How do we make greener cars?

Cars today are more fuel efficient than they have ever been before.
Cars and light trucks sold in the United States hit a new record for fuel efficiency last year — 23.6 miles per gallon, on average — in response to still-high oil prices and strict new fuel-economy standards.

There are many reasons for this welcome change, like how light cars are today and how oil prices have generally risen in the past few decades.

But there is one main reason why cars are so much more efficient. It is because of how they run – how their engines power the cars.
There are 2 ways in which we can make our cars greener:

1) Tweaks to the combustion engine

2) Using alternative fuels such as lithium ion batteries or hydrogen fuel cells

Today, we will look at how tweaks to the ages-old combustion engine makes for better efficiency.

The Toyota Prius, for example – the world’s most popular hybrid car, uses a combination of an internal combustion engine and a battery electric drive system to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions. When pulling away from a stop, the electric motor powers the car, drawing on the battery for power.

Hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors and can be configured to obtain different objectives, such as improved fuel economy, increased power, or additional auxiliary power for electronic devices and power tools.

Diagram of full hybrid vehicle components, including (1) an internal combustion engine, (2) an electric motor, (3) a generator, (4) a power split device, and (5) a high-capacity battery.

Some of the advanced technologies typically used by hybrids include

  • Regenerative Braking. The electric motor applies resistance to the drivetrain causing the wheels to slow down. In return, the energy from the wheels turns the motor, which functions as a generator, converting energy normally wasted during coasting and braking into electricity, which is stored in a battery until needed by the electric motor.
  • Electric Motor Drive/Assist. The electric motor provides additional power to assist the engine in accelerating, passing, or hill climbing. This allows a smaller, more efficient engine to be used. In some vehicles, the motor alone provides power for low-speed driving conditions where internal combustion engines are least efficient.
  • Automatic Start/Shutoff. Automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and restarts it when the accelerator is pressed. This prevents wasted energy from idling.

But you might ask, “Why would I want to buy a Prius? That thing is so slow and boring.”

Well, fear not, because the same technology used in the Prius is used in hybrid supercars such as the Mclaren P1, Porsche 918 and Ferrari LaFerrari.
Yes, the future for hybrid cars does indeed look bright – regardless of whether you are a daily commuter or a car enthusiast!

To learn more about how hybrid combustion engines work, please have a look here:

Next time on the Green Code, we will see how alternative fuels are also making greener cars a reality.


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