What Types of Vehicles?
Home Power started covering alternative vehicles many years ago to recognize what an important piece of the energy puzzle that vehicles are. We cover electric cars, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, and other alternative-propelled vehicles like electric motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and even skateboards. We cover DIY projects as well as commercially available vehicles. And we cover vehicle efficiency—the eking out of more miles per gallon. We include articles on the fuels they use, like electricity, veggie oil, biodiesel, and hydrogen.
Electric-only vehicles require batteries, except for the high-tech, super-lightweight solar-powered cars that have their bodies covered with PV cells. For practical road and off-road use, there is no way to put a large enough PV array on a vehicle to avoid storing energy in the vehicle, which means using batteries or some other means. Hydrogen is one energy storage method that is seen mostly on experimental electric vehicles, but hydrogen takes a lot of energy to make, and the conversion back to electricity is not very efficient, making the technology currently impractical.
Batteries can only store so much energy, making vehicle range too short to satisfy most travel-hungry drivers. Hybrid vehicles still use fuel, but they do so much more efficiently—often getting twice the mileage that similar non-hybrid vehicles get. They do this by striking a balance between running the car on stored electricity and running on a conventionally-fueled engine—both electric- and engine-powered propulsion.
Hybrid vehicles use a combination of a gasoline engine, and electric motor and batteries. Plug-in hybrid vehicles are a combination of fueled and electric vehicles. They have the engine, but they also have a battery with more capacity than a hybrid’s battery, allowing short trips around town without running the conventionally fueled engine. These vehicles can be plugged into the grid or your solar-electric system to recharge the batteries for the next day’s trip to work and back. Since plug-in hybrids also have an engine, they are suitable for longer trips without having to recharge the batteries.