Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pushing The Prius - Faster, Longer, Cheaper

The hybrid Toyota Prius is the darling of alternate energy enthusiasts in the US. Though there are other hybrids in the US market, I suspect the most endearing factor of the Prius is its super best-selling status which gives hope that there is a lot of interest in the country in moving away from traditional fuels. People pay as much as five thousand dollars to jump a two month waiting list for a Prius. Others buy a Prius only to immediately sell it at a profit.

Essentially all that the Prius does is to improve the efficiency of a petrol car by running an electric motor on energy generated via a flywheel during actions like braking the car. However the introduction of the electric aspect opens up the doors for all sorts of alternate energy. Enthusiasts are converting Prius' into plug-in hybrids, so that their batteries can be charged overnight - just like an electric car. Unlike petrol, electricity can come from a variety of renewable sources, and very little petroleum is used in the US for generating electricity.

Then some take that concept even further to build a photovoltaic hybrid. While a regular Prius can top out at 47 miles per gallon (about 20 km per litre), a photovoltaic hybrid can reach 71 mpg (30 kmpl). Under special conditions folks have managed up to 110 mpg (46 kmpl) over 1400 miles using what is called the Pulse and Glide Technique. Plug-in pybrids however are reported to have returned as much as 250 mpg (106 kmpl). The idea is to put additional batteries in your hybrid, and charge all of them overnight. If you dont travel more than 20-30 miles every day, you may not need any petrol at all. What does it cost to run your car on electricity? "To drive a hybrid car about 1 km, takes about the same electricity as to light a 150 watt bulb for one hour!"