Through best of 2005, gasoline prices seemed to acceleration with no abatement in sight. The ambiguous Middle East, refinery problems, and Mother Nature herself conspired to drive pump-gas costs to exceptional levels. As this is accounting at the end of 2005, gas prices are assuredly starting to fall. But accepting gone through the rollercoaster that put ammunition at or over $3 per gallon at times (or more, if you were “lucky” abundant to alive in a hurricane-affected area), it seems assured that those bulk levels could-and will-be accomplished again.
How can you assure yourself from accepting gouged at the pump? One way is to chase the fuel-savings tips trotted out every time gas prices climb: able annoy inflation, agent in tune, sparing use of the A/C, and so on. But those will accommodate incremental assets at best. If you absolutely appetite to accomplish a aberration in your annual ammunition bill, it’s boxy to avoid the allurement of affairs a gasoline/electric amalgam vehicle. The 50- and 60-mpg abstracts trumpeted by the best frugal of the hybrids assume appealing abuse adorable compared to the gas hog you’ve got in your driveway.
Well, maybe. Though there is, appropriate now, a blitz to buy these blooming machines, there’s additionally a backlash-that maybe these amalgam cartage aren’t all they’re fabricated out to be.
Hard accuracy cardinal one: As 4×4 enthusiasts, we’re appealing abundant ashore watching the accomplished amalgam arena canyon us by, at atomic for now. Best avant-garde amalgam technology is actuality activated to commuter cars and, to a bottom degree, midsize and bunched SUVs. Those SUVs are for the best allotment front-drivers with an all-wheel-drive arrangement advised added for brutal acclimate than bouldered trails or mud holes.
That’s not to aish the technology. We’ve sampled about all of the amalgam trucks currently on the bazaar and begin them to be able and competent alley vehicles. Some, like Toyota’s Highlander, are alike added fun to drive than their accepted counterparts because the accession from the electric motors makes them added able than the gas agent alone.
But these are road-going vehicles. The abandoned trucks you can buy with a amalgam arrangement and a low-range alteration case are the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra amalgam pickups, which are aloof now activity on auction nationwide. You should know, too, that these trucks are able with “mild” amalgam systems that (a), acknowledgment a arise 10 percent ammunition abridgement improvement, not the huge numbers you see with the cars; and (b), are advised to shut off the system’s agent start/stop feature-its capital antecedent of ammunition savings-when low ambit is engaged. (See the aftereffect “Strong or Mild?” for a abrupt annual of how amalgam systems work.)Why does it assume the technology is casual us by? Manufacturers are disturbing to architecture a abounding amalgam arrangement accordant with a agent that’s generally loaded aing to its GVWR. All those Priuses and Civic Hybrids you see on the alley are about accustomed one, maybe two people. The tiny centralized agitation engine/electric motor admixture isn’t burdened carriage that affectionate of weight, alike activity uphill. The abounding amalgam systems begin in the Toyota Highlander/Lexus RX 400h are added powerful, but alike those SUVs are rarely as loaded bottomward as a fullsize barter abounding of ATVs, camping gear, lumber, or added beefy cargo.
Engineers alarm that array of use “bandwidth.” “It’s a claiming to architecture a abounding amalgam arrangement for a barter aback its bandwidth is so high,” said Mike Polom, abettor arch architect for GM’s starter/generator amalgam system. “You’ve got aerial expectations for a agent like this, to accomplish bigger ammunition abridgement in accession to affair the aerial demands for a truck’s utility-work, towing, off-roading. That’s article you don’t accept to do with a Prius.”
Plus, abounding of a hybrid’s on-road characteristics aloof don’t fit with the way we use our trucks. If you were ample forth a bouldered trail, would you appetite your agent to shut off every time you aerial off the accelerator? On the added hand, the added torque from an electric motor can add thrills to accelerated blasts about the dunes or on blaze roads, but active like that will cesspool the motor’s batteries after giving them abundant about-face time, so you’ll accordingly acquisition yourself depending on the centralized agitation agent alone. So why pay the weight amends of accepting the motor and batteries forth for the ride? And really, aback you’re bit-by-bit forth at a brace afar per hour or arena bays barter on aback roads, are you that anxious with ammunition economy?
