By Gemma Hawtry
– or –
Stupid mode (well & truly): ON.
Those petrolheads (sic) that follow the green side of things will have noticed some depressing stories of late. One of the more notable has been the outbreak of spontaneous Chevy Volt combustion. Another hailing from American shores is the (slightly dubious) calculation that based on the six thousand odd Volts sold they’ve cost the US taxpayer $250,000 a pop (basically find goverment total subsidy figures for the Volt and divide by six thousand, an almost Clarksonesque feat of mathematical irrelevance).
Many of you will already know my feelings on batteries, ‘lectric and the world of cars. But to summarise. If you want high efficiency; from mining the metal ore used; to the final product – rare earths and lithium and other hard to obtain elements are not the way to go. Small displacement high power engines running multi turbo/intercooler/aftercoolers on either diesel or petrol are the way to go.
In 1987 the 2.2i Douvrin engine put out 123hp.
In 2011 the 1.0i Ecoboost engine puts out precisely the same output.
Less than half the displacement for the same power. It must be magic!! No, its not. Its not even anything new. Japanese manufacturers have been doing for years in kei cars. You want 130hp from a 650cc engine – find a kei car. They even did a turbo version of the original Nissan Micra, although only the Gods know why.
So can someone tell me why we need range limited, COx expensive, potentially explosive batteries (just add lithium to water, and have a good health plan) strapped under our behinds? The simple answer is we dont, but, like a Jedi with an ulterior motive, they would like you to think we do..
Toyota are just releasing a Yaris sized baby sister to the Prius we know and loathe.
Its a fairly well understood concept by now that the more power you have in a given vehicle, the better its fuel consumption will be (with the proviso that the power and torque be in usable rev bands, yes Renault, i’m glaring at you here). Its also generally understood by everyone *but* Toyota that the HSD system is a mild hybrid. This means the petrol engine does most of the work.
So please tell me why Toyota; have you chosen to put a gutless 1.6 98hp engine in there, when you had sooo many better choices. A 1972 H120 managed 10hp more than that!
I’m not saying that hybrids are all bad – but the current generation are dismal as regards *real* economy. The majority, bar to be fair, the Honda Insight, are lardy overpriced and expensive, both in price and in their COx footprint. Even the Insight has its issues (suicidal earth connections and wheezy performance being two).
My maternal grandfather, when he wasnt dictating letters to the government (which usually had me in stitches), or reminicing about the Battle of Cable Street (the real one, not the charge of the Treacle Mine Road brigade*) always said ‘if you are going to do it, do it properly’.
Personally I consider battery/electric hybrids to be an evolutionary dead end – but heres my version of doing it properly, Toyota style.
- Design attractive, safe, light bodyshell. For heavens sake guys, its a car, not an infantry tank. Use LED lighting all round and fit EL displays where needed. Low rolling resistance tyres, disc cast wheels, either run flat or tire sealant (spare tire delete). Removable rear seats, weight equals consumption and most journeys are driver only.
- Use battery arrays that can be user serviced and DONT use rare element sealed batteries. Just some elementary chemistry here but the way Lithium reacts to water can have similar, if messier, effects to the way Wookies react to losing. Deep cycle lead-acid was good enough for your dads national service so its good enough for you.
- YOU HAVE A ICE ENGINE. It makes heat. Cold batteries prefer being toasty (I speak from personal experience, trying to do sonar mapping in arctic conditions with NiMh batteries would try the patience of a saint). Theres something called a thermos flask… Think on! Its not beyond the wit of man to realise that using the battery’s power to heat itself is dumb when theres oodles of waste heat under the bonnet already.
- Like liquidity in a US bank, you can never have enough power! It takes a given amount of power to move a given object at a given speed. The more power you put in said object, the faster it will go.
(Unless its a 911, wherein the equation is
x+y = (z = t-(a/y))
given x = original power, y = new increase, a = age of driver, t = time it took last time to end up in a 360 spin/buried in a tree & z = new personal record for losing no claims bonus.)
The lighter the engine producing said power, the faster still.
Given that in general we are solving for a given speed, a lighter, more powerful motive unit is better.
There are numerous motorcycle engines 800cc to 1000cc that make 100hp plus. So why a massive 1.6 lump that seems barely able to pull the skin off a rice pudding?
In short if you really want economy and ‘green credentials’ here is a simple recipe.
1 x motorcycle type high rpm engine
(650 to 1300cc, I personally find the CBR1000 to my taste, but YMMV as ever.)
1 x small capacity turbosupercharged intercooled/aftercooled diesel engine
1 x multispeed sequential transmission for same.
1 x transmission integrated electric motor -or- 2 x electric hub motors
1 x multi KwH battery pack, controller (I recommend multi cell lead acid for that added off the shelf, not-getting-shafted-by-the-dealer flavour)
1 x set mechanical instruments. (why waste electrical power, plus home fixable)
5. Aerodynamics. Door mirrors, um why? Cameras are smaller and clearer, not to mention have a longer life expectancy in car parks. Spats can improve aero by 3%. Grille blocks up to 5%, but watch temperatures or design them variable. For added management kudos, claim your company invented same.
