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Small Battery Hybrids May Make More Economic and Environmental Sense Than Full Hybrids, Study Says

2008 Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid Engine

A new study from the Carnegie Mellon University, performed by Jeremy J. Michalek and his colleagues reveals that owning cars with large batteries isn’t necessarily the best option available right now. They say hybrids with smaller batteries make more sense both economically and environmentally.

“While larger battery packs allow plug-in vehicles to drive longer distances on electric power instead of gasoline, they are also expensive and heavy, they are underutilized when the battery capacity is larger than needed for a typical trip, they require more charging infrastructure and they produce more emissions during manufacturing.”

Michalek reasons this on the fact that usually, electricity is extracted from “dirty” sources including coal and other fossil fuels, these adding up to the car’s own pollution during the production stage, of which the battery is the most harmful.

The team received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to see how changing public policy could help determine the types of vehicles built in the coming years and how the market might accept them.

“With increasing energy and environmental constraints, transitioning from conventional gasoline vehicles to hybrid and plug-in vehicles offers an opportunity for improving energy independence and air quality while helping to address global warming,” said study co-author Constantine Samaras, an engineer at the RAND Corporation.

Well, this sounds just like another paid research in the favor of changing little to nothing in the auto industry. However, this particular study might just be right about something: EVs are pretty expensive right now because of the batteries. Furthermore, the batteries EVs carry right now are only suited for short-distance driving, which makes them even less attractive to the end consumer, who usually wants to go from point A to point B as comfortable and as cheap as possible.

The battery industry has evolved much since a few years ago. Prices have been dropping since 2006, for example,and the technology has evolved from using Ni-MH to Li-Ion. This move had been considered audacious before Tesla Motors proved the technology to be viable.

Promoting cars with little hybrid capacities (those so-called “mild hybrids”), but however very economical at city speeds, may be a good idea because it would encourage buyers to purchase more easily, and would slowly but surely make place for the technology in people’s minds.

[via sciencedaily]

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