Category Archives: -Hybrids-

Top Gear Reviews Tesla Roadster and Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen

I was browsing AutoBlogGreen today and I found out that Top Gear had done a piece on the Tesla Roadster. This was something I had been waiting for for a very long time, because I love the British show and couldn’t wait for their take on the famous electric supercar. Performance wise, the car, fitted with Tesla’s Powertrain 1.5, definitely impressed Jeremy Clarkson, likening the car to broadband motoring in a world of dial-up. However, that was before the car’s battery died after 50 miles of driving. Then they were not impressed by the 16 odd hours it would take them to charge it back up. So they got another Tesla Roadster, which Jeremy managed to overheat (overheated motor, he said, which is odd because the electric motor is just air-cooled for its nominal cooling requirement). To add insult to injury, somehow, the brakes broke on the first one while it was sitting in the garage. So this led the show’s hosts to deem the car impractical for today’s world of driving. Here is the Top Gear: Tesla Roadster Youtube video, which will probably go down soon:

[EDIT: If you want to see Tesla’s side of the story, scroll down to the first comment of this article, by Rachel Konrad, Senior Communications Manager of Tesla Motors. Top Gear’s piece ended up being somewhat of a PR disaster regarding Tesla’s reliability, and hearing another side to the story is helpful.  I won’t make a judgment on what happened because I wasn’t there and I can only write about what was in the video.]

The other host on the show, James May, sparked my curiosity at the end, talking about finding an alternative to the battery electric car and future of motoring. So I found the James’ segment on the Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen electric car. I have never been a fan of hydrogen cars, because they are about as technologically advanced as spaceships and don’t seem like they will be practical economically. Some say the car, right now, would be priced at $10,000,000. Plus, hydrogen is something Shell can sell you, so of course they will push this on us. But I was impressed by the FCX Clarity Hydrogen, which is really basically just an electric car with a hydrogen powered generator that will extend the range to around 300 miles. So it utilizes the superior efficiency of an electric motor while eliminating the bulk and range limits of batteries.  Also according to the video, hydrogen is about at cheap as gas and the car’s only byproduct is water. Don’t be fooled though, the hydrogen car is very far down the road. Here is the Top Gear: Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen segment:

Sources: YouTube, Autobloggreen

What is a hybrid electric vehicle?

I’m in Los Angeles this week and I was astounded at the number of Prius hybrid electric cars on the road. It is easily the most popular model in California and it is officially Toyota’s top seller in the United States. While this site is mainly dedicated to fully electric powered vehicles, I thought I’d dedicate a section to the hybrid movement we are seeing on the American roads today. I don’t think they are the end all solution to the energy crisis, but you have to walk before you can run, and America is walking finally. Some people might be confused about how, exactly, these cars work and I thought I’d clarify them a little.

Parallel Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV)

Toyota Prius

HEVs, such as the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius have become hugely popular in the United States for their fuel economy and unlimited range. These cars are technically known as parallel electric hybrids because they utilize two sources of power at the same time, and electric motor and internal combustion engine.  This means both power sources can be utilized at the same time to give the car easier, faster acceleration, like the K1 Attack, which goes 0-60 in 3 seconds when utilizing both power sources. OR as parallel hybrids are more conventionally used in the Prius, the electric motor is utilized while the combustion engine is completely off at speeds 0-40 mph because it provides more responsive torque and no gas whatsoever. In an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, most gas is consumed from 0-40 during acceleration, so parallel hybrids get better gas mileage in the city. The internal combustion engine is used at speeds above 40 mph because it provides a higher top speed, and requires less gas than normal because it doesn’t need as much torque or gas at consistent highway speeds. The internal combustion engine can also drive the car at low speeds when the battery is low. This doesn’t happen often, because when the vehicle brakes, the kinetic energy is captured by letting the wheels turn the alternator which powers the battery, this is known as regenerative braking.

Serial Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

Chevy Volt

As of now, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are not yet produced. The Chevy Volt concept is a serial hybrid electric vehicle. These cars rely purely on an electric motor to power the wheels. The Volt will potentially get 40 miles on a charge (hence, PHEV-40), then for any driving after that, a combustion engine will kick in, not to power the wheels, but to act as a generator that recharges the battery. The Volt likely has such a low ev range because GM did not want to sacrifice performance for electric power. PHEV’s can utilize regenerative braking just like HEV’s. Thus, you get the near unlimited driving range from the established gasoline infrastructure for long trips, but you can potentially go weeks without ever having to utilize the combustion engine for your daily commute.

Electric cars are potentially superior to all of these because they do not utilize antiquated internal combustion engines at all. The parts and fluids used to manage an internal combustion engine is staggering compared to the lightweight, energy efficient electric motor. The criticism of the electric car is the idea that batteries have not yet developed enough. But because of their wide range of applications, battery technologies are advancing at a swift pace; while ICE technology has been at a relative standstill for decades. And when companies such as GM say the technology is not there, you need to keep in mind that exact same company came out with a completely viable electric car in the late 90’s, the EV1, using lead acid batteries, before lithium-ion, before the potential revolutionary EEstor. But hey, thanks to the popularity of hybrids we are now walking in the right direction.