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.

Source: CleanTechnica via MTSU News

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Terry

    Forget about hot rods I’d love to throw one of these on a truck. There’s plenty of room to mount the needed equipment with out using the bed.

    • T Adkins

      I am with you but as sweet as it sounds this system is for front wheel drive vehicles. this option from XL Hybrids:
      Is more set for trucks, vans, crown vic, and town cars; your rear wheel drive cars.

      For either set up tho it is more to up the in the city MPG but it will still up the the combined MPG.

      • Nixon

        That is an interesting setup. It makes me wonder if it would be possible to just attach an electric motor to a 4X4 truck’s PTO output shaft, and drive the entire vehicle by pushing power into the PTO output shaft. From what I understand, the latest Chevy Silverado HD’s can handle 250 lb-ft of torque on their PTO’s. A 250 lb-ft electric motor could easily push around even a big truck like this in slow traffic jam traffic.

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  • Not a new idea, just a good one. I heartily agree. Why should we make new cars when we already have enough vehicles congesting the roads and mucking up the climate? I love this project because you use existing resources (Your favorite car, only with souped up MPG). It goes back to an older (and I think better) mindset: Why buy something new when you can fix your old one? We’re too used to convenience, and we’re paying the price. But enough preaching and sermonizing.

    With numbers like that, who can resist?

    Juan Miguel Ruiz

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  • John Winter

    I just found out about this Hybrid Retro-fit system while I was reading the news on Yahoo. I am a retired automotive technician and I believe this new Hybrid Kit should really increase the amount of money that the average Auto machanic takes home in his weekly paycheck. Every auto repair shop in our country should get themselfs educated on the installation procedure because pretty soon theres going to be people standing in line wanting to have this Retro-fit system installed on their cars and pick up trucks. I am going to have this system installed on my pick up truck. This new system could be the biggest thing since Henery Ford first developed the first auotmobile.

  • CS

    This could also add a little extra torque for towing a trailer but I wonder if pulling weight would affect the system controller calibration.