July 14, 2011

NOTHING COSTS MORE THAN IT USED TO:

Automakers Give Flywheels a Spin : An old technology could make hybrid cars much cheaper. (Kevin Bullis, 7/13/11, Technology Review)

The automakers Volvo and Jaguar are testing the possibility of using flywheels instead of batteries in hybrid electric vehicles to aid acceleration and help engines operate more efficiently. The devices could reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent and would cost a third as much as batteries. Volvo will begin road-testing a car with the technology this fall.

In a flywheel system, energy from the wheels is used to spin a flywheel at high speeds. The flywheel continues spinning, storing energy until that motion can be transferred back to the wheels via a transmission. The idea isn't new, but it's hard to make flywheels efficient—a lot of energy can be lost to friction. In 1982, for example, GM engineered a flywheel system that was intended for its 1985 vehicles, but they canceled the project after discovering that the fuel efficiency improvements were less than half of what they'd expected. Advances in the technology now have automakers taking a second look. "Industry has gone from being skeptical to thinking it can be done, but there are enormous challenges," says Derek Crabb, vice president of powertrain engineering for Volvo. [...]

Many challenges remain in bringing a flywheel hybrid to market. For instance, automakers will have to ensure that the systems can be durable, and can be manufactured on a large scale, he says. Flywheels will also have to compete with batteries and other electrical storage devices such as ultracapacitors, which are getting more powerful and less expensive. .

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Posted by at July 14, 2011 6:11 AM
  

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