Hybrid Gets 150 Miles Per Gallon Using Ultracapacitors

It’s a prototype hybrid car that gets 150MPG, and goes 40 miles on electricity alone, drawing its power from a combination of lithium-ion batteries and ultracapacitors. The ultracapacitors provide a burst of energy to the engine, when needed. They are then recharged by the lithium-ion batteries. This avoids the problem of emptying the batteries too fast, which can cause them to heat up, and possibly catch on fire.

The prototype is based on a Saturn Vue Green Line, a hybrid crossover that General Motors builds using a low-cost belt-alternator system for its electric drive. It was created by AFS Trinity, and a running prototype will be shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which opens Sunday.

Typically, hybrids exploit the synergies of electricity and internal combustion by using only an electric motor at low speeds; the gas engine kicks in as speed increases, and both are used when maximum output is called for. AFS Trinity, on the other hand, took a purist position. In its system, the gasoline engine is not started until the batteries run down, an approach that Edward W. Furia, chairman and chief executive of the company, calls an “extreme hybrid.” Here’s a video of the car in action:

The rate of energy flow is also an issue as a hybrid car slows down, when its electric drive motor turns into a generator. This process, known as regenerative braking, converts the car’s motion into a powerful stream of electric current, but today’s hybrids capture only about half of the energy produced this way. Ultracapacitors can absorb a much higher percentage. The ultracapacitors take up about as much space as the lithium ion batteries, although they store a total of less than one kilowatt hour.

Because the AFS Trinity Vue runs long distances as a pure electric, it needs a full-size electric motor to go along with the full-size gasoline engine it uses in hybrid operation. While G.M.’s design for the Vue Green Line can get by with a small electric motor connected to the drivetrain by a belt, the AFS Trinity version has been modified with a 200-horsepower electric motor under the rear floor. The Vue Green Line’s standard hybrid system drives the front wheels, and the motor added by AFS Trinity drives the rear wheels.

So in its first 40 miles, the Vue is a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, and after that it is intermittently a four-wheel-drive vehicle, with the energy from regenerative braking captured by the capacitors and funneled through the motor driving the back wheels. “It saved us from mechanical integration and made it basically a software integration,” Mr. Bender said. But the ultracapacitors could be used in any kind of design, he said.

The idea behind the AFS Trinity is based on a widely accepted rule of thumb: the vast majority of drivers travel fewer than 40 miles a day. According to AFS Trinity, a driver who went 40 miles or less a day six days a week, and 100 miles once a week, would be traveling 150 miles for each gallon of gasoline burned, spending a little less than $8 for the gasoline and a little less than $8 for the electricity. The total fuel cost of $15.49 is about one-third of what it would cost for the gasoline to propel a conventional hybrid like the Lexus RX 400h the same distance, by AFS Trinity’s calculation.

Via: New York Times

Comments 23

  1. doubting thomas

    i hope this is the wave of the future rather than the buy up snuff. Many car companies have stock holders and powers to be with lobbiest that keep us oil dependant to line thier pockets. if the big car companies have thier way they will buy the technology and sweep it under the rug by saying there were problems with it and never put it on the market. then the loser is the public which is at the mercy of the rich who control all that happens in the economy. sorry to be so negative but the technology with combustion engines to get better mpg has been with us for many years. here is an example, a GM truck was puchased and the consumer was getting 30 plus miles per gallon. when he went to have it service it got worse miles per gallon. when the customer inquired about it the tech told him they took off a box that was left on by the factory by mistake. this box was a electronic fuel manager that was still being tested. that truck now gets less than 14 miles per gallon. I JUST DONT TRUST THE AUTO MAKERS TO DO WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CONSUMER.

  2. kris

    Don’t forget lights and heating. All electric cars don’t go very far if you want to heat/cool the interior passenger space or drive the car with lights. There goes winter use, night use, hot climate use, yadda.

  3. Golly G MrWizard

    Yes, I would say that it is a tad misleading; however, I would have to say that I still believe that this exact vehicle would save consumers a considerable amount of money in the short run due to fuel prices rising so rapidly vs electricity. Also, by implementing something like this across the general public, oil companies (substantial assets) would consider investing more heavily into electrical technology in order to fuel their hunger for profit that the mear cost raises of gas may not offset. Fossil fuels may be eventually 15$+/gallon for hybrid vehicles which would mean that petroleum companies would have to pump less out of the ground, transport less to refineries, refine less overall fuel, hire fewer employees for all these task and yet manage to maintain (if not increase) their profit dollars year after year (produce less product to be sold for more money). But as someone pointed out, as technology advances I believe we will see more and more solar powered stand alone residences and then who would mind commuting back and forth to work and college in a mostly electric vehicle. Electronics will become smaller and more affordable and soon we could have a Prius getting 300 miles to a gallon of gas. And yes, a fully electric car does get infinity/mpg. You would have to rate it by a different system such as cost/mile, which they seemingly did with 15.49/340 which by figuring 3.07 for REG gas at my local gas station would put that at 5 gallons (price) divided into 340 miles traveled=68 miles/$galequivilent. Not GREAT but a step in the right direction. As the price of gas increases so does this equation in the favor of the vehicle. What if you only drove 40 miles per day for 2 weeks or 3 months and kept the ABILITY to use the fuel efficient gas engine for long distance? Just a thought. How about a car that absorbs heat energy from the sun exposed paint or they develope solar ray absorbing paint to help recharge the vehicle as it travels during daylight hours to further enhance it’s ability to rest the gasoline engine? Let’s offer solutions.