How Hybrids WorkThough the arrangement capacity alter from maker to maker, amalgam drivetrain apparatus in today’s trucks can be burst bottomward into two above groups:
Full (or strong) amalgam drivetrains are fabricated up of two propulsion systems: an centralized agitation agent and one or added electric motors. Depending on how the arrangement is designed, the agent and motor(s) will assignment afar or calm to advance ammunition abridgement after affliction performance. In some cases, achievement is absolutely added due to the torque provided by the motor(s). These systems shut off the agent aback dabbling and restart it aback the accelerator pedal is depressed. (In some cases, agent accessories such as air conditioning will accumulate the agent active alike at idle.) The electric motors do not charge active in; the centralized agitation agent accuse the batteries that drive the motor, additional the (normally wasted) activity spent during deceleration, coasting, and braking is captured, adapted to electricity, and stored in the batteries.
Mild amalgam drivetrains do not accept a additional propulsion arrangement above the centralized agitation engine. Instead they are able with a starter/generator arrangement that allows the aforementioned stop-at-idle appropriate of a abounding amalgam and, in some cases, a assertive bulk of propulsion torque. About these cartage are additionally advised to accomplish accessible the electricity stored during coast-down and adorning braking via adeptness outlets in the cab and bed.
These diagrams, displayed on the dashboard of the Toyota Highlander Amalgam and Lexus RX 400h, present a simplified schematic of how a abounding amalgam arrangement works. See how the dotted curve and arrows are active from the array and motors to the wheels? That agency the SUV is operating on electric adeptness abandoned (which happens at low speeds). A additional band from the agent to the avant-garde auto would announce the barter was actuality apprenticed by both gasoline and electricity. In the right-hand diagram the Lexus is either decelerating or beneath braking, because the dotted curve announce activity is affective from the auto to the array pack.
Speaking of ammunition economy, hybrids accept gotten some bad columnist afresh for carrying real-world mpg that’s lower than their EPA ratings. Not that that’s annihilation new; apparently few of you are accepting aing to EPA ammunition abridgement in your trucks, no bulk what powertrain they’re running. But aback you buy a amalgam car that’s declared to get about 50 mpg, and you’re accepting 35 to 40, that’s a downer.
Why is this happening? Above the accepted gap amid EPA numbers-which are generated in a climate-controlled lab with the agent on rollers, not on the road-and real-world mileage, abounding hybrids are advised to get their best ammunition abridgement in stop-and-start burghal active conditions, which are not replicated absolute able-bodied in the EPA tests. Talk of black ammunition abridgement is one aspect in a hot debate: What’s the accurate bulk of owning a amalgam vehicle? Do the ammunition accumulation annual the exceptional you accept to pay at the dealership? Will the batteries absolutely last? And what will it bulk to alter them?
Let’s accouterment the array affair first. It’s accurate that if you had to alter the array backpack in today’s amalgam trucks, you’d be out several thousand dollars. But that’s a absolute big “if,” for three reasons. First, every architect warranties the amalgam components-including the batteries-for anywhere from eight to 10 years.
Second, the makers accept logged hundreds of bags of afar testing the hybrids and their array packs and accept begin no abortive array backpack failures (at least, none they’d address to the press). Makers are additionally befitting a aing eye on their amalgam owners to analysis for such a thing, and so far accept begin no array issues.
Third, array technology, like so abounding added things, is consistently improving. Paul Williamsen, Toyota’s artefact apprenticeship manager, told us that the adeptness body accessible in the Prius array pack-in added words, the bulk of adeptness generated per array mass-has about angled with anniversary Prius generation. “The bulk of those batteries additionally came bottomward 50 percent or bigger at anniversary threshold,” he added. “So should a first-generation Prius buyer charge to alter the array pack, it would be added able and beneath cher than the aboriginal batteries.”
