Plug-in hybrids run partly on electricity that comes from an ordinary electrical outlet, which provides flexibility in the owner's choice of fuels. But there is more. (Image: Bryan Christie Design)
Where is all this talk about plug-in hybrids coming from? What could be the reason for having a hybrid that can plug-in? Is there anything else I don't know about?
The answer, my friend is, blowing in the wind. At least a little of it is for now. You see, since wind farming has increased in the last few years we are getting more and more of our electrical needs met by wind. Wind is one of the many sources of electricity we Americans rely on today. The real impetus behind plug-in hybrids is to get America off of its "oil addiction." Electricity is one very good way to do it because right now we get only around 3% of our electricity from oil.
When we plug-in we are plugging into a variety of fuels to get electricity. Fear that moving to electricity only moves us to using dirty coal from dirty oil is not an accurate assumption. We, as a country, only get about half of our electricity from coal. Nuclear provides around 20%, natural gas gives us nearly 16%, hydroelectric dams and other renewable resources like wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass provide 11% of our electricity. Remember, oil accounts for only 3 percent of our electricity and only in a few places along the eastern seaboard. (Minnesota Power)
Electric Companies Use a Broad Mix of Fuel Sources to Generate Electricity (Minnesota Power)
This is all well and good, but as Virginia Governor Tim Kaine would say, we can do better. One way we could do better is to make our plug-in hybrids flexible fuel hybrids. What are flexible fuel hybrids you ask? Gasoline vehicles whose motors can use any mixture of Ethanol and gasoline up to 85% Ethanol are called Flexible Fuel Vehicles or FFVs. You may have seen vehicles with an E85 sticker on the side or an FFV emblem. What these stickers mean is that that vehicle can run on 85% Ethanol, hence E85. Ethanol is an alcohol currently derived mainly from corn; however, new ways of deriving Ethanol are being talked about today. Other sources for deriving Ethanol that are emerging are Switch Grass Ethanol, Cellulosic Ethanol from wood waste, Panda Energy's cow poop Ethanol and a whole host of other things. Having an FFV internal combustion engine would give consumers a choice to use less of oil derived fuels. A Flexible Fuel Plug-in Hybrid marries the efficiency of a hybrid with the ability to use Ethanol, E85 and outlet electricity to power the vehicle.
OK, so we have electricity as a fuel which can be derived from a variety of sources and we have Ethanol that can be derived from a variety of sources, but am I satisfied? No. I would like to take it a couple of steps further. I am saying we can even do better than an FFV plug-in hybrid. You are probably shocked, I know, but there is something else. There is something used by construction companies and praised by survivalist groups. There are motors used in generators that can use multiple types of fuel. Multiple types of fuels? These multi-fuel generators can typically run on gasoline, LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas, which is either Propane, Propylene, Butane or Butylenes) or natural gas. Sometimes they are called try fueled generators.
Multi-Fuel or Tri-Fuel generators use gasoline, LPG or natural gas (Image: US Carburetion, Inc.)
With a little bit of ingenuity and about 150 bucks at the point of manufacture, you could even make these generators run on E85 as well.
I would have to insist that all this flexibility be put into a series plug-in hybrid. A series plug-in hybrid is an electric vehicle with a generator to handle long distance travel and to charge up the batteries when no plug is around. The internal combustion engine is not mechanically attached to the wheels, but transmits its power through electric wires to the electric motors that drive the wheels. In this configuration there are fewer mechanical losses through friction and gears. Why use a Series Multi-Fuel Flexible Fuel Plug-in Hybrid? Because, now that we have the flexibility to use a great variety of fuels, why waist them. The series hybrid puts the incredible efficiency of an electric drive train where it can do the most good. It also takes the greatest advantage of the quietest and cleanest of all the fuels talked about, electricity, while having none of the drawbacks of the current technology of battery electric vehicles.
With the Multi-Fuel, Flexible Fuel Plug-in Series Hybrid Vehicle or MFFFPSHV (let's call it Muf-Pish-Vee, sound good?) we get a variety of fuels to choose from in our vehicles. These fuels would be coming from a variety of sources, some renewable and some not. In the Multi-Fuel part we get to choose gasoline, LPG or natural gas, with the FFV part we get to use gasoline and Ethanol, (Ethanol coming form various sources, even cow poop, hee hee), and we get to use electrical outlet power that also comes from a variety of sources, like wind.
The MFFFPSHV moves us away from our dependence on a single source of fuel for moving our vehicles. This variety of fuels protects us from economic shocks caused by interruptions in our single type fuel supply system we have now. The problems of sudden or unexpected spikes in prices in one fuel will only mean that consumers will quickly switch to what ever fuel is cheapest, or, for those of us who are ecologically minded, what ever is best for the planet. The Military has been won over to the idea of a series hybrid to replace the Humvee. With the Muf-Pish-Vee concept for fueling the military can use a wider variety of fuels available making it much harder to stop our troops from moving around. The Mufpishvee concept in transportation makes America safer and more secure in other ways. It makes America less dependent on oil only and that is good for America for defensive reasons too. Mufpishvee is good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for defense.
MillenWorks' Joint Tactical EV (JTEV) is a series hybrid that could easily be turned into a Mufpishvee