Toward 100 Miles Per Gallon


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Can you make, and sell, a car that goes one hundred miles on a gallon of gas? That's a question we should expect to hear soon from the X-Prize Foundation (the people responsible for the civilian space race.)

They are expected to announce a $25 million prize for creating a car that can go 100 MPG and, here's the kicker, selling a to-be-determined number of units.

One of the most promising recent developments that stands a real chance of competing for this prize is the concept of a Hydraulic Hybrid. We've heard of "hybrid" cars before and many people have fears regarding the safety and expense of batteries, but these hybrids don't use batteries.

Battery hybrids have electric motors that run off batteries that are charged by braking, a supplemental internal combustion (IC) engine (i.e., gas engine), and sometimes an overnight charge (i.e, a "pluggable" hybrid.)

Hydraulic Hybrids have a hydraulic motor (basically a system of pumps that use pressurized fluid for power). An IC engine powers the pumps to maintain vehicle speed, but most of the power used in acceleration comes for stored hydraulic energy captured during breaking.

Battery hybrids capture only about 30% of the kinetic energy used in breaking. Hydraulic Hybrids capture about 70%. That boost in efficiency translates into massive fuel efficiency.

Though I have yet to see it proposed, one has to wonder if the hydraulic pumps couldn't be run by an electrical charge collected from a variety of sources (solar, plug-in, axle rotation, etc.) That could lead to the complete elimination of the IC component. It seems inevitable that solar and wind generated electric will become part of everyday life. Surely more efficient and safer batteries will emerge.

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