expensive without the transmission and differential. Those parts would offset part of the cost of the battery pack. What do you think?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • MBChris MBChris on Sep 30, 2009

    http://wardsauto.com/ar/gm_fuel_cell_090924/ Well this is the best news I've seen so far on the quest toward fuel cells. Porschespeed, if the current crop of hybrids is the cheapest and the best they can come up with so far, I'll pass. Takes too long to pay back the upfront costs of the hybrid system in fuel savings. Consider me politically incorrect in that I'm interested in the cheapest mode of transporation and not the greenest.

  • PeteMoran PeteMoran on Oct 01, 2009

    @ MBChris, Current hybrids are really nothing more than expensive experiments trying to get a market going in the direction of electric vehicles. Consider me politically incorrect in that I’m interested in the cheapest mode of transporation and not the greenest. These two statements tell me that you asked a question and then were only satisfied with an answer that fit your preconceptions. Well done.

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