Let's Talk About: USS Requin -- underwater hybrid

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Hybrid cars are increasing in popularity today. The technology that makes them run has been around since the first half of the 20th century and in a surprising kind of vehicle, the submarine.

A hybrid is any method of transportation that uses more than one kind of power. Many hybrid cars are found on the road. Modern trains are also hybrids, relying on both electricity and diesel fuel. The U.S. Navy began using nuclear power to run its submarines in the late 1950s, but before that, the submarine was one of the first vehicles to travel using hybrid technology.

All hybrid cars have four basic parts that make them run: a gasoline engine, an electric motor, a generator and batteries. The most common type of hybrid car is called a parallel hybrid. In a parallel hybrid, the gasoline engine powers the generator, which charges the batteries. The batteries power the electric motor and the electric motor powers the transmission, making the car run.

France began experimenting with diesel and electricity on submarines in 1904. In the 1930s, the Navy started using hybrid technology for all of its submarines. Diesel- and electric-powered submarines, such as the USS Requin at Carnegie Science Center, have the same basic components as today's modern cars but on a much larger scale. They have four diesel engines, four electric motors, four generators and two giant batteries that weigh almost 200 tons. Each of the huge 1,600-horsepower engines have a generator connected to it. The engines power the generators, and the generators charge the batteries. The batteries power the engines, which turn the submarine's propellers. Submarines can travel about 25 miles per hour on the surface and 11 miles per hour under the water.

Today's submarines run on nuclear power, but they still use diesel electric technology as a backup in case of emergencies.



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