The Future of Automobiles, using electric, hybrid and fuel cell technology to meet new global demands

The majority of the vehicles currently being operated on the road, whether for personal or commercial use, are equipped with internal combustion engines (ICEs). The ICE is principally powered by gasoline which when burned produces greenhouse gases (GHG). These GHGs some of which are harmful to human health and all of which induce global warming, have come under tougher emissions regulations by government agencies around the world. In order to resolve the energy crisis and global warming, some believe that battery-powered technology is the solution. Chan (2007) proposes a battery-powered technology that incorporates all electric, hybrid (mix of ICE and electric) and fuel cell powertrain systems.—Blake Kos   
Chan, C., 2007. The State of the Art of Electric, Hybrid, and Fuel Cell Vehicles. Proc. IEEE, 704-718.

 C.C. Chan and colleagues at the University of Hong Kong explain why battery-powered technology will be more widely accepted in the automotive industry and by the consumer in order to meet new global pressures about global warming and the potential energy crisis. Currently, the market share of such technologies is insignificant, nevertheless, Chan predicts that these technologies will gain more attractiveness due to superior fuel economy and performance, especially hybrids. 
Electric powered vehicles have been around for as long as a century and because pressures about health concerns, global warming and a future energy crisis persist, automakers are being forced to provide the consumer electrically powered vehicles once again. As of now there exist three types of electrically powered vehicles. Hybrid vehicles (i.e. Toyota Prius), use both an electric motor and an engine. There are four common architectures of a hybrid vehicle: series, parallel, series-parallel, and complex hybrid. The major difference between these systems is when the electric motor is used to achieve better fuel economy or performance. A series hybrid uses the ICE output and converts it into electricity using a generator. The electricity produced is then stored in a battery or if necessary, can bypass the battery storage. Generally, efficiency is lower in a series system hybrid. A parallel hybrid allows both the ICE and electric motor to deliver power in parallel with the vehicle’s onboard computer deciding on the mix.  The other two systems, series-parallel and complex, are mixtures of the series and parallel systems. Also, there are micro, mild, and full hybrids, depending on the power output of the electric motor (i.e. full hybrids can save about 30%-50% energy and put out about 50 kW of power). The micro and mild classifications are used to achieve a moderate increase in efficiency. All-electric vehicles use only an electric motor and a battery, require time to recharge and have a limited range. Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen and oxygen as a source of power for the vehicle. The most positive attribute about this vehicle is that the only byproduct is water.
At a glance these technologies seem very promising, however, there are some key advances that need to be made before they can become more commonplace. Some issues that automakers are experiencing with the all-electric vehicles are current battery technology, management, and size. The major issues are time required for charging and miles per charge. As of now, our current electric infrastructure cannot sustain charging millions of electric vehicles. Fuel cell vehicles, which do not require charging, address the latter problem. However, concerns regarding fuel cell costs and the hydrogen infrastructure are preventing fuel cell vehicles from widespread consumer use. The most promising technology out of the three is hybrid, but consumers still have issues with the control, optimization, and management from multiple sources of power and battery size. Fortunately, researchers have been able to find solutions to these concerns through the development of better hybrid control technology, power converters, and the mixture of battery and ultra capacitors that once developed will allow these types of vehicles to eventually dominate the market.—Blake Kos   

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s