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Hybrid Drive 3 - Downsizing

Hybrid drive - generally

Slowly, very slowly, one can get an idea of what the future looks like as far as the alternative vehicle area is concerned. It is clearly moving in the direction of electricity, even if, at the moment, the available hybrid vehicles have only a very small slice of the market. Of course, none of the market competitors are asleep, even though the development will not be that continuous.

First of all, there is the European Union, which has drawn up two regulations. On the one hand, it has placed relatively clear limits on the amount of CO2-emission, on the other hand, allows lots of bonus if the drive is electric and there are batteries on board. Their charging is not considered in the CO2-measuring, at least not for the first (and decisive) 100 kilometers.

This is urging manufacturers of larger cars towards the PlugIn-hybrid, it is of course, also an example of skillful lobbying. We will still be bombarded with any amount of large (sports cars) with the lowest possible CO 2-values. It's not only the consumption promised by the manufacturers that, in reality, has little to do with the price.

Only one of the BMW-3 series still has a six-cylinder

At least nonetheless, the traces of re-thinking are visible. The engines are, apart from the really small and expensive series, having their number of cylinders reduced. BMW, e.g., has to a large degree dropped it's famous six-cylinder in-line engine. The fans are in mourning. Fiat has pushed ahead to the two-cylinder, the others will inevitably have to follow up.

Downsizing has many facets. For a long time now, charging has been one of the options, whereby, the turbo has probably been more accepted than the compressor. What has more or less happened, is that basically, a second engine has appeared next to the original with up to three (!) turbo-chargers. The intercooling is embedded into the cylinder head.

Waiting for the two-cylinder e.g., at VW …

More downsizing: One had once expected, that the big engines would trump with cylinder shut-down, VW introduced the system for the two middle cylinders of an in-line four-cylinder. It is also unbelievable, how relatively small the consumption improvement is. All this effort for a reduction of just 0,4 liters per 100 km.

This shows, that which the engineers have known for a long time now. No effort is too great to achieve even the slightest success as far as curbing the CO2-emission is concerned. There is no solution to all the problems at one go. Small steps in the right direction must all be added together, to finally lead to solving the whole problem.

Thus, it would appear that a future with electric cars is possible, but not with a wave of the wand. The masses probably wouldn't accept a city-car with a limited range. In this case, the further development of the plug-in hybrid seems to be really important.

More and more affordable kilometers using electricity and the combustion engine will become smaller. Unfortunately, not actually cheaper, even though the acceleration e.g., can be assisted by the electric motor. Indeed, who is in a position to use the current top speeds anyhow?

Thus, the parallel-hybrid is the immediate future. The serial-hybrid doesn't really exist, even if Opel (GM) would like us to believe that it does. What nonsense, long distance driving using the combustion engine purely to generate driving current? That would reduce the efficiency, and that, more than just a little.

Human nature is as follows: A certain amount of freedom of action is desired, if it is coupled to an affordable price increase. Some would e.g., do their short distance driving in winter using only electricity, for which the combustion engine would probably be very grateful. Others may give some thought to how often they really need the superior performance, they could then change over to smaller and more reasonable batteries.

Thus, step for step, we slowly enter the, probably inevitable, electric-car era. The batteries need time to develop themselves, the same as the more than one hundred years that the combustion engine had. Hardly any other technology can keep up the pace here, because this always means a greater upheaval combined with gigantic investments.

Specifically today (2012), we can observe a number of activities. Toyota has reduced the weight of it's hybrid engine from 243 to 201 kgs, they now offer it in the Yaris as well. At the same time, there is a variation of the Prius with three rows of seats and a PlugIn, of course with Lithium-ion- instead of metal-hybrid batteries (25 km range, + €8.000).

The Diesel engine as part of a hybrid-drive in the Peugeot 3008 is something new. In contrast to Toyota, the Diesel is for the front axle only, the additional electric motor for the rear axle creates a selectable all-wheel drive. Thus, if necessary, an aditional 27 kW (37 hp) can be added to the 120 kW (163) from the combustion engine or, one could even drive approx. 5 km using the electric motor alone.

Up to now this combination doesn't quite function as smoothly as it should. With this Diesel engine, one is still a good way away from silent propulsion. Nonetheless, at least the electric motor can be called up at short notice, e.g., to change gear without interrupting the traction flow if there is an automated manual gearbox with only one clutch.

One was curious about what sort of price increase there would be, this turned out to be an acceptable, roughly €2500. Even the almost 50 liters of boot-space that was lost was not that dramatic for a minivan. The 150 kg extra weight on the other hand, poses a somewhat greater problem. One would actually like to praise the 99 g/km of CO2-emission, indeed, we all know how this figure is arrived at. 02/12

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