Automotive Industry and the Hybrid Spectrum

At the risk of sounding obvious, after 30 years of near-unwavering consistency, the automotive industry is finally trying to find ways to increase fuel economy… they’re just not doing a very good job of it.

On one end of the scale you have electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). Neither are visually appealing and only affordable to the relatively wealthy – the median income of a Nissan Leaf buyer is $165K. Granted these vehicles can maximize every penny spent on variable cost, but carry a huge fixed cost in order to do so.

On the other end of the spectrum you have relatively inexpensive micro hybrids that feature idle start-stop systems (ISS), a feature that might grant you two to three percent fuel economy savings if it actually engages. In North America, the integration of ISS is generally so poor, the few people who have it often disable the system – if they can. Even when enabled, the battery installed at the factory quickly gets to a point where it can’t keep up, in which case the car itself will disable it. Many of the ISS problems can be solved with better energy storage technology, but car manufacturers believe the average consumers won’t spend more on a car just to save gas.

In the hybrid electric vehicle market there are two main categories; mild and full hybrids. The full hybrids are the cars you know, such as the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion. The relevant difference between full and mild hybrids is typically the size of the energy storage system and thus their range capability in an electric only mode. A mild hybrid has little range on electric only and there aren’t many of them on the market today. However mild hybrids, which typically incorporate micro hybrid features but handle them much better due to the larger energy storage systems, have the greatest potential to improve real world fuel economy relative to cost.

Mild hybrids offer the greatest return on investment of all hybrid variations and when properly applied. Micro hybrid systems are relatively expensive and offer little fuel economy gains. PHEV and EV hybrids have the greatest cost of integration and only offer situational gains in fuel economy over mild hybrids. Mild hybrids attack fuel economy where it is most effective and use the minimum force required to achieve the greatest benefit. Well-designed and properly applied mild hybrids offer the greatest opportunity for original equipment manufacturers to meet the aggressive CAFÉ regulations set by the current administration, with the least impact on cost to the consumer.

All the current automotive mild hybrid cars on the market use traditional battery technologies such as lead acid, NiMH and lithium ion. Although, as Dr. Dennis Corrigan, professor at Wayne State University points out in his 2012 SAE paper, those technologies are poorly matched to the application. This means you are hauling around and paying for unused battery capacity. In essence, to meet the power requirements for mild hybrids, a significant excess of energy storage must be used. Battery technologies wear out fast from cycling, have lower power density, greater temperature sensitivity, and lower round trip efficiencies than ultracapacitors. Additionally, ultracapacitor’s energy and power densities are optimally matched to the mild hybrid application. As a result, engineers are turning to ultracapacitor technology to improve the system characteristics by drastically increasing life, and performance while reducing weight and volume thus resulting in more efficient vehicles.

With the governments of the world subsidizing the development of Lithium Ion technology; with special interests pushing for unrealistic giant leaps in affordable technology; and automotive engineers concentrating on adapting their methods to apparent demands of these parties simultaneously – the obvious, and best answers have been over looked. Ultracapacitor based mild hybrids offer the reliability, simplicity of integration and the right solution to meeting the fuel economy demands of today and tomorrow.

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  • uSTART® Lead-Free Replacement for Truck Batteries

    ONEONTA, N.Y.Jan. 9, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Ioxus uSTART® has received two fleet industry awards for sustainability by eliminating lead-acid batteries with its ultracapacitor-based, drop-in battery replacement.

    "With uSTART, fleets not only realize the benefits of improved starting reliability, there are equally important and real sustainability improvements from lead waste reduction," said Chad Hall, executive vice president and co-founder of Ioxus. "By replacing one of the batteries on a vehicle with a uSTART module, up to 15 fewer batteries are needed over the lifetime of the vehicle. This translates into 1,000 pounds of lead that will never need to be disposed of or allowed to affect groundwater."

    EU legislation on batteries is embodied in the European Battery Directive.  Its objective is to contribute to the preservation and improvement of environmental quality by minimizing the negative impact of batteries and battery waste.  As these preservation efforts expand, sustainable technologies develop to manage and mitigate these risks.

    Replacing a lead-acid battery with uSTART in a typical commercial vehicle creates measurable environmental benefits:

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