The year 1886 is widely thought to be the year that birthed the automobile. Since then there have been numerous advances in the industry to the point where there is 454 passenger cars for every 1000 people in the UK.
However, with all the pollutants that these vehicles gave off, there was bound to be some kind of negative reaction, this being the unbalancing of the environment i.e. with all the trees being cut down, the carbon dioxide released from cars isn’t balanced by the amount of oxygen. Automakers answer to this? The electric car.
But, the problem that came with this is that electric cars actually turned out to be pretty harmful to the environment too, as the production of the batteries not only produced harmful by-products, but also required extensive use of fossil fuels.
So, in answer to this problem, Hybrid vehicles were born (because we simply can’t walk), a combination of both gasoline and electric-based automobiles. But, of course, this concept of an eco-car wasn’t a perfect one either, they rarely are. So what’s the problem? Read on and you’ll find out.
A thunderous silence
From the beginning, there were questions over whether or not the sound of engines, or lack of, would create problems for pedestrians, as they can’t hear the car well enough when it’s driving at low speeds to be able to know whether or not it is coming.
This problem would be even worse for those who are not only hard of hearing, but those with poor sight as they rely somewhat on sound as an indicator of oncoming vehicles. In fact, this foreseen problem has indeed become a reality, although hybrid cars are less likely to be involved in a traffic accident, they actually have a higher likelihood (20% higher) of causing pedestrian injury.
There has even been legislation passed in order to regulate the sound cars can make, not how high, but how low it can be, in order to prevent some of the potential accidents that can occur from the lack of sound. Toyota took the first steps to counter this problem with the Camry in 2012, which emits a sound similar to an electric engine, increasing in pitch as it nears an object.
The shocking truth…
Hybrid cars actually tend to be safer than normal cars on the road, unless you’re a pedestrian, but make no mistake, they do have a darker side. If a hybrid is involved in a car accident, the battery may remain on, charging up to 144 to 330 volts DC (direct current).
The first responder to the accident puts themselves in danger of coming into contact with the battery while rescuing someone, they would be electrocuted and suffer serious injury. If it becomes absolutely necessary to come into contact with the battery, it has to be disconnected first and in the rare occurrence of battery leakage, vinegar can be used to neutralise the electrolytes.
In fact, the voltage is high enough to be lethal. But automakers have accounted for this, putting the battery wires in bright orange tubing to indicate the danger, as well as creating a system that disrupts all electric power to the battery when the car is turned off.
A common feature of hybrid vehicles is the engine turning off when the car stops, in order to maintain low emission and fuel usage. Understandably, people tend to assume that the car is off, so they’re completely unaware of the fact that it can move, leading to many obvious problems, especially if the car is facing downhill or if they’re standing in front of it.
Some car companies have incorporated indicators or ‘Ready’ signs to show whether or not the car is still on or not. However, they can only be seen on the car dashboard, so a first responder standing in front of a hybrid can still be unaware of the situation, as the car can move if the driver doesn’t have the brake pressed down. It is procedure for paramedics and firefighters to secure the vehicle and stop it moving before taking any other action.
It’s certain that hybrid cars will play a massive part in the future of the motor industry, but it’s also just as certain that changes need to be made. With attempts to increase the amount of miles per gallon in all cars in the coming years, it’s going to be necessary for all automakers to try to get on par with Toyota, whose Prius has the highest mpg (53) out of all hybrid cars. This means more and more changes in future, which leads us to the real question – When will my car fly? I really don’t want to have to walk places.