Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Will the Real Hybrid Please Drive Up?

I have noted previously that even though not all hybrids all created equal, they can be marketed as if they were all the same. Union of concerned Scientists have now launched a website called the Hybrid Center to compare different types of hybrid vehicles. They have also launched a blog called Hybrid Blog.
On the Hybrid Center site, one of UCS' concern seems that the hybrids offered by GM on their light-trucks are not real hybrids. This figure shows the different types hybrids according to UCS classification. A DOE report on potential of hybrids and diesels in the US used the following ay to classify the hybrids (pdf file):

1. Stop/Start (S/S): This hybrid system includes only the ability to shut off the engine when it would otherwise idle and to restart it instantly on demand. This provides no torque boost to aid acceleration, but offers a fuel economy advantage of 7.5% over the EPA test cycle.
2. Integrated Starter Alternator with Damping (ISAD): This hybrid system will operate at 42 volts and will allow some power to be contributed by the electric drive system in addition to the stop/start capability. An increase in torque of 10% and 12.5% higher fuel economy are expected.
3. Integrated Motor Assist (IMA): This 114 volt hybrid system is expected to be produced only by Honda through 2012. In comparison to the ISAD design it has a larger electric motor and greater battery power and energy storage and allows more electricity to be used for motive power. The system is expected to provide 15% higher torque and 20% greater fuel economy on average.
4. Full Hybrid (FH): These 300+ volt systems permit limited all-electric drive in addition to supplementing the power of the internal combustion engine. For cars, full hybrid systems should offer 20% more torque and 40% more miles per gallon; for light trucks increases of 15% in torque and 35% in fuel economy are expected.
How important is this distinction? UCS will tell you that it is very important. Honda would tell you not to confuse cutomers with four different types of hybrids and call all hybrids as hybrids. Unfortunately, UCS web site does not allow you to compare GMs hybrid pickups along with Ford Escape Hybrid SUV. I would have really appreciated if UCS would have done so, but doing so in their mind would have adulterated their web site.

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