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New Technology to Lower the Cost of Hybrid Cars

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Adding a second clutch improves efficiency without the need for a second electric motor…

By Posted May 9, 2011

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid The fuel-efficiency of today’s hybrid cars may appeal to cash strapped drivers reeling from the rising cost of gas, especially as the outlook for gas prices suggests that high prices may be the new reality going forward. But the sticker price of the hybrids has kept them out of reach for most new car buyers. Recent technology developments, however, may bring the cost of hybrids down to a tipping point in price, which could make the hybrid car affordable enough for widespread use.

Parallel two-clutch systems, dubbed “P2”, enable the efficient separation of a hybrid’s electric motor and its gas engine which results in similar efficiency of current hybrid two motor systems without the need for two separate engines. This could result in cost savings of 30% or more for hybrid car buyers.

Honda’s fleet of hybrids uses a one-motor system, the Integrated Motor Assist, which has the gas engine and electric motor bolted together and engaged with a single clutch. In this configuration, the electric motor runs simultaneously with the gas engine. The P2 clutch enables the gas engine to shut down, transferring the load to the electric motor. The efficiency of selective electric motor use is gained without the costly addition of a separate electric motor.

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Infiniti M353 Hybrid are the first hybrids to use the new parallel-clutch P2 system. According to Hyundai, the new design results in greater highway fuel efficiency and improved electric motor performance. With the separate clutch, the electric motor can be increased in size to deliver greater acceleration.

The P2 also results in improves regenerative braking, and saves costs by eliminating the need for a torque converter. Cost of batteries for P2 hybrids is expected to be about 30% lower than current costs for electric can batteries.

By 2025, the US fleet average could reach 60mpg, with SUVs averaging 40mpg

Manufacturers who have not yet committed to the two-motor system currently in most hybrids, or to Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist design, are benefiting from their late entry into the hybrid market. Mercedes and BMW have P2 hybrids in development, as well as Hyundai, Volkswagen and Infiniti. John German, senior fellow with the International Council for Clean Transportation, believes that the P2 hybrids will enter the mass market, and that the new technology will “become standard on vehicles.”

German believes that by 2025, the US fleet average could reach 60mpg, with SUVs averaging 40mpg.

Is the rising cost of gas making you consider a hybrid or electric car in the near future, or would you consider using a car co-op or service such as Zip Car instead? Let us know below.

Posted in Science and Transportation Tags , , , ,
  • Lloyd

    This will seriously help the middle class people to go for these hybrid… more and more people use and we avoid pollution to a greater extent

  • Robert mathew

    Making the hybrid cars affordable is a very good step towards a greener future. Reduction in costs of hybrid car will make more number of people buying them and thus reduce the pollution and also conserve energy which is a major concern today.

  • Nick

    We won’t get the “green future” until the oil giants fade away. Probably, only after Earth resources are done.

  • Most of the car owners nowadays, were greatly affected with the high cost of fuel. This new technology invented is the best solution. This post is an informative one. Thanks for this.

  • This is a good step, but we need to make leaps! And we need to make them now. The number of gas-guzzlers roaming the streets this very minute is appalling. If the government would put even a fraction of the money into green technology that they're currently spending on missiles and tanks, we just might be able to save the planet. Unfortunately I don't see that happening any time soon… 🙁

  • mstrong10

    Of course affordability is a factor, as is mpg. What about repairs; new=untested.

  • Agree with Lloyd..

  • I expect my next car will be a hybrid, and it's all about fuel economy and cost. Today, the cost premium is fairly substantial, but if they can get the fuel economy up and the cost down, then hybrids will make more sense.

  • C Brown Photographer

    Glad to know the price will be coming down. Hopefully sooner than later. I'm ready for a hybrid! Sure wish Subaru would make one. I love Subarus. Hmmm …. maybe they are making one.

    • Phillip

      Subaru makes diesel motors an option for all of their models, they just don’t offer them in North America. Here’s an article detailing the reasons:

  • como crear un blog

    Mmm , the alternative energy patents are in the hands of the Big oil companies i wonder when they will start making bucks with them …

  • aftereffectstips

    Prices are still too high, and the technology still has a long way to go. Plus, no one is considering the cost of replacement batteries in long term ownership of the hybrid cars.

  • The middle class is ESSENTIAL to any short-term and long term resolution with this respect.

  • I'm glad the prices are coming down, I'm sure more people would drive a hybrid car if they could afford to.

  • I’d be interested to know which is less polluting: a fully electric car (carbon emissions from coal burning power plants) or a high mileage combustion engine. My understanding of the Smart car, for example, is that the diesel version gets much higher mpg than the gas version. So from an emissions perspective, which would be better, a Volt or a diesel Smart?

    • Greg Seaman

      Good question. In regions where hydro is the power source, the Volt would likely generate fewer emissions. But for coal generated electricity, it may be a toss up.
      Either car, however, is a move int he right direction.

    • Phillip

      That's the difficult question in all of this. If by pollution you include in the calculations its manufacture, shipping, operation for the normal life and then disposal, then hybrids may not be the winner that the advertising claims. Follow the path of those rare earth high efficiency batteries back up the supply chain, and you'll find a lot of trans-oceanic shipping from their point of mining origin. And then the end disposal/recycling of those rare earth metals in a responsible manner looms as a big question in the future. But if you just mean operating emissions, then check out this EPA web site for information on any new car:

      • Greg Seaman

        Thanks Phillip. I agree that the energy costs of new vehicles should be factored in in calculating actual energy savings. In many cases, learning to drive more efficiently and applying other gas saving techniques can use less energy than buying a new more efficient car, since there are many hidden energy costs in building the new car and bringing it to market.

  • Cleaning Supplies Uk

    I agree with Llyod, this should help definitely help the 'middle class' people afford hybrid cars.

  • Maria hayes

    Manufacturers are interested in are hybrid cars worth it from a warranty and failure point of view. As a result, they tend to over design and over built the battery components. So, premature failure has been minimized, with only 0.003 of Prius packs needing early replacement so far.

  • I love my hybrid, I wouldn't drive anything else. It would really be nice if everybody could afford to buy one to help save the planet.

  • I love every time they upgrade green technologies. When they're first introduced, they're merely a nice idea for the environment, but not economical. As they improve the difference grows smaller and the price grows to allow more people to indulge their consciences. I have no idea what the tech talk behind all of this means though.

  • Damon

    hmm.. great tech..  lets see when we will get this in public.. :/

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