Context of hybrid vehicles

Societal and Economic context

Road transport is at the heart of major social issues for years to come. Indeed, for over a century, we have been burning fossil fuels to drive the cars and economy. However, over the last decade a number of limitations have arisen to counter the pursuit of this continued development. One such limitation is the increase in global temperatures, linked at least in part to greenhouse gases. Initiatives (like the Kyoto Protocol), both national and international, are increasingly recognizing the control of emission of such gases. In addition, the supply of oil has two major problems: the world's reserves are limited in time (currently estimated of consumption for forty years) and are located mainly in countries subject to high geopolitical tensions.

Technological context

Thus, in response to these twin problems which discussed above the automotive world is increasingly active in Electric or Hybrid Electric Vehicles. The recent commercial and technological success of the Toyota Prius confirms the trend. While many demonstrations of such vehicles have already been presented by all major manufacturers, it is clear that the performance (autonomy, weight, speed, durability) of these vehicles is often still below what the high yields and reliability of the treatment of electrical energy could expect. As a result, the automotive market, especially in Europe, is generally averse to hybrid vehicles. The current prohibitive cost is not offset by the gains in energy and emissions reductions (real yet insufficient). Moreover, the complexity of these traction structures is yet to ensure the reliability required by the automotive sector. Many advances are still required for the development of Electric vehicles and / or Hybrid Electric Vehicles in our society and also to address the social issues involved.

Scientific context

Many research laboratories around the world, including France, have for many years conducted research in the area of future vehicles. Recent government programs combining academic and industrial partners such as the PNGV in U.S. reinforce this work. One of the characteristics of hybrid vehicles is to require multiple research skills for both its development and for its energy management. The Electrical Engineering laboratories have a central role to play, as they are involved in the heart of the problems from the production of electric power to the vehicle (e.g. through a generator or a fuel cell), to its use (e.g. electric motors integrated into the wheels), through its storage (batteries and supercapacitors for illustration) and packaging (static converter). However, a interdisciplinary approach in collaboration with laboratories with other disciplines such as mechanical engineering, energy engineering, environmental engineering, chemical engineering, automation etc. is fundamental to view the complexity of such a system. The interdependence of the functioning of each component is also getting more complex. It must be acknowledged that this approach is not common at present time both nationally or internationally.