Hybrid Vehicle – The rise of the gas price

Everybody remembers the rise of the hybrid vehicle, it was a hot topic in the media especially when just before the big economic downturn the price for a barrel of oil peaked at around 140 US Dollar. Right after the economy went down the drain, so did the price for a barrel of oil, they exchanged hands for roughly 30 US Dollars per barrel. Currently the prices have gone up again and today the price for a barrel of Brent crude has reached the 100 US Dollar mark again, what’s next?  

Advertising the rise of the gas price near your - Link

 

Rising oil prices is what drives the sales of hybrid vehicles; with such an efficient drive train you get more bang for your buck. Or drive farther at least, there’s not so much bang as they are often a lot quieter than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. The same goes for electric vehicles as often electricity is a lot cheaper than gas in the first place.

 

The current internal combustion engine powered vehicles have an average mileage of 25 MPG, while the well known hybrid vehicle the Prius has an average mileage of 50 MPG. Now these figures are simply averages and are highly dependant on for example how you drive, the traffic conditions and weather conditions. Currently the easiest way to improve the efficiency of the gas powered car is to convert it to a hybrid drive train. The main reason that hybrids score a lot better on their mileage than conventional cars is through their efficient drive train.

 

The Toyota Prius, arguably the best known hybrid vehicle in the world - Link

 

Generally speaking you can save half on your gas bill when going for a hybrid vehicle, something that should be very attractive to a lot of people with the oil prices rising again. If you want to check how much you spend on gas every day when driving to work for example, is to take the distance and combine it with the mileage. If you drive 25 miles to work (and 25 back to home at the end of the day obviously), the general internal combustion engine vehicle consumes about a gallon. The Prius would consume only half a gallon. At the end of the day, the Prius has consumed a gallon for both the trips while the conventional vehicle did two.

 

This efficiency quickly adds up to huge savings, savings which should allow for the higher initial investment for a hybrid vehicle. It is no secret that (currently) hybrid vehicles are (a bit) more expensive than conventional vehicles, so how do you determine if it is cost efficient to go and buy a hybrid vehicle? The assessment that is made for this is often referred to as the Total Cost of Ownership, or TCO. It lists the price to purchase the vehicles, the various taxes (including the benefits), maintenance and repair costs and the price for fuel over a period of time and shows for example when it is profitable to switch to a hybrid vehicle. In a following post I will detail more on TCO and the cost of driving with some examples.

 

Hybrid Vehicle - B-Class: revealing figures

This month Mercedes Benz will reveal their new hybrid vehicle, a converted B-Class which is now powered by a Hydrogen Fuel Cell. Following this, the vehicle will be leased from December this year in California for a test. California already has the so called ‘Hydrogen Highway’, a highway with conventional gas stations which also offer hydrogen on their menu. Although the initial plans for this highway was to have more stations with hydrogen available, the network would be sufficient for driving in California.

 

Revealing the new B-Class Back to the new B-Class, it has a 136 horsepower electric motor which is powered by 3.7 kilograms of hydrogen. The hydrogen is stored at a pressure of 700 bar and is supplemented by a 35 kW battery (though I assume they mean a 35 kWh battery). The battery is nicely tucked away under the floor, like it is with the A-Class. The total estimated range one can drive is 368 kilometres, which would equal a consumption of 86.4 kilometres per kilogram, according to the article.

I’m not so sure on the figures presented though and I think there has been a typo of sorts in it. Also note that the original article I first found on BenzInsider has disappeared again. However, having done a bit of maths, I’ll share this with you anyway.

 

As a given reference, the Nissan Leaf has a battery which is 24kWh, providing 160km of electric range. Given that the B-Class would have a 35kWh battery, the full range on the battery would be even more than 160km, but for the sake of comparison, let’s use 160km first and see how things go.

 

Option A First off, the full range of 368km and not using the battery. This would mean 3.7kg of hydrogen to be used for the total distance, would mean 99km/kg. That is more than what is stated, so there must be some battery power involved.

Option B The total range is said to be 368km. Subtracting the battery range of 160km, that leaves around 200km to be powered by the hydrogen fuel cell. 200km over 3.7kg equals around 54km/kg. Not the mentioned 86.4km/kg still.

 Option C Using the provided mileage as a starting point, 86.4km/kg, with 3.7kg would drive you for a distance of 319km. That leaves rougly a difference of 40-50km that is covered by a battery, that sounds more like other hybrids on the market. Comparing with the Prius for example, which has a battery in the order of 3.5 to 5kWh and results in almost 40km.

 

Conclusion Since the vehicle is a hybrid (a drive train consisting of a battery and a fuel cell), I would expect it to have a battery which is more in the range of 5-6kWh than the stated 35kWh. Moreoever, with a 35kWh the fuel cell would hardly be used at all, assuming the B-Class is also a plug-in. Not really helping to evaluate how a fuel cell would perform for normal drivers.

 

The lease price of the vehicle will be announced at the moment the B-Class is revealed and includes hydrogen fill ups. So regardless of what the actual figures of hydrogen consumption are for now, the people driving it would be (a bit) less concerned. I’m hoping that upon revealing the B-Class they would announce the actual price, but I’m more interested in the actual specs now to see what they went for.