    And the Henry Ford thing….step away from the computer every now and then and get a life. Go get in your vehicle (or more likely your moms) that is probably made in Japan, Korea, or perhaps Germany and remember that it is Henry Ford who invented the car assembly line so that people with lower incomes could afford to own an automobile of their own. Take the positive, leave the negative.

  4. Henry Ford

    Henry Ford was one of the most vicious racist fools in the history of the world. He spent millions on fomenting hate and Hitler learned a lot from him.

  5. Tristoflex Mondorto

    I fell out of a window
    A second story window
    and caught my eyelash on the sill, sill,
    Go fetch the axe,
    there’s a fly on baby’s mustache
    A man’s best friend is his horse.

  6. silverelk

    If Henry Ford, or Hannibal had been surrounded by folks with a little knowledge, we would have no cars and Hannibal would have been stuck in Africa…

  7. William Myers

    Mike, I have no problem with experimental cars being developed, but I do have a problem with its sponsors posting highly misleading and inaccurate info about it, that’s just dishonest.

    As to it being an SUV, the reason it HAS to be an SUV is because of the weight and size of all the equipment – note that the storage area of the SUV, which people buy to be empty, is full of the equipment to make it work. This technology simply wouldn’t fit in a smaller car, and in a bigger SUV car it doesn’t work as an SUV, ie having lots of storage. In fact, because of the higher load weight due to all the engines and gear in the thing, the car has longer stopping and maneuvering distances, which turn out to be the most important safety factors. In every way you are better off going with a conventional hybrid or even a diesel all of which weigh less, are safer, and cost less to operate.

  8. Mike

    You make a good point about the misleading info on mpg – however, I have to disagree with your overall assessment that this is not a useful development. The fact that it can store and run on electrical energy is a big improvement (even for 40 miles), because it opens the door to use any source of energy (like you say solar, or maybe more likely, nuclear) thereby decreasing our dependence on oil. The main issue isn’t only getting the energy, but also making the energy transportable, for use in a motor vehicle.

    Plus, it’s important to note that this is an SUV – if it were put into a smaller car the mpg ratings would likely be much higher.

  9. Ugly American

    The MPG claims are misleading. I wish reporters would stop falling for that.

    Capacitor recharge rate is very fast. How fast? It’s mostly limited by the wires leading into them. For example, EEStor makes capacitors for the military that can run your house for 24 hours. They can be charged in 5 mins. But you can’t do it on regular wall socket because those wires were never designed to handle that much power so fast.

    The problems with the US power grid are peak load issues. There is alot of unused capacity at night and it’s actually a problem today to ramp up huge nuke and coal plants every morning and then back them off every night. They run better if they can just cruise at the same level 24/7. But in any large scale implimentation of electric cars, they would have to be charged at night or off solar power.

  10. mind

    *cough* sorry, i flipped the numbers in my explanation. from their figures –
    the car goes 340 miles in a week (6*40+100), but only 60 of those are on gasoline (a 100 mile trip minus the 40 run on electric)

    so their figure of 150mpg, * 60/340 = 26

    4. environmentally, finding clean sources of power for the grid is paramount. i personally think we’ll start to see a lot more DIY solar as the prices come down, and durability goes up.

  11. William Myers

    And another thing, comparing the operating cost of this thing to “other hybrids like the Lexus RX” is disingenuous and misleading since the Lexus RX is more usually called the “Lexus RX Hybrid Luxury Utility Vehicle” that only gets 24mpg, and that’s using testing methods that are inaccurate, a more realistic mpg figure for the Lexus is 18mpg.

  12. William Myers

    Mind is correct, the mpg figures they give are not what you think they are since this thing needs to also be recharged from your wall socket, the cost of which will only go up.

    Also, I wonder, does the alleged 40 mile range mean a 20 mile range and a needed 6 hour recharge cycle? How will your the socket owner feel about your plugging in at work or at the store?

    And is the range less if you have passengers?

    Really, if you are only driving 20 miles at a time, maybe your best investment is a bicycle since oil is on its last legs.

  13. mind

    1. going long distances has little to do with needing a 200hp electric motor.

    2. “150 mpg” is maliciously deceptive. by the same system, an all electric car gets _infinity_ mpg. the actual mpg of this hybrid is 26. [ 150 * (40*6+100)/(100-40) ]

    3. electricity is only this cheap because utility companies are heavily long in energy futures, and electricity prices are heavily regulated

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