Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nissan Ultima Hybrid

During spring break we rented a car and were given a Nissan Altima Hybrid. Very cool, we got a chance to try out a real EV, so I thought. So, you get in put your foot on the brake and push the "On" button. No motor starting, very quiet, nice. As we drove through the parking lot and sat at the stop sign and stop lights, no motor noise or exhaust, just smooth EV. Again nice!

The dashboard has a Kw gauge, a battery charge gauge and a MPG gauge, with an "EV" light. The Kw shown were up to 150kw but mostly stayed between 0-5Kw. The "blue zone" on the Kw gauge was for regen charging.

As soon as you push on the gas to accelerate any more than "really easy" acceleration or at speeds over about 20 MPH or more than about 5 Kw, the hybrid motor starts and is a bit noisy and has lots of vibration. When you brake, the regen kicks in and you can see the Kw go into a "blue" zone to recharge the traction batteries and at high speeds you can even see the battery charge gauge move. The regen was very smooth and really help braking. While it has good pickup at stop lights, at highway speeds, the acceleration is spotty at best. It either drifted along smoothly or was gearing down to keep up speed. Not too impressive.

The Nissan web site boasts 35 MPG. The MPG gauge read much less most of the time, between 10 and 15. When in EV mode it was pegged at 60 MPG. But again, it was only in EV mode when you were at a stop light or driving around the parking lot, only! My '86 Honda Accord got 36 MPG and had at least as good pickup so I would say that all the fuss over hybrid technology has put this car behind those of 1986, even with tax credits!

There is a really problem here! Hybrid's don't give us any advantage, none! We really need to move to solutions that offer 100+ MPG, like Plug-In Hybrid or EV only vehicles. These are a real solution. Also, Flex-Fuel vehicles that run on Ethanol (cellulosic) or Methanol, at only 15% gasoline will give us the equivalent of 500+ MPG of gasoline. Now that is a solution worth pursuing!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hybrid (kind of)

We rented a Nissan Altima Hybrid over spring break. It was basically an electric assisted ICE and ran on only electric when you were stopped or going less than 15 mph, which kind of defeats the purpose I guess. It did have a really cool Kw meter! When you braked the watts went in to the blue "charging" mode.