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Hybrid Engines Are Coming

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

With gasoline prices hitting $2 per gallon, Americans, who have gotten used to the
conveniences of larger trucks and SUVs, are once again paying attention to fuel economy.
Consequently, automakers that want to keep selling the larger, more profitable vehicles are
moving fast to shore up their miles per gallon by offering innovative gas-electric hybrid
engines. A hybrid is a traditional gas engine working in concert with a battery-powered
electric motor. So how does a hybrid save gas? By capturing the energy a car generates
while it is slowing down — what’s known as regenerative braking. It’s “when you decelerate
and lift your foot off the accelerator pedal,” said Mario Maiorana of General Motors. “We
use the vehicle’s momentum or the kinetic energy of the vehicle to feed the system that
turns the motor generator, creating electrical energy that we can then store in the 42-volt
pack for use at a later point.” That potent 42-volt battery runs many of the vehicle’s
systems formerly dependent on the gas engine for power, saving fuel and more. “When you
come to a stop, the internal combustion engine will shut off; therefore, you’re not burning
fuel at that point in time,” explained Maiorana. “In this case, the vehicle saves between
10-12 percent fuel-economy benefits over the base trucks similarly equipped. Also, if
you’re not running in idle, you’ll see a drop in greenhouse emissions.” You can already
find hybrids on smaller cars. Next year, GM and other manufacturers will begin offering
hybrid engines on larger vehicles.

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