Posts Tagged ‘Fuel Prices’
Gasoline prices have skyrocketed over the past few months. Economically, the escalation in gasoline prices is because it takes oil to make gasoline. The cost of fueling your car has put a serious in your pocketbook. Gas prices have leaped over the $4 per gallon. Our society is dependent on our ability to fill the gas tanks on our cars.
In economic terms, gas prices are inelastic. It means normal supply and demand does not apply. One or a few entities can raise the price as high as they want because they know we have to buy it. Normally, the price of a good or service is determined by supply and demand. If there is an over supply of a good, the price goes down. If there is a shortage of something, the price goes up. When you have a normal balance between supply and demand capitalism is at work.
The point where supply and demand meet is called “price equilibrium.” There is a balance between supply and demand and the price goods and services. When someone corners the market on an item that is a staple of everyday life, like gasoline, the consumer is in trouble. The supplier has a monopoly. We are forced to pay whatever price the controlling entity sets for the good. That is where we are right now on fuel prices.
When this situation has occurred in the past, it has predominately been a domestic issue. The railroads had that situation in the late 19th century and the government stepped in to change the things in favor of the average citizen. In more recent times, the government stepped in to split the company into smaller entities, with a more regional focus.
The current fuel crisis is not going to be so easy to solve. We need cooperation from countries that hate us just because we exist. (Speaking of which, whoever heard of a religion where you have to kill anyone not of the same faith?) The war in Iraq is not making us any friends. Its end may be a good place to start working on the fuel crisis. It would certainly be a good place to start.
Another option is to develop other sources of energy, moving us away from our oil dependence. We should follow Brazil’s lead and move toward ethanol as our primary energy source. As a nation we should be ashamed that we haven’t already done so. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Use the same models and strategies they used when they started their program.
Lastly, and most importantly, what if you are a single parent and you have to decide between $4 gasoline to get to work or food that night for your children. How would you decide?
With the various tax incentives on offer, and increasing concern about both pollution and future fuel prices, it is not hard to see why HybridVehicles are becoming more popular.
Most of us know by now that a Hybrid Vehicle has two sources of power;an electric motor and the good ol’ Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).However, most people don’t know much beyond that so let’s go deeper:let’s cut through the jargon and have a look at how Hybrid Vehiclesactually work.
Hybrid vehicles are usually based on two main designs; a paralleldesign, or a series design.
With a parallel design, the electric motor and ICE are both connecteddirectly to the vehicle’s wheels. The ICE is used for normal driving;the electric motor provides additional power during acceleration, hillclimbs and other occasions of high demand.
With a series design, the ICE is connected to a generator which is usedto charge the batteries. It is the batteries which actually power thewheels via the electric motor.
Some hybrid vehicles use the series design at low speeds, and theparallel design for highway driving and acceleration.
Regenerative braking: normally the deceleration of a vehicle is wastedenergy; not so with Hybrids. Hybrids can use regenerative braking tocapture and store the energy lost in slowing down the vehicle aselectricity. The electricity can later be used to propel the vehicle.This increases the overall efficiency of the vehicle as energy that wasotherwise wasted is being stored and used again later.
Also energy that would otherwise be wasted while idling or cruising canalso be stored for later use. While cruising the ICE uses a lot of fuelin proportion to the actual work going into driving the wheels. Thismakes it particularly inefficient at those times. To increase efficiencysome of the output from the ICE is fed to a generator to charge thebatteries when the vehicle is cruising or travelling downhill.
Another clever trick is that the electric motor normally used to drivethe wheels can be used as the generator. This is how the regenerativebraking process, and the system for charging the battery during engineidling, generate electricity. At those times the electric motor is notneeded for propulsion, therefore, the ability of an electric motor tooperate in ‘generator’ mode is utilised so that a separate generator isnot required.
Vehicles which use the parallel or series design are sometimes known asFull Hybrids. Other types of Hybrids such as the Assist Hybrid and MildHybrid are basically just normal vehicles with a bit of electrical powersupplied at crucial moments. They may also offer Regenerative Braking.However, this kind of vehicle only provides about a 10% increase in fueleconomy and it is open to question as to whether the extra complexity isworthwhile.
Is the future of hybrid diesel?
The future of hybrids may very well lie in the diesel motor. Dieselengines operate at higher efficiency than petrol engines so deliver moremiles to the gallon, plus they are more reliable. Their maindisadvantage has always been poor acceleration, but in a hybrid this isnot an issue as it can be offset with extra propulsion from the electricmotor.
In addition, diesel engines can run on biofuels such as vegetable oiland the like. Such fuels are relatively clean and are not the dirtystuff often associated with diesel propulsion. Biofuels can be obtainedin a sustainable way and the costs are relatively independent of oilproduction and oil prices.
The combination of reliability, fuel economy (prototypes have achievedover 110 mpg US fuel economy) and sustainable sources of fuel, makes thediesel-engine based hybrids not only likely, but inevitable. This willhopefully give us breathing space till fuel cell technology matures.
Should you Buy a Hybrid Vehicle?
Here are some resources to help you decide:
You can check out this comparison charthttp://go.ucsusa.org/hybridcenter/compare_chart.cfm which will helpyou compare some hybrids with non-hybrids and a reference list of allFederal and State incentives for prospective hybrid ownershttp://go.ucsusa.org/hybridcenter/incentives.cfm .
Some topical articles; Buyers of hybrid cars get a pleasant surprisehttp://www.rocklintoday.com/news/templates/automotive_news.asp?articleid=3110&zoneid=1and one persons experience of the Cost of Owning a Hybrid carhttp://www.hybridcars.com/blogs/sans-suv/apples-oranges.
Consumer Reports have now admitted that they made an error when theysaid owners of hybrid vehicles would pay more than buyers of comparablegasoline-only vehicles over their lifetime of ownership. Owners of theToyota Prius and Honda Civic hybridshttp://www.hybridcars.com/news/news.php?news_id=832 do save money, themagazine now says.
If you want more in-depth technical information try What is a HybridElectric Vehicle?http://www.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/hev/what_is_hev.html/ whichincludes a nice simple overview of hybrid vehicle designhttp://www.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/hev/hev_components.html and thepage Hybrid Electric Vehicleshttp://www.nrel.gov/vehiclesandfuels/hev/hevs.html has clear technicalexplanations.
Wikipedia has a well written Hybrid vehiclehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_car entry which includes bothtechnical and ecological issues.
If all that is not enough for you try the Hybrid Electric Vehicle bloghttp://hybridblog.typepad.com which has lots of good info and links.