The Hybrid Car
Uploaded by allupinu69 on Oct 31, 2011
This essay explores the design of machines that must perform multiple functions. It concentrates on the Harrier fighter and the hybrid car.
One of the most useful things anyone can have is a device that fulfills more than one function. This is comparable to human babies, of course, who learn and grow and play many roles over a lifetime.
Often hybrid designs are startling and complex. We’ll look at two such systems: the new hybrid cars, and an old airplane: the AV-8 Harrier. (I picked it because as an ex-Marine, I’ve seen Harriers numerous times over the years and know quite a lot about them.).
II The Harrier
The Harrier is a British product; though now McDonnell-Douglas also manufactures it under license to British Aerospace, formerly Hawker-Siddeley, the original designers. It is flown by the RAF and the Royal Navy, as well as the Spanish and Italians, but is probably best known for its service with the U.S. Marine Corps, the only one of the American armed forces to purchase the aircraft. Known unhappily as the “Widowmaker,” the Harrier AV-8A has an appalling safety record, with 55 peacetime accidents (or rather, it had a poor safety record until pilots learned how to fly it). The new Harrier AV-8B II has greatly improved upon the original, but it remains a tricky aircraft to handle even after thousands of flight hours. Nevertheless, the Marines have continued using it because it suits their unique ground support mission so well.
The Harrier is the fabled VSTOL (vertical and short take-off and landing) aircraft, the “jump jet” that the armed forces have wanted for decades. It was designed to blend two seemingly incompatible missions: flying like a jet and hovering like a helicopter. It also has to deliver a significant payload of rockets and bombs.
It can take off and land conventionally; it can take off and land on a very short runway; or it can take off and land vertically. It is this last feature that has made the airplane famous: numerous movies show the aircraft slowing down until it comes to a complete stop and hangs in midair.
The secret to the aircraft’s maneuverability is a concept known as “vectored thrust,” a term which has given rise to any number of lewd jokes. Basically, the airplane is equipped with moveable...