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papau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-28-05 09:37 AM
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A Power Portfolio(This monthsLexus luxury SUV hybrid as all cars go hybrid
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If April 05's new cleaner/more efficient/better performane Lexus luxury SUV hybrid can deliver 268 horsepower (30 horsepower more than the gas-only model but with 72% more miles per gallon in the city), why not hybrids?

A Power Portfolio

Thu Mar 24, 6:05 PM ET

By Peter W. Huber Mark P. Mills

At first glance, hybrid car economics just don't make sense. A conventional engine costs about $70 per horsepower-or, in electrical units, about $50 per kilowatt. Now add the extra cost of going hybrid: The power electronics required to convert horsepower to kilowatts run $6 a kilowatt, battery packs add another $25, and then you need electric motors, at $15 a kilowatt, to turn electricity back into shaft power to drive the wheels. For an SUV these and related electrical parts are going to run something like $5,000. Why pay for all that extra hardware when it ends right back where it began, in the mechanical power of a spinning shaft?

Japan took the plunge first, but the race has just begun. GM's Silverado pick-up and Ford's Escape SUV are already in showrooms; Toyota's Highlander SUV is coming in June, and GM's Tahoe hits showrooms in 2007. Dodge is reportedly planning to release its hybrid Durango in 2008. Full-size hybrid cars are available from Honda (Accord) and are said to be coming from Mercedes and Porsche. At least a dozen different hybrids will be in showrooms in 2006. GM is targeting buses and full-size trucks, too-"where our (hybrid) technology can have the greatest impact," Tom G. Stephens, a Group vice president in the GM power-train unit, told Automobile Engineering International.

Hybrids have, in fact, already taken over completely under the hoods of vehicles too big to fit in your garage. GE's 6,000hp locomotive is powered by an enormous diesel-fueled, engine-driven generator; everything beyond is electric. Ixys supplies high-power silicon transistor modules for the locomotives built by Siemens/ABB. Komatsu's 930E 300-ton mining truck is electric-propelled, feeding off a 2-megawatt generator powered by a diesel engine. The surface ships now on the Navy's drawing boards are all-electric, from the propellers to the guns.

Hybrid economics make a lot of sense, after all. In cars the combustion engine gets cheaper because you can make do with a lot less engine; the batteries can provide the extra kick needed for acceleration. In cars, as in trucks and ships, steady operation also lets the engine run much more efficiently, and it can be designed to run on lower-grade fuel. What the hybrid does, really, is to wrap the century-old steel of the internal combustion engine in a cocoon of semiconductors, motors and batteries that end up making everything smaller, faster, cleaner and more efficient.

The internal combustion engine will endure, but the mechanical drivetrain is history. To invest in the future of transportation, invest in suppliers of power silicon, power supplies, sensors and advanced electric motors.

Huber and Mills are coauthors of The Bottomless Well (Basic Books, 2005) and, respectively, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Legal Policy and cofounder of Digital Power Capital

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