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Upgrades Technology

Build Your Own Hybrid-Electric Car? 328

BlueJay465 writes "On almost every news outlet, everyone is talking about the price of oil, both foreign and domestic. This sent me to do some research on what it would take to keep the investment in my current vehicle, while getting the added benefits of hybrid-electric technology at the lowest price. One company, Sigma Automotive, has already jumped on that bandwagon, and will soon be offering a kit for your car engine that will boost performance and increase fuel-economy by adding all the extra electronics, hardware and capacity (avail. Q3-Q4 2004). My question is, how much would it cost to really 'Do It Yourself' using off-the-shelf parts?"
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Build Your Own Hybrid-Electric Car?

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  • Seems legit to me (Score:5, Informative)

    by YankeeInExile ( 577704 ) * on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:37PM (#10093568) Homepage Journal

    I read through their site, and while I am vaguely skeptical of things like the lifespan of the Super Capacitor Battery Pack and I2R losses system wide the basic theory is sound.

    It seems like the product right now is targetted at people who want an extra 35 b.h.p. "off the line". And if you do a lot of stop-and-go driving, that could help a lot.

    In my gut, I think a fully electrical transmission would provide better systemic efficiency, but that would be nowhere near a bolt-on system. (I base that on: the specific consumption of any I.C. engine is lowest when it is near it's peak output. Any system that is predicated on running the engine at variable speed (i.e. using a traditional mechanical transmission) is going to, by necessity, run the engine most of the time away from it's peak efficiency. I would be willing to hear the argument that the gain of running the engine at peak efficiency would be offset by the losses in the motor-generator pair. (If so, why has it been the standard technology in railway traction for over fifty years?)

    • >I would be willing to hear the argument that the gain of running the engine at peak efficiency would be offset by the losses in the motor-generator pair. (If so, why has it been the standard technology in railway traction for over fifty years?)

      Some data points, that could point either way: Toyota claims to be getting 40% efficiency from the Prius gas engine, which if true is dramatically superior to conventional designs and is a big enough win to make up for a lot of motor-generator-charge-discharge lo
      • On the other hand, don't railroads use series hybrids because the size and cost of a transmission that could start a stationary freight train was infeasible?

        Ahhh, I had not considered that. You must be right.

        What confused me about their website was that they kept talking about regenerative braking but didn't describe any interface to the car's brakes (and if they did it would make me nervous).

        I figured that was what the MAP sensor was for ... during periods of low MAP (High vacuum) you must want

        • Re:Seems legit to me (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Smidge204 ( 605297 )
          In theory, any tie-in to the brake system will suffice. A simple splice into the brake light wire will tell you if the driver is hitting the brakes or not (though that's probably not a very reliable way to do it!).

          The 48 volts could be because, well, the duty of the electric motor is nowhere near what it would be in a true hybrid. So a balance of cost, efficiency, safety and power was likely found at 48 volts.

          (Just guessing, though)
          =Smidge=

          • Just an FYI - a few automotive manufacturers are planning on releasing vehicles with just such a system from the factory. (i.e. a "super alternator")

            They would probably work better than a retrofit hybrid system like the one linked to, since the controls for regenerative braking would be better. (For example, causing the transmission to downshift, increasing engine and generator RPM.)

            The suggestion of triggering on MAP is a good one though, although there are probably cases where the driver would want to
        • Ahhh, I had not considered that. You must be right.

          Hey, this is Slashdot! You're not allowed to be civil!
      • by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:31PM (#10094106) Homepage
        has nothing to do with the mechanical brakes other than that it takes some of the load off them.

        Remember that any DC motor can work equally well as a generator. In regenerative braking, the motor becomes a generator providing mechanical resistance to slow the vehicle and the energy produced is fed to the energy storage device, either batteries or super capacitor where it can later be recovered and used over.

        Actually this is fairly common practice in certain types of traction (cabled) elevators where the motion of the elevator car, say, up in the case of an empty cab with counter-weights heavier than the cab, actually pushes power back into the 3 phase power lines. There are no big resistors needed to consume the energy produced when the drive motor becomes a generator. This is efficient in terms of energy consumption.

