The First Hybrid Vehicle was a Mule
Most of us haven't spent much time thinking or hearing about Hybrids until car manufacturers began bombarding us with advertising about new Hybrid vehicles. We associate Hybrid with the combination of traditional combustion engines and electrical power. The term has been around for a long time. Its definition as a noun in biology relates to the offspring of plants and animals. When was the last time you saw a mule?
In a way, we are all Hybrids. Our parents are from different heritage, families, of backgrounds, which makes us a mixture of both.
The History of Electric Vehicles
The first electric cars were similar to golf carts. Quiet, but after twice around the golf course, the batteries had to be recharged. "The first electric car in the United States was developed in 1890-91 by William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa; the vehicle was a six-passenger wagon capable of reaching a speed of 23 kilometers per hour (14 mph)" That is about the speed of a new golf cart! The first electric vehicle company was founded in 1897. There was also an Electric Carriage & Wagon Company in New York that produced electric cabs in 1897.
There are references to electric vehicles as early as the 1830s, including an electric locomotive in 1837. Rechargeable batteries were introduced in 1859, making the cars more than just a parlor trick. By 1893 William Morrison demonstrated a front-wheel drive, four horsepower, carriage with a top speed of 20 mph, and a range of 50 miles.
After a few years of success, these early electric car companies eventually went out of business due to performance issues and competition from combustion engines driven vehicles and opposition from the companies producing traditional cars. Even Hybrid Electric Vehicles, HEV, have been around since 1899. The first one was a Porsche! It used gasoline to supply power to an electric motor which drove the car's wheels. It wasn't until the 1960s when legislation passed to increase greater use of electric vehicles in an attempt to reduce pollution that the public interest grew. The 1973 Arab oil embargo helped as gas prices soared, and supplies became limited.
It still took 25 years before viable alternatives to gas-powered cars became available. The Toyota Prius, introduced in 1997 in Japan, is one of the best known early competitors. Release in the US in 2000. The Prius became synonymous with the term Hybrid.
Another Hybrid Came into Existence for Heating Electric Cars
Traditional methods of heating vehicles, including trains and planes, utilized the excess heat readily available from the internal combustion engines used for propulsion. It was easy and inexpensive to harness the excess heat and channel it into the passenger space of the vehicles.
Old systems just captured and redirected the heat to the passenger compartment controlling the flow and temperature with manual baffles. Some small, inexpensive aircraft still use this system. Automobile manufacturers discovered that by routing the radiator coolant through a radiator heating device allowed for more precise control of the temperature in the passenger compartment.
Anyone living in a Northern climate knows that this solution isn't that great when starting a car in the middle of winter. It takes time for the engine to heat up sufficiently to transfer any heat to the coolant and heating system.
It wasn't long before public demand encouraged alternatives for comfort in the colder climates. Why not combine cabin heating with spot heating for human comfort? Soon electrically heated rear windows, seats, and steering wheels began to appear in more expensive cars.
Etched Foil Flexible Heaters Augment Heating Systems
The electrical elements attached to the rear window prevented ice and fog from hampering the driver's view. Electric elements help side mirrors, and front windshields defog and defrost. Similar features are impeded into the seats and steering wheels for spot heating the drivers' bum and hands: a true marvel and excellent use of technology.
The first electric resistance heaters used for windows were wires initially taped to the glass, later molded into the glass. As technology progressed, manufacturers found that etched foil flexible heating elements were thinner and etched into more precise patterns than the wire elements. There was no temperature control required for these devices. They were switched on or switched off as needed. The limit to their heating was a function of voltage and resistance. Elements in passenger seats required a little more control. Max heat or no heat wasn't the right solution.
It isn't difficult to imagine that the first production heated seats in cars came from a cold climate of Sweden in a Saab. Although the first press release on heated driver's seats was; "The electronically heated seats were designed as a precaution for driver's backaches, ensuring better driving pleasure and ultimately more safety." Heated seats were an option on a 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood for $60.20.
Spot Heating of Vehicle Compartments Makes Sense
The same northerners that discovered the need for spot heating in cars also out of necessity brought us spot heating in homes. Without a ready supply of inexpensive fuel, it wasn't practical to heat up the entire living space of a home.
In Europe, farmers built their homes attached to their livestock barns to capture some of the heat given off by livestock to warm their living space. Somewhat of a smelly solution to the problem of expensive fuel, other Northerners and city dwellers found themselves only heating one room of the home where the family would eat or sit during cold days and nights around a fireplace or stove. Bedrooms often were not heated depending on blankets for warmth while sleeping.
Of course, the weekly bath occurred in a tub located in the warm room of the house. Going to the bathroom was a refreshing activity without central heating.
PTC Heating Elements are Great for Heating Small Spaces
So why do we heat the entire space of a vehicle compartment? Combustion engines made the heating inexpensive. As long as the engine was running, there was heat to spare. With electric or HEV, it no longer makes sense. The approach to comfort in vehicles is changing with the electricity used to power them. Utilizing the energy from batteries to heat the entire passenger space dramatically cuts down on the distance range of the car. If you run out of battery life in a Northern climate before you reach your destination, all that space heating is for not. You will freeze. Better to have an alternative to heating the entire passenger compartment.
The solution already exists. Heating the seats and steering wheel requires much less energy than heating the entire space. Most travelers dress for the outside cold. Why heat them to the degree they have to shed coats only to put them on again when they stop at their destination?
A Hybrid Solution Can Satisfy Most Passengers
Spot heating, in addition to the seats and steering wheel, can still reduce the demand on the batteries compared to total compartment heating. Small wattage airflow heating devices can heat the passenger's feet or temperate the air in the cabin. Maybe etch foil heated floor mats to melt the ice on their boots and warm their feet.
Imagine a city bus or train that has heated seats for the passengers or spot heaters for the passengers' feet. Whenever I have ridden a train or bus up North, it is very awkward to remove and store a coat and hat when crowded. More and more city transportation is becoming all-electric. Hybrid solutions are being developed for many types of vehicles to save energy and fuel.
Electric Heaters for Hybrid Solutions
I've already mentioned the etched foil flexible heaters used in vehicle car windows, side mirrors, seats, and steering wheels. The ability to craft the etched foil precisely in the pattern of heating needed is a huge advantage or traditional resistance wire heaters. The watt density can be higher and better focused, requiring less energy for the same heating effect. Heating floor mats with flexible silicone heating elements is another potential solution. The etch foil elements are vulcanized or laminated between layers of silicone. The silicone rubber protects the heating elements from moisture and chemicals. The heating elements Could be embedded directly into the actual rubber mats. Can't wait for the manufacturers to make this happen? You could put a 12V flexible silicone rubber mat underneath your current floor mat connecting it to your car's electrical system.
Try Small 12V fan heaters to spot heat areas of a larger vehicle like a bus or train saving power for the time between charging stations.
There are multiple uses for custom heaters throughout many industries. PTC heaters provide failsafe heating due to their unique characteristics. Designed to reach a precise temperature and then shut off the current without control systems make them ideal for applications in medical devices and labs where temperature control and overheat protection are required.
These PTC heaters in outdoor environments where the heater protects against humidity and cold temperatures. Agricultural, windmills, oil and gas pipelines, traffic controls, ATMs, and telecommunications equipment.
Need a custom solution not covered here? Speak to one of our engineers directly at 1-864-607-9047 and discuss your application requirements.