Teacher ideas: hybrid cars, vehicles of the new millennium

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What you need

A computer with internet access to the Australian Greenhouse Calculator

Teaching focus

Review hybrid cars as a low-emission alternative to petrol-engine powered cars. Discuss hybrid technology, its advantages and disadvantages and how cars with this technology operate.

What to do

Model how to use the Australian Greenhouse Calculator in detailed mode to compare vehicles with different energy sources and then changing the items in the 'Drivetrain' drop-down list. Open the Transport module and then select the detailed tab for Personal transport. For example, choose 'Electric kWh' from the 'Fuel (energy/unit)' drop-down list and 'Modern electric' from the 'Drivetrain' drop-down list. Then choose 'Typical (petrol) from the 'Fuel (energy/unit) drop-down list and 'Mild hybrid', 'Strong hybrid' or 'Ideal hybrid' from the 'Drivetrain' drop-down list.

A pop-up from the Transport module in detailed mode with 'Strong hybrid' selected in the 'Drivetrain' list

Vehicle details pop-up from Transport module in detailed mode with 'Strong hybrid' selected in 'Drivetrain' list

Provide students with the activity sheet Hybrid cars, vehicles of the new millennium.

Ask students to use the Australian Greenhouse Calculator to assist them in their understanding of hybrid technology. They should review relevant sections of the Research centre and use the calculator to compare the effect of different fuel sources and drivetrains on greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions.

Share students' posters designed to persuade a consumer to replace their existing car with one that uses hybrid technology.

Teacher background

The car is a major source of ghgs and local air pollution emissions. In response to the expectation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, car companies have designed cars that use hybrid technology. A petrol-electric hybrid powered car is a car that uses electricity as well as petrol to power the motor.

Petrol-electric hybrid powered cars such as the Toyota Prius or Civic Hybrid provide low fuel consumption and low emission levels. Unlike fully electric cars, petrol-electric hybrid powered cars do not rely on heavy banks of batteries that need to be recharged. Recharging is done while the petrol engine is in use. The whole process is controlled by computers.

The major problem in a hybrid engine is storing electrical energy for when it is needed for acceleration, or for increased load situations, such as climbing a hill. The CSIRO has solved this problem by combining its own designs for a supercapacitor and a lightweight gel battery. Together these form what is known as a 'surge power unit'. Power storage problems have been partially overcome by the development of a power feedback loop. Kinetic energy generated by deceleration or braking is converted into electric power and fed into the battery system to be stored for later use.

Worksheet

Student activity sheet: Hybrid cars, vehicles of the new millennium (Word, 70 KB, pdf, 16 KB)