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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Aftermarket kit turns any car into a hybrid

Turn any car into a hybrid? I love it. I wannit. More info, please!

I'm not terribly good with cars, but at least I can change the damned brakes. Supposedly, anyone capable of that task can install this doohickey.
I didn't bother to watch the video because any real "kit" would cost just as much as driving your car on gas for five years.

Gas saving gizmos work not because some stalwart inventor in his garage figured out what Detroit couldn't or Big Oil doesn't want you to know but because you drive to save gas for a while after you instal the device.

The same type of folks buy into republican clap-trap fall for this. Goes for Obama voters too.
No batteries?.....this is good, because of the backward technology around storage. But we still need a Manhattan Project on that.

You mentioned yo voted for Barry Commoner, the other day. His book Politics of Energy was a fav of mine, and was prescient enough to advise we use the available petro until it peaks, for development of alt energy. Solar really hasn't developed quantum leaps beyond PV's since the late 70's, and the gubmint funding for research hasn't IMO, matched the urgency.

This add-on is interesting, but $3k is still a lot in light of the increase in mpg, and would take several years to make cost effective.

Obama? Maybe a 2nd term.

Watch the video anyways, Mike. It's from ABC News -- not Alex Jones.
Ben: That book is the reason I voted for Commoner. After the election -- when the realization hit me that Reagan was going to president -- I became angry at the book and tossed it. Literally.
That was a bad year. First Reagan, then John Lennon.

PoE is out of print, I think. I've threatened to plow through a used book store, but casual browsing reveals only copies of BE HERE NOW. lol.

OK, Joe, I watched the video. If I heard right over the snide remarks of my Electronics Engineering degree offspring, this guy's Honda gets 40mpg with the hybrid conversion system. My 14 year old Dodge Neon gets that.
There's a battery pack/controller in the trunk. If you look the actual MTSU video on Youtube, they show it. It essentially fills the trunk on the test Civic - they say that in a final production model it would be about the size of a large carry-on. They don't describe the capacity of the battery (they give voltage and current - which gives you power - but they don't give you the energy content of the battery so there's no way to even guess at either charge time or range). There's no mention of regenerative braking, and it's not immediately apparent whether or not the gasoline engine can charge the battery, so it's very hard to determine how much range improvement you get.

Some random thoughts:

1) The battery is probably pretty heavy (a few hundred pounds, perhaps) and would doubtless affect handling.

2) Lithium batteries can get rather warm (they can even catch on fire). Most plug-in hybrids and EVs have some sort of active cooling for the battery. This doesn't appear to be the case for the MTSU kit.

3) In the same vein, the batteries are likely to be a fire hazard in a crash unless they're contained somehow. Since they're located in the trunk (next to the gas tank), I'm not exactly overwhelmed with confidence about the safety engineering here - especially for a kit.

4) Covering up the brakes is probably going to interfere with ventilation and contribute to brake fade under heavy use.

They claim the kit will double your mileage in-town. It will, of course, worsen mileage on the highway because of the added weight.
Since they don't give the range (or the recharge time), it's really difficult to figure out whether it would end up saving you anything at all.

The EPA estimated annual fuel cost for a 2012 civic is $1750. Assuming that the hybrid kit really halved your fuel consumption (i.e., all your driving in town and within the range of the hybrid system), it would take an average driver a bit less than 4 years to recover the cost of the kit. This doesn't count the cost of plugging it in.

I'd expect the real-world performance to be somewhat worse, of course.

It's still an interesting bit of outside-the-box thinking.

In no particular order in answer to Propertius:

I wouldn't worry about brake fade because most of the stopping force is absorbed by the front brakes on this type of car. My Neon has the problem of the rear adjusters freezing up because the brake shoe wear in so minimal.

Highway mileage shouldn't suffer that much due to added weight because the vehicle is rolling at a steady speed in town it's a different story, accelerating and decelerating the extra mass of a battery pack. Most of the time fuel efficiency at highway speed is determined by aerodynamics.

Charging the battery pack with the engine or regenerative braking wouldn't be that big a problem.

Battery weight vs power output would determine if this is a viable solution for increasing gas mileage.

I own a Prius. The 50-hp battery-assist system is a big deal; it's a 3-phase 500-volt system that's powerful enough to serve as a UPS for an entire house - with air conditioning. The car's AC system is electric, not engine-powered, and takes advantage of the 500-volt power system (the car has dual 500V and 12V systems).

All the major systems that are usually hydraulically assisted are electric in this car; it's a drive-by-wire system, like an airplane, and does not use hydraulics or engine belt-drive at all.

Despite the superficial appearance to other cars, it's radically different underneath. No transmission, braking is regenerative, and the engine start-stop system can start and stop the engine at exact TDC, every time, with the driver barely aware it's happening. The NiMH battery array is computer-limited to no more than 80% charge or no less than 40%, to maximize battery life. In the real world, the battery array gives a life in excess of 150,000 miles.

Saying that any car can be converted to an efficient, trouble-free hybrid is a bit like saying a black-and-white TV can be converted to color, or a DOS PC/AT with a 286 processor can be somehow adapted to use a modern Chrome browser.
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