Sunday, January 21, 2018

Is the Hybrid Battery the Most Desirable of 4×4 Accessories?

March 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Adams Hybrids

Fossil fuels can’t last for ever and burning them is now universally accepted as being harmful to the planet on which we live. These are two good reasons to find alternative sources of fuel, especially for those who drive gas-guzzling vehicles. So, with pressure groups queuing up to condemn them and the government already penalising them with higher road taxes, the future looks grim for 4×4 drivers. Is it possible for them to drive the vehicles that they love but at the same time become more environmentally friendly?

The UK has some of the highest fuel prices found anywhere in the world. So, why are we so reluctant to find and adopt alternatives? Fuel source alternatives such as electric and LPG are used by less than one per cent of road-users in the UK. However, this could soon change as vehicle manufacturers are pouring millions of pounds into developing Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) as an alternative to petrol-only cars, and that development includes 4×4 versions.

Electric cars have been traditionally cumbersome to use. Recharging the low-capacity battery requires plugging them into the wall on extension cords overnight, and their tested vehicle performance to date has been very poor. Factors such as negligible acceleration, lack of power and limited range have all conspired against their universal acceptance. Useful for only short journeys, electric cars are hardly suitable alternatives for 4×4 enthusiasts and the heavy demands many of them place on performance. However, newly developed hybrid vehicles offer a combination of both the electric and traditional internal combustion engine technology, vastly improving their performance and making them much more attractive to 4×4 users.

Like most new technologies, there are different developments in the offing, with each providing variant solutions; two of the most popular being ‘series’ and ‘parallel’. For the ‘series’ system of hybrid engines, the generator is powered by petrol which charges the electric motor and in turn powers the wheels. In the ‘parallel’ system, either the petrol or electric motor or both can power the wheels.

For 4×4 off-road vehicles the parallel HEV is the only real alternative. This is because the mechanism allocates the engine according to operational need. So, when a surge in power is required, such as when heading uphill, the parallel system will automatically switch to the petrol engine if the electric system is struggling. In the series version, the petrol engine will only kick in when the battery levels are significantly reduced: not an acceptable option for most off-road drivers.

However, general acceptance of hybrid vehicles for 4×4 users will only happen when their performance equals that of conventional engines. Only when a vehicle is produced with the same performance, the same 4×4 tyres and with 4×4 parts to equal the existing petrol-only vehicles, will the hybrid make its mark.

Adam Singleton is an online, freelance journalist and keen amateur photographer from Scotland. His interests include travelling and hiking.

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