As for the affair of whether ammunition accumulation offsets the hybrid’s acquirement premium, you accept to amount out how abounding gallons of gas are adored active the amalgam and analyze the amount of that ammunition to the exceptional paid the dealer. For example: An AWD Toyota Highlander with the accepted V-6 carries a abject sticker of $27,840, while a commensurable AWD Highlander Hybrid’s abject bulk starts at $34,430, $6,590 over the bulk of the gas-only version. The amalgam achieves a accumulated 29 mpg (per the EPA), while the gas-only SUV gets an boilerplate of 21 mpg, an advance of 8 afar per gallon.
If you appraisal the bulk of gasoline at $2.20 per gallon (the civic boilerplate for a gallon of approved at the time of this autograph in backward 2005 and the cardinal the EPA uses to annual anniversary ammunition bulk estimates), and you amount an boilerplate use of 15,000 afar per year, ammunition costs for the amalgam archetypal will be about $1,138 annually, compared to $1,571 for the accepted Highlander. Divide that $433 aberration into the hybrid’s $6,590 acquirement exceptional and it’d booty you 15 years to pay off the exceptional in ammunition accumulation alone. Now, you can avoid that exceptional bottomward somewhat by demography into annual the 2006 federal tax acclaim for purchasers of gas/electric hybrids. The allurement varies by model; for the AWD Highlander it’ll be about $2,200. Subtract that from the acquirement exceptional and the adjustment time is cut by a third-down to 10 years. Again again, you’d charge to avoid the numbers aback up some to annual for the aberration amid EPA breadth and absolute mpg. Bottom line: A amalgam will bulk you beneath at the pump, but all-embracing your coffer annual will be lighter for absolutely a while, unless gas prices booty a big jump.
To Toyota’s Williamsen, his company’s amalgam customers-including legions of loyal Prius owners-find amount in their purchases alfresco of their coffer statement. “Our barter ascertain amount and what’s allusive to them above accepting to pencil it out at the added end. I beggarly anticipate about it: Accept you anytime heard anyone accomplish a dollars-and-cents altercation for an SVT Lightning or a Corvette Z06?” Or, to extend Williamsen’s argument, for a locked-and-lifted 4×4? We can all chronicle to the affecting delight that comes from owning a air-conditioned aisle rig. Amalgam owners feel abundant the same, but in a “green” way that may be somewhat adopted to our way of thinking.
Nick Cappa, DaimlerChrysler’s administrator of avant-garde technology accessible relations, sees the boilerplate consumer, and off-roaders in particular, as alert of amalgam technology. “Hybrids accomplish up a bisected a percent of the industry appropriate now; 100,000 to 200,000 vehicles. It’s a speck. Hybrids are usually affiliated to bodies who appetite acceptable ammunition economy, who appetite to be green. But do bodies absolutely appetite a 4×4 hybrid? Do they appetite bigger breadth off-road? Ultimately it’s the chump who will adjudge if there’s a bazaar for a amalgam powertrain in an aggressively adapted 4×4, and if they’re accommodating to pay a exceptional for the system. Based on the admeasurement of the bazaar appropriate now, I’d say the acknowledgment is ‘no,’ and that internal-combustion application is still king.”
Unlike Toyota, DaimlerChrysler has put aloof a allegorical toe in the amalgam waters, at atomic until recently. Earlier in the decade, the aggregation fabricated aloof 100 Ram HEVs-a diesel/electric amalgam on the able auto platform-and awash them to agile customers. Currently the HEV activity is “in limbo,” according to Cappa.
That was then. Added recently, DaimlerChrysler aing with GM and BMW in a ground-breaking affiliation that’s allied on a new anatomy of amalgam technology alleged the Two-Mode Amalgam System.
Slated to arise backward in 2007 on lath the’08 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, and after on the ’08 Dodge Durango, the Two-Mode Arrangement houses two 60 kW electric motors central an automated transmission. The motors are acclimated to abetment the centralized agitation agent in two altered ways: One approach for low agent speeds and ablaze loads, the added to accession achievement at aerial agent speeds and in high-power-demand situations, like towing. As with accepted abounding amalgam systems, the Two-Mode will acquiesce the trucks to accomplish abandoned on electric adeptness at low speeds, and will accommodate a start/stop action that shuts off the agent at idle, a key basic to accepting aerial mpg numbers in burghal driving. Adeptness for the motors will be stored in a 300-volt nickel-metal-hydride array backpack amid beneath the second-row seat.
The cyberbanking controls inherent in the Two-Mode Arrangement “will acquiesce you to use our Displacement on Demand technology added aggressively,” said Dana Kaplinski, abettor arch architect for GM’s ancillary of the Two-Mode System. “You accept added adeptness to save ammunition because you can attenuate the cylinders beyond a added active range.” Aback akin to an agent with GM’s Displacement on Demand or DaimlerChrysler’s Multi-Displacement System, the Two-Mode is accepted to bear a 25 percent advance in all-embracing ammunition efficiency.
Another advantage: Because it’s actuality developed by three altered companies, they can allotment the development and engineering costs so that, in approach anyway, the exceptional for the amalgam arrangement won’t be as aerial as we’ve apparent on added trucks. Officially, “pricing hasn’t been released, but we’ll be competitive,” said Kaplinski.
Toyota, too, is alive on adapting a abounding amalgam arrangement to its auto trucks. A contempo account adventure from Reuters said the aggregation has affairs for a “cheaper, smaller” amalgam system, accessible in 2008, that will carve its exceptional by bisected and acquiesce its use on a broader ambit of vehicles. Toyota’s closing aim is to action a amalgam powertrain on every agent it sells.
But Paul Williamsen acicular out the challenges Toyota’s faces. “Our accepted AWD amalgam arrangement for the Highlander is not a body-on-frame arrangement with driveshafts to both sets of wheels. There is no rear driveshaft; it uses complete cyberbanking ascendancy of the rear wheels. That has its advantages; you can anon add torque to the rear wheels, and no internal-combustion agent can do that.” But how do you acclimate that arrangement to a pickup? Turn the Highlander arrangement about so there’s automated ascendancy of the rear auto and electric adeptness to the fronts? That’s a possibility, said Williamsen, “but that presents some packaging issues. [The avant-garde end] is a active place, and about the affliction abode to put added mass.” Plus, the aerial amounts of torque from an electric motor “could circuit a avant-garde hub afar absolute easily.”
If Toyota can absolution a new truck-based amalgam arrangement in 2008 or thereabouts, and the GM/DaimlerChrysler Two-Mode Arrangement stays on schedule, we off-roaders may absolutely accept some applicable amalgam choices in the a future. We can abandoned achievement that the exceptional paid for the technology goes down, because we’re appealing abiding gas prices won’t.
Ford Escape/Mercury MarinerHybrid System FullHybrid EPA Ammunition Abridgement (city/highway) 33/29Conventional EPA Ammunition Abridgement (city/highway) 21/24 (I-4 engine)Hybrid MSRP $29,140 (Escape AWD), $29,840 (Mariner AWD)Conventional MSRP $24,285 (Escape XLT AWD), $25,035 (Mariner Luxury AWD)Estimated 2006 Tax Acclaim $1,950
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC SierraHybrid System MildHybrid EPA Ammunition Abridgement (city/highway) 17/19Conventional EPA Ammunition Abridgement (city/highway) 15/19Hybrid MSRP $36,705 (Silverado continued cab 4×4)Conventional MSRP $35,205 (Silverado continued cab 4×4 with Vortec 5300 V-8)Estimated 2006 Tax Acclaim $650
Toyota Highlander/Lexus RX 400hHybrid System FullHybrid EPA Ammunition Abridgement (city/highway) 31/27Conventional EPA Ammunition Abridgement (city/highway) 18/24Hybrid MSRP $34,430 (Highlander AWD), $48,535 (Lexus AWD)Conventional MSRP $27,840 (Highlander AWD V-6 w/third-row seat), $37,770 (Lexus RX 330 AWD)Estimated 2006 Tax Acclaim $2,200
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