6. Tyre pressures. Specifying a pressure of 40psi can improve economy by 7% over more usual 30/35. (and no, it doesnt spoil handling).
7. Intake temperature controls. Barfing more petrol into a cold engine isnt green, no really it isnt. Using a temperature controlled intake, or a warm air intake in winter can cut fuel consumption by 45% on some cars, its all to do with how the ECU measures intake temperature and meters fuel accordingly. Most modern MPEFI engines forgo the variable intake method (often used with carb engines) for the simpler barf and go approach.
8. ENGINE PRE HEATER AS STANDARD. It’s got batteries and a plug yes? Fit an engine pre heater. Even the stick on sump heaters can give a 5 to 8% improvement in MPG. There are verifiable improvements right through the year (yes, even in summer). Warmed oil, happier engine, better MPG! Even retrofitting these to every current engine on the road could save thousands of tons of CO2 and other pollutants. Oh yeah, and money too.
9. Load biasing adaptive cruise control. Computers are more accurate generally than the lesser spotted human right boot. Accuracy means MPG. However current cruise controls are speed biased not load biased (ie they function to a given speed, not a given rpm/engine load). Keeping the same speed uphill and braking downhill is wasteful of kinetic energy therefore economy, using an engine rpm based system is not (Armstrong Siddeley managed in in the ’50s). Adaptive for safety reasons, just in case to paraphrase Toyota’s tagline ‘the berk in front is driving a BMW’.
Its a fairly simple recipe you will agree. Its also based on long known concepts and freely available off the shelf parts. But its not being done and you have to ask yourself why that is?
Is it because the car companies cant afford it?
Is it because the laws wont allow it?
Or is it because doing a half assed and, more importantly, proprietary job is more advantageous to the manufacturer?
I think you can probably guess which one I favour?
But the thing that depresses me most about this subject is that plug in hybrids at least are doomed to fail in this country. Not because of lack of support, not because of manufacturer indifference or indifferent build quality. Not even the half-assery par excellence, worthy of a Ritterkreuz mit eichenlaub und brillianten, that is the best thats available right now (I mean, electrical circuits need a reliable earth, how hard can it be to provide one?).
No, the reason is simple. Little Britain.
The sort of people who whinge when someone cuts the hedge at 11am instead of 12 noon. The sort of people who fall down an open manhole cover whilst paralytic & then sue. Can you imagine that sort of person resisting the whinge instinct when everyone at their block of flats has a plug in hybrid…?
And woe betide you if you run over *their* charging cable!
I’ve not even started on the health and safety implications.
Done properly hybrids can be a force for good in the petrolverse. But they arent there yet and some fundamental rethinking is needed before they can be. The technical problems are by no means insurmountable, I think the societal problems & regulatory problems are going to prove more of the issue. Not to mention the universal issue of humanity in general, the phenomenon of rain, and 480v three phase electricity.
That said there are many other, potentially better options, but these again require further work – and several are in the hands of government such as public transport infrastructure.
I know I am not alone in noticing the weather this year. One autumnesque Christmas doth not a world catastrophe make, but I am also reminded of the Mayan new epoch starting 21st December ’12. The last time one of these showed its ugly mug it was said to presage a catastrophe and they were dead right, for the Aztec at least. Note to future archaologist: spear against smoothbore musket no work so good!°
However as has been said in an Apple management meeting circa the beginning of Time(pat.pending) (according to the Book of Jobs) “a catastrophe is an iMac wrapped up in a Newton connected to an MacTV”.¤
Its true we could keep on as we are and eventually end up in, to coin a phrase, a whole planet of trouble…
Or we could make a few small changes, each of us, because another way of looking at a catastrophe is as a life changing event, and securing our grandkids and great grandkids future in as healthy a world as we can make it would be life changing for them.
Who knows, it might even do us some good!
Authors note: I currently drive a 2.2vi Safrane 1995. Currently I run 40psi tyre pressure, a sump heater, wai, cruise & coast. My cars rated MPG for short trips is 19.8mpg in winter (factory figures – 10%). I’m currently getting 23.6mpg for an 8 mile round trip, thats 120% of expected. The best I got for a 22 mile round trip at ‘extra urban’ was 30mpg, 8mpg over stock (or a 36% improvement), for a 15 year old automatic! Given my car costs just over £100 to fill from empty – 28% average improvement, is a large saving.
Small & simple changes can make alot of difference, but changing the mentality of the driver is fundamental. As is good maintainence.
For more information on economy techniques see ecomodder.com.
° Unless they’re Italian. For further military high jinks see French Military History Google bomb.
¤ Or in plain english “…an opportunity, wrapped up in an mystery, inside an enigma…”. for other examples see Windscale & NPfIT. The case of NPfIT is borderline to many experts, since no one has actually found the opportunity part yet.
* See Night Watch by Terry Pratchett.