Since the introduction of engines, engine technology has been improving with each passing day. Engine technology has greatly improved from the steam engines in the early days to the present day internal combustion and hybrid engines. Presently, there are many types of engines examples of which include; internal combustion engines, external combustion engines, electric engines, hybrid engines among others. An internal combustion engine (ICE) came about as a result of the idea of burning fuel inside an engine to provide motion. (Rajput, pg. 317) observes that the most commonly used fuel type is gasoline although other forms exist.
Gasoline is commonly used because it is readily available. It is mixed with air and then injected into an engine cylinder where it is burnt to provide power. This power pushes a piston within the cylinder, which turns a crankshaft that is connected to wheels thus providing motion. Other sources of fuel include; hydrogen, diesel, methane and propane. There are two types of internal combustion engines i. e. the two stroke and four stroke engines. The two stroke engine is used in small vehicles and machinery while the four stroke engine is used in big vehicles, trucks, generators among other big machinery.
ICEs operate on a principle of a four stage cycle to provide power. These stages are; intake, compression, power and exhaust. Hybrid engines came into being due to concerns about fuel depletion and the environmental effects of the internal combustion engines. As opposed to ICEs, a hybrid engine combines two sources of energy i. e. gasoline and electric. Electric engines were a better option to solving the limitations of conventional engines but the inadequacy of the former in sustaining long drive hours and the need for frequent recharges rendered them inappropriate. Thus, a hybrid engine uses both gasoline and electricity.
Two types of hybrid engines include parallel and series. The difference between the two is that in the former, both the electric motor and the engine are directly connected to the transmission and thus can simultaneously turn the crankshaft. As (Anderson and Judy pg. 157) observe, the debate over which engine type between the two is better has been on for quite a while. In order to answer this question effectively, it is imperative for one to examine the pros and cons of the two engine types. It’s important to note that the hybrid engines were developed as a result of the limitations of the ICEs and electricity powered engines.
(Rajput pg. 317) notes that the biggest undoing of the conventional engines is the ever increasing pollution levels as a consequence of emission of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases. This has far reaching implications on the environment i. e. it leads to global warming. Environmental concerns and the possibility of depletion of energy reserves necessitated the need to develop an engine that would be efficient while at the same time minimizing the use of gasoline. These issues arose due to the fact that ICEs are the biggest source of pollution the world over and to the non-renewable nature of gasoline.
First to be developed were electric engines. These engines operated on a principle of using fuel batteries to provide energy. The electric vehicles were not that successful as intended due to various limitations (Anderson and Judy pg. 171). Examples of such limitations included inadequate infrastructure for the technology like fuelling stations. The current infrastructure gave the ICEs an advantage and thus making the electric engines difficult to operate and maintain. Another limitation was that being a new technology, the electric engines encompassed a high initial and maintenance costs thus making it difficult for people to own the cars.
Thirdly, the electric engines faced high competition from the conventional ones in that the battery cost and performance was low compared to the speed and distance covered by conventional engines. Other limitations included; the unavailability of parts to be supplied readily, the nature of battery operation which required charging for long hours and the fact that battery technology was still low. This made it extremely hard for the electric engines to make a breakthrough into the mainstream market. Nonetheless, electric engines had several advantages over the ICEs but these were outweighed by the disadvantages (Messiter pg.
25). Both conventional engines and hybrid engines have advantages and disadvantages. The limitations of the ICEs are as stated earlier. Its advantages over the hybrid engine include; it’s been in use for a very long time thus the parts are readily available, it is cheap and easy to maintain and that it has grater distance coverage and speed. On the other hand, hybrid engines are advantageous in that they achieve a balance between electricity and gas thus leading to fuel efficiency. This is good in that it reduces the rate at which the non renewable energy is utilized thus ensuring future reserves.
They reduce overdependence on fossil fuels. Hybrid engines are also environmental friendly in that they emit lesser carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases (Rosa pg. 105). As a result, dangers of global warming due to greenhouse gases are reduced. This makes them beneficial not only to the user but the society and the entire universe as a whole. These engines are also able to use reduced energy due to availability of two energy sources and have better mileage. In hybrid engines unlike electric ones, the batteries are charged in the system i. e. no need for an external source.
This has been made possible by use of the concept of regenerative breaking technology. This is whereby when the vehicle breaks, the kinetic energy is stored as potential energy and used later in charging the battery. This reduces wastage of energy. On the flip-side, the hybrid engines have their own share of demerits. The biggest disadvantage is that the initial cost is too high thus making it impossible for the wider public to acquire them. The cost of manufacturing these engines is very high due to the kind of technology it requires hence high initial prices as compared to the ICEs (Anderson and Judy 2004).
