Here’s what all this boils down to: Aside from regenerative energy, which is free for the taking, you need to bring most of the energy along from home or the filling station. Other means of energy storage are not far off, such as super-capacitors for electricity, flywheels to store kinetic energy, hydraulic accumulators and compressed air.
There’s plenty of energy management taking place in conventional vehicles as well. Many employ electric air conditioning and power steering, reducing the mechanical burden on the engine. A continuously variable transmission can keep the engine at its most efficient speed, and variable valve timing, intake manifold tuning, electronic throttle and direct fuel injection increase engine efficiency far beyond what we’ve known in the past.
Smaller, turbocharged engines are exploiting these technologies to produce 135 horsepower per liter of displacement, as seen in the Cadillac ATS, along with great fuel economy and emissions numbers. Stop-start engine technology, borrowed from hybrids, is making its way into conventional vehicles, along with continual improvements in aerodynamic and friction reducing strategies.
This is an exciting time to be an automobile enthusiast — innovation and enhancements are happening at a far greater pace than ever before.
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org; he cannot make personal replies.