Published on July 26th, 2012 | by Christopher DeMorro
Students Help Develop Plug-In Hybrid Retrofit Kit
Ever wish you drove a hybrid, but can’t stomach paying a premium price for a new or even used model? You’re not alone. For many Americans, the extra MPG’s aren’t worth the extra cost, and some hybrids can take decades to pay off that price premium. But what if you could pay a lot less for a hybrid retrofit kit that could double your MPG’s? That’s what students from Middle Tennessee State University have been developing with help from their professor, and the results are promising to say the least.
Hybrids For The Masses
The MTSU students, led Dr. Charles Perry, have been working on this project since the last gas spike in 2008. Developed for front-wheel drive cars, the bolt-on hybrid kit uses an electric motor installed between the brake hub and wheel to send power to the back wheels. Utilized on a 1994 Honda Accord, the MTSU team saw gains of between 50% and 100% in fuel economy.
Yes, they basically doubled their fuel economy with a bolt-on hybrid kit, and what’s more, the estimated cost to sell this kit would be around $3,000. I know people who spend twice as much on turbocharger setups for their V8’s; I can tell you right now, lots of people would line up to buy such a retrofit kit if it came to market.
Not A New Idea, Just A Good One
Other companies, most notably XL Hybrids, are pursuing similar projects aimed at commercial fleet owners. The MTSU project seems like it might actually be something you or I could order from Summit Racing or Pep Boys. With the cost of gas creeping upwards again, interest in these projects will peak with prices.
That said, I do have some concerns. Their test car was a Honda Accord station wagon, which has room to spare. But the size of the battery and control unit might mean sacrificing a good bit of trunk space. Also, I worry about wear and tear on the rear wheels over the long term; this isn’t the kind of system I’d drop into a recently made car. I’m also hoping someone develops a version for rear-wheel drive cars…imagine how many hot rodders would line up to double their fuel economy from 15 mpg to 30? Hell, I know I would.