In reality the affordable fuel cell is what is going to change things dramatically. Where refueling is not much different than what happens today. You will hook up a hose to your car and obtain the stuff that will make it go. It wonít be recharging (which takes hours) or replacing a depleted battery pack by popping in a charged one (which means you donít know the quality of the battery you just installed). The batteries, perhaps along with ultracapacitors, will only be needed for acceleration and braking energy storage so there wonít be the need for so many of them.
The two biggest hurdles for fuel cell technology are making it industrialize-able (read affordable and reliable) and producing a fuel that is not based on hydrocarbons (i.e. not extracting hydrogen from fossil fuels). Truly, the hydrocarbons used to make hydrogen will be much more efficiently used than if burned in an ICE (an internal combustion engine is terribly inefficient). But the resulting efficiency improvement alone from fuel cells will be worth it even if we have to first use hydrocarbons to make it work. In the long run though, we will need to make hydrogen, or whatever we end up using, from something other than fossil fuels.
Then we can have a true electric vehicle that has the range and performance similar to what we have grown accustomed to with gasoline engines. That technology will be well accepted by the masses. At that point hybrids will either evolve to include fuel cells as an alternative to massive battery packs and charging systemsóor become an interesting moment in our history.
Mass of the batteries are not a big problem unless accelerating so we limit the rate of acceleration in an electric vehicle. Since the torque is at its maximum at 0 speed this is not as big a problem as it might seem. With larger mass comes larger power recovery when stopping. Atkinson or Miller cycle engines get close to diesel engine efficiencies. Last but not least I don't understand why the author put nickel metal hydride and Lithium batteries in the nasty materials category, while they may not be total benign I don't think they are considered toxic by most.
Ok, come on guys, lets get rid of the moving parts. The best idea is
do a free-piston internal combustion engine. ie. the piston is a magnet
and the cylinder is wrapped in a coil. High Preasure injection, and good digital control, and we get a inernal combustion engine that directly generates electricity that you can rack and stack to attain more power.
If you want to simplify the algorithm on the control side, put you some nice caps in the output side.
The future of the Inernal Combustion Engine is as a generator for a fully electric car. It needs to be small, multi-fueled and easy to replace.
If you follow engine research its a hot topic.
The better fuel mileage of hybrids is so compelling and the certainty of oil prices increasing is gonna make the 100 mpg hybrid happen in the future. And practically everyone will use hybrids in the future.
Fusion Reactors are just around the corner. A town near Nice France is the location for the research and I think it will be soon to hear of the breakthrough. As for the Fuel Cell - they might be expensive and difficult as many nay sayers, but the Bloombox was also considered not a practical expectation when all of the sudden there it was being demonstrated as a viable working system. Fuel Cells are better than hybrids, no ICE and no emissions - Hybrids EMIT. Fuel Cells can produce a very good byproduct H2O (although this will not help the highway grass mowers). When L-Ion batteries powerful enough to operate a vehicle are shrunk to the size of a fuel tank and their cost drops to the price of a fuel tank - they too will be good options. $5000.00 buys a lot of Gasoline. Do some simple math calculate the price of Prius minus price of regular car = Dollars for gasoline for regular car (not your F-150 pickup). Then Using 100K miles as a basis divide by the avg MPG of each car to compute the gallons needed. Subtract the Prius Gallons needed from the regular car gallons needed. That is the difference in fuel consumption for 100K miles. Multiply by the price of gasoline (assume $4.50) Add that to the total price of the regular car. Compare the actual prices of prius (do not include tax breaks, company incentives etc..) vs regular car - the regular car costs less.
I'm currently designing automotive sensors and have some insider opinions about whole automotive industry. On one side the products we offer must be as good as military, but the buyers are willing to pay 1000 times less. It is also incredibly difficult to break through with any innovation. Car makers like to stick to 130 yrs old solutions and keep adding new features, responding ONLY to gov.regulations. Tire pressure monitoring - wait until accidents and the law required. New engines - split cycle, flex fuel, NOx reduction? Forget - unless the law changes. New, better transmission, suspension, energy recovery. Forget. Forget. Forget. Only way to keep whole BOM cost low is to stick to very old technology.
If you make the body and suspension of lightweight materials, it will cost more, and it needs gov regulations for one who buys it to be able to get some money back from materials recycled. It is possible. But gov people are too lazy for creative thinking. Smart enough only to get something from those are lobbying.