Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Will hybrid cars replace gasoline cars?

In the Prius the gasoline engine has been stripped off many all it's usual moving parts that break down routinely such as the starter motor, distributor cam belts and much more making it a very efficient unit with little that can go wrong - engine wise.

Many cars have been driven for up to 10 years and more with nothing more than oil change, every 2 years and spark plugs only once in that time. This is possible because the engine don't run all the time, possibly only for half the distance the odometer clocked up as in cruise mode and at low speeds the engine does not operate. When it does run it is also at much lower RPM than regular gasoline engine. One would expect the hybrid vehicle to have a much longer useful life than normal gasoline vehicle, except for 1 flaw - The Battery.

After 10 years the battery can cost more than the value of the vehicle to replace. With existing  average age of a country's vehicle fleet at about 15 years this makes the hybrid vehicle more expensive to run and more damaging to the environment in terms of resources used, despite the fact that it is much more economical in fuel consumption. This fact alone makes it an elitist plaything and accounts for it's very poor resale value.

What the hybrid vehicle needs is an enabling technology that can extend that life of the hybrid's main battery. The Power Jockey is one such invention. It enables a much weaker battery to work with the hybrid vehicle drive system.

If we assume that the main battery needs to be at 70% of it's designed strength to function in the vehicle drive train and this position is reached after 7 - 10 years, the Power Jockey can lower this minimum requirement to say 50%. This could stretch the expected useful life of the battery to between 12 - 15 years.

If we add reconditioning and rebuilding of the main battery pack above the minimum capacity threshold we could conceivably extend the useful life of that same single main battery pack for the rest of the useful life of the vehicle. Perhaps 20 - 25 years.

Article in Wall Street Journal 24 September 2012 reports that already 26% of all Toyota's vehicle sales in Japan are Hybrids, while in the US it sold only 176,000 hybrids into the 1.6 million annual vehicle sold there. Toyota predicts that they will sell 1 million hybrids anually by 2015.

TOKYO—Toyota Motor Corp. 7203.TO +0.85% put its weight behind hybrids on Monday, disclosing plans to roll out 21 new or redesigned gasoline-electric powered vehicles by the end of 2015 and playing down the near-term outlook for other alternative-fuel technologies such as all-electric vehicles.
The Japanese auto maker predicted its sales of hybrid models world-wide will likely top 1 million this year and every year through 2015.
While the rollout and forecast signal Toyota's confidence in its hybrid strategy, the company acknowledges costs must still be cut further to increase profitability and spur sales.
"Profits from conventional [gas] powered cars are still higher, so we need to reduce hybrid costs more in order to promote their diffusion," Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's vice chairman and R&D head, said at a news conference.
Hybrids are becoming more mainstream in Japan. Toyota's sales of the gasoline-electric vehicles last year reached 310,000, or 26% of its total sales. But they remain a niche in other key markets such as the U.S. Last year, Toyota sold 178,587 hybrid models in the U.S., just a fraction of the 1.64 million vehicles it sold there overall in 2011.
The Japanese auto maker has high hopes for its "plug-in" hybrid, which can be refueled either at the gas pump or by plugging in to a standard electrical outlet. Cumulative sales of its Prius PHV, which debuted earlier this year, reached 15,600 last month, including 8,400 in Japan, 6,100 in the U.S. and 1,100 in Europe.
At the same, time Toyota plans to sell just 100 models of its newest electric vehicle, a subcompact EV called "eQ." That contrasts with rival Nissan Motor Co.,7201.TO +0.78% which has bet big on EVs with its Leaf compact.
Mr. Uchiyamada said Toyota is moving ahead with plans to localize production in China of hybrid engines by 2015 and hopes to follow suit in the U.S., but said the auto maker has made no decision yet on that.
"We are looking into it, but we haven't reached a formal decision or made any specific plans yet," he said.
Earlier this year, the company announced plans to shift production of its Highlander SUV hybrid to a plant in Indiana, but the core engine components-such as motors, batteries and converters-will continue to be exported from Japan.
Beyond the main thrust into hybrids, Japan's No. 1 auto maker also laid out its strategy in other fields of environmental technology, such as all-electric and fuel cell-powered vehicles. Toyota is tiptoeing into EVs with its first sales this year, and it won't begin commercial sales of a fuel cell vehicle for at least three years.
Mr. Uchiyamada indicated that proprietary technology makes FCVs hold more promising than EVs. "Anybody can make EVs, but that is not the case for FCVs," he said. "So we see a lot more potential in FCVs."
Toyota will begin sales of a compact SUV with an electric engine made by Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA +0.88% this week in the U.S. market, where it hopes to sell 2,600 of the $49,800 RAV4 EVs over a three-year period. The company will also introduce its eQ to such clients as local governments in the U.S. and Japan in December and China sometime next year, but sales of the ¥3.6 million ($46,146) vehicle will be limited to 100 units.
The auto maker said it would launch a fuel cell-powered sedan "around 2015" in Japan, North America and Europe, and collaborate with subsidiary Hino Motors Ltd.HINOY -0.31% to debut a fuel cell bus in 2016. It projected sales of FCVs in the "tens of thousands" by the 2020s.
Separately, Panasonic Corp. 6752.TO +7.21% said Monday it will provide Toyota with lithium-ion batteries for the eQ. Panasonic has a track record with batteries used in eco-friendly vehicles, demand for which is growing amid environmental concerns and higher oil prices.
Panasonic has supplied lithium-ion batteries for Toyota's Prius Plug-in and Prius Alpha hybrids.
—Hiroyuki Kachi contributed to this article.
Write to Chester Dawson at chester.dawson@wsj.com

For more information about the Power Jockey go to The Battery Clinic website www.thebatteryclinic.com.

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