What Types of Vehicles?

Toyota Echo converted to All-Electric drive.
With lots of elbow grease and EV know-how, Randy Brooks transformed his Toyota Echo into a pollution-free family car.
Toyota Prius Hybrid Vehicle
Biodiesel Fuel Pump
Personal Electric Vehicle
Current Motor Company's Deluxe personal electric vehicle.
Toyota Echo converted to All-Electric drive.
Toyota Prius Hybrid Vehicle
Biodiesel Fuel Pump
Personal Electric Vehicle

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.

Comments (6)

Wilges's picture

I think that if you're a business, it makes even more sense to properly look at all of your options when it comes to purchasing a new vehicle. You can probably consider things like vehicle sign writing in Sydney and how you can use your company car to assist in your daily operations later on. Better to meet your budget and not ruin your accounts by splurging on a car that your business can't afford!

Jim Mattson's picture

We just bought a 2015 Chevy Spark EV (all electric). It has a range of around 75 miles per charge which covers my daily commute and then some. Total cost was about $16K after government credits and rebates. It's a surprisingly wonderful little car with lots of room for four people and amazing power. Currently it costs about 3 cents per mile in electricity - less than half of what it costs to drive our Toyota Echo which gets around 39 miles per gallon. There is almost no maintenance. Tires are the main thing. Regenerative braking should triple normal brake life. GM warrants the battery and drivetrain for 8 years/100,000 miles. We installed the charger on a post next to the driveway - much more convenient than going to a gas station every week. The state of Maryland pays for up to $900 of charger installation. Finally, I got an HOV permit which saves me about 10 minutes per day. If you live in MD, CA or OR and can buy one, do it now. There's no reason to wait.

Jim and Elaine Stack's picture

Yes the Smart-ED is very low cost and super efficient because it's so light weight. Zero down can be the best so you know exactly what it costs you per month.

Fred Golden's picture

I recently saw a Smart vehicle lease for $139 per month! It is for 10,000 miles a month, 3 years, and requires $3,000 down, making the real cost about $225 per month. This is less than what I am paying each month in gas for my car, and I can recharge with the electric charger free at my work. Got me thinking!

Jason Hinton's picture

I just picked up a Chevy Spark EV for $100 per month / $0 down / 39 months / 10,000 miles per year. I have a 45 mile round trip commute and can easily charge the car overnight using the 110 volt charger that came with the car.

1 year update: The Spark has been great. The range in the winter with the heat on is about 65 miles and in the summer with A/C the range is 95 miles.

It is a fun little car to drive with power on demand. No waiting for a downshift, hit the peddle and it goes. 0-60 in 7 seconds, 400 lb-ft of torque from 0 RPM. Acceleration is traction limited even with the performance all-season tires I had installed.

Even with the power it is very efficient. I've averaged the equivalent of 155 mpg and it costs $0.02 per mile in electricity to operate (compared to $0.06 per mile for our Prius)

gwallot@gmail.com's picture

Getting the car is the easy part. Be sure that the recharge facilities fit into your lifestyle. You will need a home recharge station which is probably less than $500. There are major costs down the road when you need to replace your batteries. This can cost $10,000. Hope it works out for you. I have a hybrid and am very happy with it. I get about 38 MPG under all conditions. Making a decision to go plug in hybrid requires a good analysis of costs of electricity at home and one the road, replacement costs on the batteries, and convenience to be able to recharge while your car is at work. Good luck, don't jump into it as this is an emerging market. Many things will change in the next few years.

A couple of years since I wrote the above and I now have a plug in hybrid. Getting just over 40 MPG. Yes I know I will have to refurbish my batteries sooner or later but I really like my Prius V. It is spacious inside and sips the gasoline. There is still some improvements needed in these cars. They skimped on comfort in the seats but otherwise we like this car.

My next improvement will be to get it converted to a plug in so I can use that solar power I have to recharge my batteries. This will pretty much eliminate gasoline for in town driving which most of ours is.

I am looking for someone to convert mine to plug in at a reasonable cost. Anyone know of S CA conversion specialists.

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