How Do They Work?
Perhaps the easiest way to understand and appreciate a tribrid vehicle is by way of comparing and contrasting it to its immediate and better-known predecessor, the hybrid. Hybrids utilize two sources of on-board energy. The primary energy source is most often some sort of liquid fuel (e.g., gasoline) that will, in time, be converted into mechanical power via an engine of some sort. This mechanical power will then be harnessed, via a drive train (transmission, drive shaft, differential and/or trans-axel) that ultimately serve to turn the wheels and move the vehicle – even if somewhat inefficiently. The second source of energy on board a typical hybrid is electricity. Unlike the battery-powered electrics (which need to stop for recharging from time to time) the electricity used by a hybrid is manufactured on-board, most often via the turning of a mechanically driven electrical generator. The resultant electrical energy is either used immediately or stored in batteries, where it will reside in the form of potential energy until supplied to an electric motor. The electric motor is used only periodically, assisting the (primary) gasoline engine when it is under certain heavy-load conditions. Generally speaking, the electric motor generally only kicks in when the vehicle is starting up from a dead stop or when it is climbing up a hill. Tribrids work in much the same way as hybrids, except that some portion of the energy required to power the vehicle either has been (or is being) taken from the ambient environment. A free-energy capturing device, such as a solar panel, windmill or sail, provides the tribrid vehicle with a source of power that, if left un-captured, would otherwise simply be lost to the atmosphere.