First off, Chuck, with those high gas prices, people would probably drive less, which would dampen demand and bring the cost down. The high gas prices would also fuel (so to speak) more exploration and extraction technologies (as we've seen in recent years). All of that would increase supply and bring down gas prices. When it comes down to it, high gas prices cannot be sustained -- as odd as that may sound.
Chuck, I agree that the bottom line is that many consumers have apparently reached a tipping point in terms of vehicle selection and gas prices. Nothing drives technology change like market forces and the movement of $$$.
I will certainly stay home more, shop less, buy less, and watch the spiral down to oblivion as prices continue to rise. I already make more careful choices when I drive as the expense is painful. That can't be good for the economy, especially since there is gobs of energy left untapped. And electric is no good, as electricity is so expensive, as well.
I think Fred Flintstone had it right 100,000 years ago!
We already have a cost effective, fuel efficient car (paid for, 30+MPG). Given the tax issues people have had with biodiesel and woodgas conversions I think we'll stay away from alternative fuels for now.
If gas prices continue to rise I would prefer to continue with a used, cost effective car (not bleeding edge fuel economy and a lot less expensive) and focus on my other fuel bills (home heating, electricity) instead. I can make those changes without running foul of the IRS and the ROI is a lot quicker than a Prius or Volt.
A parallel hybrid is a far better choice. First a metal shaft is a whole lot more efficient at power transfer than generator/charge battery/electric motor. (with the overhead of the batteries being the big hit. Typically you only get 70% of what you put in back out. The electric motors do a lot better, usually >95%.)
But the other problem is system weight. You need a generator that is capable of generating the full power output of the engine, and an electric drive motor that has all the horsepower that you need to accellerate. (bigger than the generator by the batteries peak discharge rate) Both of those mean a lot of weight that you rarely use. Sure you could take the tack that you size engine and generator for average power required, making both smaller, but you still need the big drive motor, and a battery pack capable of pure electric's discharge rates.
A parallel hybrid means a much smaller generator, as it only needs to output the batteries charge rate limit. This will be is a lot lower than the discharge limit. (typically 10% of discharge max if you want them to not catch fire). The drive motor(s) only need to produce power up to the limit of your battery discharge rate, need more power, fire the IC engine, its power just adding.
If you are clever about it, the motor(s) are also the generator. In the case of Honda, they built a motor/generator combo into the flywheel. (single motor system, means they can't move without the engine turning). I have heard it reffered to as an "electric turbo", with the bonus of rapid engine restart to allow for stoplight engine shutdown.
In the case of the Toyota system (The Ford system is basically the same layout), they use two electric motors, connected to the IC engine thru a planetary gear. This allows them to move without the engine turning. They also use the electric motors to synthesize the cars CVT "transmission", there is no conventional gearbox, or the variable pulleys of a normal CVT. The IC engine is connected to the sun gear, one motor/gen drives the planet carrier, and the ring gear has a chain drive to the drive axle, which has the second electric motor directly connected (it is always turning when the car is moving). With the car moving and IC engine off, the electric motor connected to the planet carrier just freewheels. With the IC engine turning, the control system picks a rpm and direction for planet's driving motor to give the desired ratio thru to the ring gear.
Good thinking, Warren. I would probably ride a bike to local stores and to visit family nearby. We would limit car trips--we share one vehicle--to one or two a week and spend the day buying groceries, running errands, etc. I'd get haircuts at home and we'd start to grow some of our own food. Lots of ways to overcome high gas prices and higher prices overall.
I grew up in Chicago and never owned a car until I moved out of town, when I was in my mid-20s. There was no need; I could take public transportation anywhere I wanted to go. I never had to make a car payment or an insurance payment, pay for parking, or buy gas. I could also read, study, or do homework during my commute. talk on my cell phone without having to worry about getting a ticket, and sleep without having to worry about getting in an accident (although I did have to worry about missing my stop).
The total cost was about $1000 a year in passes, plus occasionally having to stand outside in the snow waiting for the bus. I consider it one of the best deals I've ever had.
Show me a hybrid with that kind of ROI and I'll buy it!
Outside of the US, gas prices are already the equivalent of $5, $6, or even $7 a gallon.
If it happens here, we'll adapt, as humans do. In places where gas prices are higher, I've noticed that people live differently. They'll walk 6 blocks to go to lunch. In the US, co-workers will jump in someone's car to go 3 blocks. Trips are planned more economically and cars are a luxury.
Most of those countries are smaller than the US, some even smaller than Califirnia. Because of that, they have a more established public transit system.
Personally, I'd ride my motorcycle or bicycle more often and save the car for trips that require it.
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