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Hybrid Vehicles are Cool

2012 Concept NS4 Toyota Plug-in Hybrid via Autoblog Green

Hybrid vehicles are increasingly popular. Lets take a look at some of these vehicles, how they came into existence and at some upcoming hybrids that are really interesting. 

Toyota is the market leader of hybrid vehicles!

A Brief History

Japanese automakers like Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Subaru were excluded from participating in the Partnership For Next Generation Vehicles (PNGV) program that the US government funded with over $2b in taxpayer supported research grants and tax exemptions to the the big 4 US automakers. The goal of the PNGV program was to help manufacturers develop, produce and market normally priced competitive passenger sedans that achieve 80miles per gallon average by 2003. Inspired by their exclusion from this program, Japanese car makers began massive internal investments into advanced drive-train technologies. Toyota decided to go with developing Hybrid drive-trains because the batteries in the mid to late 1990's were not feasible to use in fully electric vehicles that could compete in price with conventional gas powered vehicles.

The first generation Toyota Prius 1997 Japan
Enter the Prius I 
In December of 1997 the first generation Toyota Prius went on sale in Japan. In 2001 a slightly improved iteration went on sale in the US. 2004 marked the international launch of the second generation Toyota Prius. 2010 market the international launch of the third generation Toyota Prius.

A 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid in Europe (testing in 2011)
Plug-In Prius
In the summer of this year (2012), a Plug-In Lithium Hybrid version of the 3rd generation Toyota Prius will go on sale in the US ($32,000).  This new version has a much larger battery that can be charged by plugging the Prius into a standard wall power socket with an extension cord. The plug-in gives the new Prius approximately 10miles of all electric range, after which is resumes normal ~50ish MPG hybrid operation mode. Toyota has already launched a larger version of the Prius called the Prius V. Acompact version of the Prius called the Prius C has also recently launched.

The 2012 Fully Electric Tesla Model S Luxury Sedan: $57-$77K 
Plug-in Future 
Battery electric, plug-in hybrid, full hybrid and mild hybrid vehicles are all being developed simultaneously. These different platforms have stratified capital cost to fuel economy ratios, where the increasingly electric dominate drive-train technology costs more upfront in exchange for returning better overall fuel economy and long terms cost savings. The Fully-electric Nissan Leaf for example costs about $35,000 and returns approximately 99MPG equivalent, but has a limited real would range of between 60 and 100 miles per charge. The Chevy Volt, a plug-in lithium hybrid costs about $42,000 and gives about 35miles of all electric range after which it goes into hybrid mode returning ~35MPG. The Prius hybrid costs about $25,000 and can go about 1 mile in all electric mode before returning to 44-54MPG hybrid mode. A mild hybrid like the 2012 Buick LaCrosse returns slightly above 30MPGs from a large sedan that would get close to 20MPG's without the hybrid technology.

A Battery Research Laboratory at General Motors 
Better Electric Technology  Forthcoming
The weakest link in all electrified vehicles is the battery. Chemical batteries suffer from a range of problems. High cost being the most challenging problem to overcome lately (there are solutions to this problem however: see Charging time is another weakness that even state of the art electric vehicles suffer from. When you can refuel a gas powered inefficient SUV in under 10 minutes, recharging even a compact battery electric vehicle on the fastest level 3 DC chargers takes over 30 minutes because the batteries cannot absorb power quickly the way that a gas tank can accept liquid fuels. The good news is that this situation is rapidly changing. With innovative material science, chemistry and improved production technology, battery manufacturers are steadily improving the performances of these vehicle class batteries at about 9% per year whilst the price of these batteries steadily declines at a similar rate. 

Acura NSX Plug-in Hybrid Concept
Honda Too
Honda/ Acura are also heavily invested in hybrid technology. The Honda Insight is currently the most affordable hybrid. The Honda CRZ is the first reasonably price and practical hybrid sporty car with a 6sp manual transmission. The soon (2013) to re-launch Honda Accord hybrid will come back with a totally new Plug-in Lithium hybrid system. Acura has shown off their Plug in Hybrid NSX concept vehicle. 

