Dr. Charles Perry and his students at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) have developed a retrofit kit that allows ordinary gasoline vehicles to be transformed into a plug-in hybrid for between $3,000 and $5,000.
Perry, who holds the Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence, and a 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.
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.
The research Honda has been fitted with electric motors in each rear wheel and a large lithium-ion battery, which is mounted in the rear of the vehicle. As lithium-battery technology improves, Perry said, the battery size can be reduced in production models.
Switching on power to the two rear wheels’ electric motors made a huge difference by reducing the power required from the internal-combustion engine, he added.
“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,” Perry said.
The technology’s gas-saving principle uses an electric motor to supplement the power coming from the internal combustion engine.
Nine students who worked on the project, who now have graduated with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, came from the university’s engineering-technology department.
“The wheel-hub motor is an answer to a problem,” Brent Brubaker, one of the student researchers, said.
“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.”
The plug-in hybrid retrofit kit for any car project has been under way since 2008.[source: MTSU]