The Future of Batteries in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

For some time now, hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) have earned a reputation as the future in the automotive industry. Even as the technology itself has developed and the prices were slow to come down behind that technology, many people see the advantages of electric cars. Lower emissions than internal combustion engines, quieter commutes, and certainly less dependence on both oil and gasoline. The list of benefits to hybrid electric vehicles is immense, but it would be a leap of faith to call the technology as “mainstream” as the traditional vehicle.

Why? Because HEV simply have a long way to go until they are considered truly viable and affordable alternatives to almost every type of car. And as the technology inside these hybrids improves, the prices continue to come down. There may be no more crucial technology to the success of HEV than the battery that runs the electric soul of these low-polluting vehicles. That’s why we are going to take a look at the future of these batteries, what it means to the HEV industry, and what the technology means to the car industry worldwide.

Given the size of this industry and the complicated nature of the technology, where is a good place to start? Let’s start with the most exciting place: the future.

Potential Future Requirements of HEV Batteries

What do we mean when we say “requirements”? Well, as you probably know, the automotive industry tends to be a highly-regulated industry because of both safety and pollution concerns. This is seen in economies worldwide, from Europe to America. So it’s not very surprising that HEV batteries will also have some “requirements” and standards to meet in order to be formally introduced to the automotive market, and given what we know about HEV batteries today, we can make some fairly accurate predictions as to the future requirements of these batteries. After all, these requirements will shape the specifications and nature of the future HEV batteries.

Automotive batteries have been seen as a substitute to these traditional internal combustion engines, and in HEVs, they are seen as a way to supplement the traditional car engines. Totally electric vehicles also require batteries, and as electric technology rises as an alternative to the traditional cars, it stands to reason that these batteries need to deliver as much power and stamina as the traditional engines. Do they?

That question will help shape the future requirements of electric car batteries. The success of hybrids thus far can be attributed to the fact that they are able to combine the short-term efficiency of an electric battery along with the long-range power and endurance of the internal combustion engine. This reason alone is perhaps an explanation as to why hybrids are still more popular than totally electric vehicles.

To understand the different types of demands the future car batteries will have, consider the types of cars that exist today:

 ● Traditional, internal combustion engine cars

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) – in which the car battery is charged with power from the gasoline engine 

● Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) – a car in which the electric battery can be charged from an external source, not requiring the gasoline engine to be turned on 

● Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) – A PHEV can be one of these, but often BEVs refer to vehicles running solely on battery usage 

 Needless to say, each type of car comes with its own set of battery requirements.

For example, the battery requirement for a BEV will mean a high capacity of stored power: since there is no ability to switch to an internal combustion engine in a BEV, running out of electric power essentially means “running out of fuel”. Without a way to travel long distances using this kind of technology, the BEV loses a lot of its appeal and won’t be as popular on the roads.

When it comes to future battery requirements for HEV and PHEVs, the storage capacity is not as much an issue as is the power output, being able to make the transition between electric battery to internal combustion engine without a dramatic shift in the handling of the car.

It’s been said that many people mostly focus on the daily commute for their overall energy capacity needs – for example, traveling only around 40 miles a day is not a difficult thing to do with an electric car because many charges can handle that sort of round trip. But more frequent travelers who need an easy way to sustain long periods on the road will find charging their batteries much more difficult than simply pulling over and going to a gas station.

Understanding that future cars will have to be able to “act” like internal combustion gasoline cars in both power and convenience should help you understand why battery technology has not quite become so popular yet. After all, there are far fewer “battery charging stations” than there are gas stations. But let’s take a look at where the industry is headed and whether or not the battery technology in places like Lithium or Lithium Ion technology might provide some potential breakthroughs

When it comes to future battery requirements for HEV and PHEVs, the storage capacity is not as much an issue as is the power output, being able to make the transition between electric battery to internal combustion engine without a dramatic shift in the handling of the car.

It’s been said that many people mostly focus on the daily commute for their overall energy capacity needs – for example, traveling only around 40 miles a day is not a difficult thing to do with an electric car because many charges can handle that sort of round trip. But more frequent travelers who need an easy way to sustain long periods on the road will find charging their batteries much more difficult than simply pulling over and going to a gas station.

Understanding that future cars will have to be able to “act” like internal combustion gasoline cars in both power and convenience should help you understand why battery technology has not quite become so popular yet. After all, there are far fewer “battery charging stations” than there are gas stations. But let’s take a look at where the industry is headed and whether or not the battery technology in places like Lithium or Lithium Ion technology might provide some potential breakthroughs.

What is your opinion about battery technology? Where do you think the industry is headed? Feel free to leave a comment.

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Posted on April 5, 2011, in Electric / Electronic. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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