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Doing Your Part for the Environment: Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Japan rolled out the first modern hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) off its assembly lines in 1997. The Toyota Prius paved the way for the United States to begin selling the Honda Insight two years later, quickly followed by the Honda Civic Hybrid. Electric-powered car technology has been around for over 100 years, but HEVs and plug-in HEVs (PHEVs) have yet to fully catch on in the United States. The Toyota Prius currently continues to be the most popular HEV in America, yet just three percent of Americans use hybrid vehicles, far below international usage. 

At its unveiling at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, Volvo said its new V60 plug-in hybrid was "virtually production-ready." Volvo then announced that beginning sometime in 2012, it would begin selling what is likely to be the world's first diesel plug-in hybrid production car. The V60 plug-in hybrid would have a range of up to 31 miles when driven purely by the electricity, with the total operating range extending up to 745 miles using fuel. It would enable the driver to select from one of three modes of propulsion: "Pure" for electric drive, "Hybrid" for alternating propulsion, and "Power" for an extra boost from both. Think you'll see oneof these in North America?  Probably not any time soon, considering the less than stellar hybrid market in the U.S.  Maybe in a few years.

Here's an electric Volvo 240 built by Martijn Hendriks in The Netherlands:

HEV Basics

  • HEV History: How HEV history began a revolution toward “green” cars.
  • How HEVs Work: Computers switch back and forth between gas and electric power to make these HEVs truly “smart” cars.
  • HEV Technology: What hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are, their advantages, key components and their future.
  • HEV Recommendation Panel Report: An Indiana University panel recommends how we can increase HEV knowledge and usage in the United States. (pdf)
  • U.S. Electric Vehicle Sales Forecast to 2030: HEVs constitute just over three percent of vehicle sales in the United States. This report forecasts that lithium-ion batteries will replace conventional hybrid electric vehicle batteries to provide for longer drives and greater consumer satisfaction. (pdf)
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle Primer: There are two HEV designs: mild and full hybrids. The way they combine power is through the common parallel hybrid or through the series design, most common in plug-in HEVs.
  • Hybrid Electric and Fuel Cell Vehicles: Hybrid and fuel cell resource reference material.
  • Hybrid Structure: Take a look at the parts of an HEV.
  • Stepping Out with HEV: Hybrid electric vehicle technology is called “step-out” technology as it utilizes technology already in place—there’s no need to invent something totally new.
  • Plug-in HEVs: The benefits of owning PHEVs include battery prices, projected energy costs and long-term cost recovery.
  • Pollutant Overview: The Environmental Protection Agency’s take on how PHEVs reduce gas emissions and how they later will be more cost-effective as technology upgrades emerge.
  • The California Cars Initiative: Converting hybrids to plug-in hybrids is an expensive process—up to $13,000 and mostly are available for America’s best selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius.
  • Electric Glossary: The Electric Auto Association’s electric vehicle glossary includes hybrid definitions.
  • The Climate Lab on PHEVs: Compare the new PHEV features and benefits to conventional gasoline vehicles—there are some limitations.

Real Concerns, Real Hybrid Owners

  • Who's Got Hybrids: Bill Nye, the Science Guy, takes you for a behind the scenes look at real people who own HEVs.
  • Family Hybrid Shoot-Out: The National Motorists Association puts to the test HEVs to see which ones are family-friendly.
  • 2012 Hybrid Vehicle Comparison: Select up to four vehicles to compare estimated city and highway mileage, annual fuel cost, air pollution and carbon footprint scores.
  • Hybrid Details: Learn about HEV power systems and their benefits.
  • Impact Study: Although HEVs lower tailpipe emissions, the emissions from creating the HEVs make an environmental impact. Plug-in HEVs may allay some of the concern.
  • IRS Hybrid News: Past news releases, legal guidance and fact sheets from the Internal Revenue Service on HEVs.
  • Student's Guide to Hybrids: Help teach the next generation about transportation energy basics and hybrid vehicles.
  • Hybrids or Electric Cars?: See the benefits of full electric cars so that you can make an informed choice to go hybrid or totally electric.
  • International Battery Seminar 2007: This report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory details the battery requirements and cost-benefit analyses for PHEVs. (pdf)
  • Energy Storage: San Diego State University College of Engineering drafted conceptual and final designs for viable electrical energy storage systems for HEVs.
  • Ecological HEV Advantages: Comparison among the Honda HEV, a popular mid-sized Honda and an SUV shows the differences between annual fuel cost and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • HEV Vehicle Dynamics: Class notes from the University of Colorado at Boulder regarding fuel economy standards, HEV dynamics and traction power requirements with equations that detail power and performance.
  • Lithium-ion Batteries: Use the calculator to find out how long a lithium-ion battery would last in a hand-held video game—then realize why HEV makers want to use them in their vehicles.
  • Powering Up with a Smart Grid?: Could sharing electrons be the wave of the future? If you don’t use all your plug-in HEV battery energy, can you just “de-charge” it back into the U.S. power grid system to help meet energy demand? This is an interesting question considering the aging power grid system in the U.S.
  • Economic Advantages of HEVs: Expensive to buy, cheap to use? An HEV averages $5,000 above the cost of their gasoline counterparts.
  • Hybrid Fact Sheet: Road testing HEVs and plug-in HEVs: will the plug-ins give better gas mileage?
  • Hybrid Vehicles, What they Mean for Your Insurance:  This resource breaks down the savings hybrid owners see at the pump and on their insurance statements.

Additional Hybrid Resources

  • Alternative Energy: Energy resources from battery dealers to information about solar water heaters.
  • Government Resources: A collection of some government resources and a handful of others that pertain to electric drive vehicles.
  • Green Sanctuary: Rethink transportation with these articles and studies about energy efficient cars.
  • Small Actions, Big Impact: Users of this site share their home initiatives. One chooses to drive a Prius and shares her experiences.
  • CirKits: Dealer of circuits for solar lighting systems.
  • Elektryczne: A collection of car manufacturer resources and car articles.
  • Environment: A brief article on Light Electric Vehicles with some great resources.
  • Plug In Hybrids: Links to information on plug-in hybrid electric cars.
  • Education and Learning Opportunities: Video, radio and text resources about energy solutions and sustainability.
  • Environment-Friendly Cars:  Arguments in favour of electric vehicles
  • Show and Say: Additional resources pertaining to hybrid cars.


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