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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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New Retrofit Kit can Turn Any Car into a Plug-In Hybrid

Dr. Charles Perry at Middle Tennessee State University continues driving toward success in the development of the plug-in hybrid retrofit kit for any car.  Dr. Perry, his collaborators, and students are very close to achieving their goal.

MTSU Wheel Hub Retro Fit Kit
MTSU Wheel Hub Motor Retrofit Kit.

Perry, who holds the Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence, and this year’s five-member team saw gas mileage increase anywhere from 50 to 100 percent on a 1994 Honda station wagon retrofitted with laboratory prototype plug-in hybrid capability.

The Honda wagon research vehicle has been fitted with electric motors at each rear wheel and a large lithium-ion battery that’s mounted in the rear of the vehicle. Perry said, “The whole point was to demonstrate the feasibility of adding the electrical motor to the rear wheel of the car without changing the brakes, bearings, suspension – anything mechanical. As lithium-battery technology improves the battery size can be reduced in production models.”

Wheel Hub Retro Fit Kit
MTSU’s Jay Perry installs a Wheel Hub.

The technology’s gas-saving principle uses a pair of electric motors to supplement the power coming from the internal combustion engine.

Brent Brubaker, a May 2012 graduate explains to goal, “The wheel-hub motor is an answer to a problem. It’s innovative technology. You can take and bolt it on a car. When people see that, their eyes light up. They think it might cost a lot of money and are surprised when you tell them it might be $3,000. We have a lot of student projects that I have been a part of, but the wheel-hub was my favourite out of the whole thing.”

Dr. Perry is now talking with several potential investors – companies with vehicle fleets – to solicit funds to build and demonstrate a manufacturing version of the plug-in hybrid technology.  He understands they have reached what industry insiders call “the valley of death” as they try to transfer the project’s technology from the laboratory to a commercial product.

“We have gained proof of concept in terms of feasibility,” he said. “We need quite a bit of money to have proof of product. What we’ve achieved is a demonstrated technology, not a proven technology. Investors want to see proven field-tested performance and reliability. We have to pass through this transition, from feasibility to true, viable product.”

Lou Svendsen, university counsel with the Tennessee Board of Regents, will join Perry in approaching companies that have both U.S. and worldwide fleets of vehicles, especially those “interested in green technology, reducing carbon footprint and savings in fuel costs.”

Automobiles are a world-wide vastly varied industry.  Perry and Svendsen might well keep in mind the aftermarket segment, smaller automotive producers, and wide array of mobility manufacturers.  The team might not have the highest motor technology, but they do have the widest and farthest reach for immediate adoption.  They’re in better shape for traversing the “the valley of death” than most ideas.

Three faculty members also played prominent roles in the project:

* Dr. Chong Chen advised in the motor’s design and directed Wattage’s modeling work;
* Dr. Richard Redditt oversaw the mechanical build of the earliest prototype of the wheel-hub motor; and
* Dr. Ron McBride was a consultant and oversaw student involvement in the machine shop.

The nine students have all graduated with bachelor’s or master’s degrees.  The quick list includes, Alex Kirchoff, Ken Garrett, Brian Mastley, David Gray, Jay Perry (not related to Dr. Perry), Brent Brubaker, Ken Gendrich, Brandon Cromwell, and Suneth Wattage. More details are in the university press release.

Obviously it’s more complex than swapping out the brake backing plate and brake drum.  There will be a bit of kit to install for the batteries controller and wiring.  $3000 could be a viable number with volume.

If they get into the market, as sure as night follows day competition will sprout and the modifiers will get involved and before long, a market share will build.

This one should take off.  Your humble writer could buy something like this . . . If the motors are strong and efficient enough an EV could be in my future!  WooHoo!

By. Brian Westenhaus

Source: Convert your Car to a Hybrid




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