I ‘m a Fool For Hybrid Fuel and the Hybrid Car

Eleanor Hanson

The future of the hybrid battery car is so bright you have to wear shades. Some would say the interest in the plug in hybrid is down right electrifying.

The hybrid battery car got a huge boost when President Bush featured it in a speech on his energy policy. It’s part of the plan to replace over three-quarters of Mideast oil imports by the year 2025.

The location the President chose to give the speech is also significant. He spoke at Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee auto parts company that is making lithium-ion battery cells for the next generation of the hybrid battery car.

The race for hybrid technologies continues as the U.S. Energy Department pushes for hydrogen fuel cells to replace gasoline in cars. The department has targeted the year 2024 as a time when those fuel cells will be widely used in hybrid vehicles of all kinds.

There are really two forces driving the development of hybrid technologies. Number one is the uncertain Mideast sources of fossil fuels. The other is the cost per barrel of oil. As the cost of oil increases the race for information on hybrid cars becomes even more important.

Because hydrogen fuel is very expensive to transport some predict that the hybrid battery and ethanol technologies will precede any hybrid fuel based on hydrogen.

Government support means that plug in hybrid cars are on the horizon. These vehicles would get a battery charge from an ordinary electric outlet. Lithium-ion batteries will make this possible. These batteries will be large versions of the lithium-ion battery you use in your cell phone. You could be driving a plug-in hybrid by the year 2010.

The energy density of lithium-ion is typically twice that of the standard nickel-cadmium battery. There is even a growing potential for higher energy densities with these power source.

Lithium-ion is a low maintenance battery, an advantage that most other battery types can’t match. Self-discharge is less than half compared to nickel-cadmium, making lithium-ion well suited for modern fuel gauge applications. They pose no threat to the environment for lithium-ion cells cause little harm when discarded.

Like most hybrid technologies, this one has its draw backs. Chief among them is that the lithium-ion batteries are fragile and require a protection circuit to maintain safe operation. All short comings are expected to be overcome as research and development continue.

To be successful hybrid fuel technologies must include petroleum alternatives. Right now ethanol would lessen the need for oil if mixed with gasoline. Here in the U.S we already make nearly 4 billion gallons of ethanol from corn. The irony is that a great deal of energy is needed to manufacture ethanol and that energy often comes from fossil fuel and natural gas.

Ethanol is an alcohol-based alternative fuel that is produced by fermenting and distilling starch crops that have been converted into simple sugars. Feed stocks for this fuel include corn, barley, and wheat.

Ethanol has a better chance of surviving as an important hybrid fuel when it is made from “cellulosic biomass” such as trees and grasses. These produce a hybrid fuel called bioethanol. Ethanol is used to increase octane and improve the emissions quality of gasoline.

Ethanol is blended with gasoline to create E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. E85 and blends with even higher concentrations of ethanol qualify as alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act. Vehicles that run on E85 are called flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) and can currently be purchased from several vehicle manufacturers.

There will be one surviving hybrid fuel in the future. What is your guess on which it will be? Or are there some surprise hybrid technologies in our future?

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