This kit adds a 15-kWh battery and hub-mounted electric motors.
Drivers will be able to choose between only the gas engine, only the electric motors, or a combination at any time.
The target price for this kit would be about $4,300 in Canada.
With the ever-increasing popularity of electric vehicles, many have been looking for ways to make existing vehicles more efficient by leveraging electrification as well.
While fully electric conversions have become fairly common in the realm of classic cars, their prohibitive cost is stopping them from becoming a mainstream solution.
To avoid this problem, Alexander Burton, a design student at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia, has been working on a kit that could turn regular gasoline-powered cars into hybrid models instead.
Since hybrid vehicles require much smaller batteries than EVs, they can be produced at a significantly lower price point, with the entire kit expected to cost around CA $4,300 in a few years.
For this price, drivers will receive a round-shaped 15 kWh battery that can be installed in the spare tire well, in addition to hub-mounted 50 kW electric motors that should fit between the wheels and the brake discs, requiring minimal modifications to the vehicle and only about 10 minutes to install.
Burton says that this system will be able to operate in fully electric or in parallel hybrid mode, without taking away the car’s ability to run with its gasoline engine only either.
To achieve this without requiring complex powertrain management systems that need to be tailored to every possible car model, the electric motors will be activated via a separate switch and drivers will be able to start or stop the engine with the key as before, simply leaving it in the on position to drive on electric power only.
This should provide over 100 kilometres of range in stop-and-go city traffic, avoiding the use of the gasoline engine in situations where it is the least efficient.
Since all of the vehicle’s accessories will continue to run on the factory 12-volt electrical system, the high-voltage battery will be tasked to keep the smaller battery charged when the engine is not running. Similar provisions will also be made for other accessories that run off the engine, such as the power brakes, power steering, and air conditioning.
As with other hybrid vehicles, this kit will make use of regenerative braking, but it won’t be integrated into the factory hydraulic braking system, which will remain untouched.
In order to keep prices and modifications down, a battery level indicator will not be included, and drivers will have to use an app on their phones to know if they need to charge or not.
At the moment, the exact way in which the electric motors will read the accelerator pedal’s position is not known, but Burton says installing a small potentiometer on the pedal will likely be the easiest solution.
At first, the student will convert his own 2001 Toyota Corolla, before offering his kit to owners of very popular vehicles such as multiple generations of the Corolla and the Honda Civic.
Of course, there are still quite a few issues to work around, such as the legal status of the modification, which may not be allowed in every market.
In addition, making an older vehicle into a hybrid might not make much financial sense, since the reduction in fuel use would have to be quite significant to offset the costs of the conversion.
While the target price is a fairly reasonable $5,000 AU ($4,300 in Canada) down the road, this estimate is based on predictions of strong demand for the kit and falling costs for the materials.
At first, individual kits are likely to be priced closer to $10,000 AU ($8,600 Canadian), which means it would take much longer to see a return on the initial investment.
For example, a Canadian market 2001 Corolla uses 7,3 L/100 km in city driving, which means 730 litres over 10,000 kilometres. At 1,75$ per litre, this means driving 10,000 km costs $1,277.50. In the best-case scenario, where the converted Corolla is used exclusively in electric mode in the city, this means it would take almost 7 years for the kit to become profitable, at 10,000 kilometres per year.
Of course, this doesn’t take into account charging costs or any use of the gasoline engine, which would be required for most highway drives, where the gasoline Corolla would be more efficient as well, extending the breakover period even more.
Of course, the environmental impacts of running existing vehicles on electricity can’t be ignored, and this might be where this kit makes the most sense, at least for now.
Source: New Atlas