A plug-in hybrid for $3,000?!

The bright minds of young college students and their mentors are at work again in the world of green technology. 

This time around the scene is Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and the item being developed is a plug-in hybrid retrofit kit said to work with almost any car.

Professor Charles Perry and a rotating group of MTSU students associated with the university’s Department of Engineering Technology have, for the last few years, been developing a wheel hub, plug-in hybrid retrofit kit. 

This green car technology, currently in proof of concept stage, is now being shopped around to private investors for funding to demonstrate a manufacturing version of it.

Perry’s wheel hub technology, according to MTSU, was recently outfitted on a 1994 Honda station wagon and helped this research vehicle to see a gas mileage increase anywhere from 50 to 100 percent. FuelEconomy.gov indicates, assuming this is the 1994 Honda Accord station wagon, that this car’s original EPA rated combined MPG to be 23.

In a video which you can watch above, Perry describes how the technology works. In essence what is added to the two inner rear wheel brake structures are DC brushless motors.

Tied to a lithium ion phosphate battery pack mounted in the rear of the vehicle, they supplement the traction provided by the car’s regular gas engine, both reducing the amount of gas needed and also upping the MPG.

The technology is designed for what would be around town usage. What’s also pretty innovative here, according to Perry, is that the system is built with mostly off the shelf components. How they add the electric traction is what the secret sauce is.

“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 in a statement.

As for cost if it where to actually make it to market, it would likely price for around $3,000, which is considerably less then what you’d pay for buying a shiny new plug-in hybrid like the upcoming Ford Energi. Possible applications of this, besides in consumer vehicles, could also include companies with vehicle fleets.

And, as a side note, this isn’t the only green tech innovation in the automotive space this university has been tinkering with. In January, for example, a converted Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid powered by solar, hydrogen and ethanol was set to make a cross country drive.

Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling