These days there is a bit of a hype about hybrid cars, mainly fueled by slashed tax. Of course they come with an interesting promise. But can we really utilize its full capacity?
Main benefits of hybrids are ability to run more on less fuel, or reduced cost per km and reduced carbon footprint. This is achieved in two ways.
By having an alternative energy source in the car, hybrid can work around some deficiencies of internal combustion engine. In a regular car you need to have larger bulky engines which suck up more fuel and deliver more energy to support acceleration. But when you are cruising you don’t need that much energy. A hybrid can have a smaller, efficient engine and/or run it at the efficient RPM level, while electric powertrain is compensating for the rest of it. Also when decelerating, a regular car will slow down by evaporating its energy as heat through friction. It means that energy is lost. A hybrid use regenerative brakes, which is just a fancy name for the mortar doubling up as a generator to absorb that energy back to its batteries. As a result hybrid accelerates, runs and decelerates more efficiently. Because of it hybrid can get good mileage in slow city limit driving too. Also breaks will generate less heat, and engine will do less work resulting reduced maintenance.
Having an electric power option allows you to hook up to an electricity source and charge your batteries. It will allow doing the daily commute to work in full electric, in congested city roads. This option will be cheaper and greener, provided that the source of domestic power is cheaper and greener than petroleum fuel. It also allows to centralize power and pollution generation and make it easier to improve efficiency and manage pollution at large-scale power plants.
Hybrids are still more expensive compared to conventional cars. But with tax reliefs and government support they are competitively priced. However in Sri Lanka maintainability of a vehicle is a major factor considered when buying cars. When it comes to hybrids, owners will have to stick with agents maintenance support which is an expensive option. While first owners will most likely use agents for maintenance anyway, this will have a bigger impact on second-hand market of the vehicles, which is also a major factor considered in Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka electricity prices are at its peaks. Even though there are talk about reducing electricity cost with implementation of coal based production, it doesn’t look like it going to happen any time soon. Therefore plugin-charging a hybrid will probably cost you more than buying fuel. Reduction of carbon foot print will also be limited to what is given by improved efficiency as our domestic energy supply will remain mostly fossil fuel based for a foreseeable future. However carbon emitted by transportation of fuel will be reduced.
Therefore we Sri Lankans with a hybrid are likely to end up paying less for fuel and more for other things in short term. However internal combustion engine is more than 300 yeas old. Why would any one want to buy such a piece of history which has produced so much pollution and created global warming. A hybrid will beat a conventional car at any day, when it comes to cool factor. I am a tech guy. Until someone invent the future car powered by an ‘Internal Anti Matter Annihilation Engine’ or a ‘Zero Point Engine’, I would love to buy a hybrid / full electric or an air car and move away from 300 yeas old technology. Of course I will first have to find the money. Until then, long live private busses!
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