Another con of these engines arises from the fact that compared to conventional engines, hybrid engines require the vehicles to be fitted with batteries. This results in these vehicles having more weight than the conventional ones. As (Messiter pg. 26) observes, these engines also possess high risks of exposure to electric shock due to contact with high voltage cables in case of an accident. Furthermore, these engines comprise a complicated system and thus require only experienced mechanics. Since this technology is relatively new, such people are few thus making maintenance of these vehicles difficult.
Other demerits of these engines include; unavailability of spare parts i. e. parts are not readily available, lower acceleration as compared to ICEs and a short battery life. A few years ago, many engine manufacturers were reluctant to venture into the mass manufacture of these engines like General Motors, Daimler Chrysler among others despite committing substantial resources into Research and Development on this technology (Anderson and Judy pg. 172). But things are changing and many manufactures are starting to embrace this technology as the technology for the future.
Some of the pioneer manufactures to have to venture into this technology included Toyota and Honda. Hybrid electric vehicles hit the market in the 1990s and were made widely available to the public with the help of the government through tax relief and incentives. Examples of these cars were the Toyota Prius produced by Toyota and the Honda Insight produced by Honda. Despite having a few shortcomings as stated above, I think the hybrid engines are the way to go because there advantages and impact on the universe outweigh by far their limitations.
For instance, the biggest demerit of the conventional engines is the emission of greenhouse gases which have detrimental effects on the environment. These gases lead to global warming and alter the environmental setup. This can lead to health problems like respiratory complications and other ailments affecting the human race. Emission of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases also affect the ecosystem. As (Rosa pg. 105) notes, there is also the issue of diminishing energy reserves hence hybrid engines come in handy as the best intervention since there is efficient and effective utilization of energy.
With improving technology, limitations of these engines can be overcome. With development, hybrid engines can be made more affordable to the entire public by reducing the high initial cost of acquiring these vehicles. Many engine manufacturers are beginning to embrace this technology as the in-thing for the future because other than being fuel efficient by reducing the consumption of fuel, they have other advantages over the conventional engines. For instance the features of the hybrid vehicles can enable manufactures to make more durable vehicles.
The concepts of regenerative breaking, reducing energy loss when the vehicle is idle and a reduction in the size of the ICE used make these vehicles more efficient than conventional ones. Since the hybrid engines combine two energy sources, the size of the ICE can be considerably reduced from that required by a conventional vehicle. As (Anderson and Judy pg. 172) note, the hybrid engine technology reduces wear and tear and thus increasing the useful life of the engine.
For instance there is considerable reduction of wear and tear of the ICE particularly because the ICE is turned off when the vehicle is idle. Furthermore, with this technology, a trade-off can be achieved between improved fuel efficiency and performance. This can be achieved by controlling the engine, motor size and the battery. This technology can also allow the fuel to be mixed with other forms of fuel. Hybrid engine technology allows gasoline to be mixed with other fuel sources in varying proportions e. g.
gasoline can be mixed with ethanol. Ethanol can be created from renewable energy sources (Rosa pg. 105). This ensures that gasoline which is non-renewable is reserved. Presently, the number of manufactures that have ventured into this technology is great with many if not all manufacturers moving to produce hybrid vehicles in mass. All the major manufactures have adopted the technology. This is a welcome gesture in that it will make the overall cost of buying and maintaining these vehicles go down hence making it widely available to the public.
All in all, I think hybrid engine technology is the way to go since it has more benefits not only to the user, but also the society, the nation and the world at large. This is due to the fact that these engines are fuel efficient thus emitting less noise and gases to the environment. This is a major boost to the campaign against environmental degradation and global warming. Reduced air pollution leads to better health because cases of illnesses due to environmental pollution are minimized.
Since with this technology there is elimination of idling, there is substantial reduction in pollution in urban areas. This is particularly advantageous in developing countries where traffic jams are common.
Anderson, Curtis and Judy Anderson. Electric and Hybrid Cars. McFarland, 2004. Messiter, Malcolm. R/C Model Helicopters a Guide for Beginners. Triplet Publications, 2007. Rajput, R. K. Internal Combustion Engines. Laxmi Publications. 2005. Rosa, Aldo Viera. Fundamentals of Renewable Energy Sources. Academic Press. 2005