The Porsche 918 Spyder :  Limited Production for $845,000 each 
Other Automakers too
Every major automaker is developing hybrid vehicles. The advantage of the hybrids are clear. Long term fuel cost savings that pay for the hybrid premium within the first 100K miles and dramatically cleaner tail pipe emissions that result in less avoidable smog driven sickness and suffering. To comply with increasingly stringent fuel economy and emissions standards, hybrid drive-trains offer automakers a solution that is increasingly cost effective as the technology proliferates, scales and improves. Innovations made in battery technology for fully electric vehicles will bring the cost of the much smaller batteries used in hybrids down, making hybrids more profitable for automakers and more affordable to consumers. 

A 2012 Fisker Karma ~ $100,000 
More Good Stuff On the Way
That long lasting era of ~20 MPG blah is slowly drawing to a close as more technology makes its way into vehicles. Even vehicles without hybrid technology are becoming more fuel efficient. Direct Inject, Turbo-Charging/Intercooling/Displacement Reduction, 6-7-8-9spd transmissions, continuously variable transmissions, improved tire chemistry, better aerodynamics, integrated alternator/ starter, laser ignition/ homogeneous charge compression: there is a lot of technology being developed to improve the performance, fuel economy and emissions profile of future gas and diesel vehicles. These improved engines and vehicle designs will also make vehicle with hybrid technology perform better as well. Innovations have this way of overlapping that inspires and improves not one but many aspects of a sector in which the innovation is made. Many times innovations made in one sector (aerospace) bleed over and trickle down into other sectors (consumer electronics, vehicles). Despite the global economic slowdown a lot of interesting things are on their way into the free markets, where competition drives innovation forward! 


  1. Consumers in the 19-to-31-year-old age range – also known as Generation Y – favor hybrid-electric vehicles over gas-powered cars and many are willing to pay an extra $3,000 for 10 more miles per gallon of fuel economy.

    Almost 59 percent of Generation Y consumers chose hybrids as their vehicle powertrain of choice, compared to 37 percent for gasoline and just two percent for battery-electric vehicles, Deloitte said, citing a Fall 2011 survey of more 1,500 Americans and 550 people overseas. About half of those polled said they'd pay $300 per every mile per gallon of fuel-economy improvement. Deloitte estimates that the average hybrid costs about $350 per additional mile per gallon of fuel economy compared to a similar gas-powered vehicle.

    "Gen Y is familiar and comfortable with hybrid technology, but not so much with battery-only technology," said Craig Giffi, vice chairman and automotive practice leader at Deloitte LLP, in a statement.

    The survey spells good news for automaker's who've invested in hybrid technology, as Generation Y totals about 80 million people in America and will account for 40 percent of the vehicles sold in the U.S. during the next decade. Hybrids account for about 2.5 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. today, though that number may rise this year, as 2011 sales of the Toyota Prius and some of Honda's hybrid models were hampered by supply issues stemming from the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last March.
    News Source: Deloitte LLP

    1. The advantage of the hybrids are clear. Long term fuel cost savings that pay for the hybrid premium within the first 100K miles and dramatically cleaner tail pipe emissions that result in less avoidable smog driven sickness and suffering. hybrid vehicles

  2. Global hybrid and plug-in truck sales will almost double this year as more companies and public entities turn to advanced powertrains to cut fuel costs, green-technology research firm Pike Research said.

    In 2012, hybrid and electric-drive truck sales around the world will reach about 19,000 vehicles and will increase by more than 45 percent for each of the next five years until it hits more than 100,000 vehicles by the end of 2017, Pike Research said.

    The increase reflects a combination of a broader range of electric-drive models for utility vehicles and a rebound in the retail industry, which will free up cash for companies to pay more for alt-fuel vehicles, according to Pike Research senior analyst Dave Hurst. Industry analysts have predicted rapid growth for electric-drive trucks because of the potentially substantial fuel-cost savings relative to conventional diesel trucks, which usually get well below 10 miles per gallon.

    AT&T, Coca-Cola, FedEx and UPS are among companies that in recent years have stepped up efforts to buy hybrid or plug-in trucks in order to cut both fuel use and greenhouse-gas emissions from their fleets.
    News Source: Pike Research

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