        Mechanical brakes on elevators are normally set only after the cab is electrically stopped and held at floor level.

        "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
        • It's late, I'm up past my bedtime here at the rest home and I had beer with my supper. I can't believe I did that.

          "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
        • "In regenerative braking, the motor becomes a generator providing mechanical resistance to slow the vehicle and the energy produced is fed to the energy storage device, either batteries or super capacitor where it can later be recovered and used over."

          Actually no. in regenerative braking, the motor that is attached to the wheels no longer provides power, and reverse energizes the coils, the spinning wheels then have to overcome the engine, basically running in reverse, done right this creates a net gain
          • (Engines work better as engines than generators, and generators work better as generators then engine I'll give you that one, an electric motor might be 85% efficent as a motor vs. 75% as a generator but compare that to a gassoline engine which is 30% efficent as a engine and not able to generate at all (roll it down hill and the gas tank doesn't fill).
            Try appling voltage to your alternator and see if it spins As is, it will turn a bit and lock into position when fed electricity, take out the diode recitfi
      • It's basically engine braking, using the vehicle's momentum to charge the battery thru the alternator.

        Overall, while the concept sounds OK, the devil is in the details, and I have my doubts the energy savings would be worth the $$$ and effort.

      • Railroad locomotives (Score:3, Informative)

        by isny ( 681711 )
        Yes, locomotives use a hybrid power system, but it's (usually) all based on electric conversion: The engine drives an alternator, and the power from the alternator drives traction motors (avoiding batteries). Dynamic regeneration is usually not used: when dynamic braking, all power from the traction motors are radiated out the dynamic braking grids as heat.
    • Re:Seems legit to me (Score:2, Informative)

      by deathazre ( 761949 )
      A good electric powertrain would probably roughly match the efficiency of a conventional automatic transmission and drivetrain. However, it would add a good deal of unsprung weight, which would be somewhat detrimental to handling. Alternator construction could be quite simple, as well--no need for an exciter, use a permanent magnet and simply adjust engine RPM to maintain voltage, therefore keeping the engine at roughly peak torque no matter what the load is (instead of having it run at 60hz at all times on
      • Good points, thanks for mostly agreeing with my gut :)

        Although I disagree that it would have to necessarily add to unsprung weight -- think Jaguar inboard disc brakes ... now replace "brakes" with high efficiency PM pancake motors. Use last few decades improvements in materials science to solve problem of broken half-axles.

        Of course that leaves unanswered the question, Well, now where do we put the brakes? Bah -- braking is for wusses. I'm in a hurry!

        Well, they could easily be integrated with th

    • ...why has it been the standard technology in railway traction for over fifty years


      Because electric motors have maxium torque at minimum velocity.

      I.e. it's much easier to get going from a dead start, a major problem for trains, but not such a big deal for cars.

      -- less is better.
    • Re:Seems legit to me (Score:4, Informative)

      by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @10:32PM (#10093829)
      I would be willing to hear the argument that the gain of running the engine at peak efficiency would be offset by the losses in the motor-generator pair. (If so, why has it been the standard technology in railway traction for over fifty years?)

      I could hazard some guesses about why we don't currently see electrical transmissions in cars:

      Weight: It seems to me that a motor/generator pair would probably weigh more than a mechanical transmission, which is just a few gears and/or hollow turbines. This isn't an issue on a locomotive, where heavier is better for creating traction (IIRC, some of the biggest steam locomotives weighed as much as a 747).

      Power: A lot of people are used to having 300hp on tap. That's almost 1/4 of a megawatt. You'd need to have some serious power control circuits to handle that much juice. A locomotive is powerful, but pulling a train is really more about torque than raw horsepower. Electric drives do have excellent torque capabilities (and it's just about the only technology besides steam pistons with enough torque to start a freight train), but people in cars want neck-snapping acceleration. That would require a lot of copper and power controls.

      CVT: Continuously variable mechanical transmissions have already been on the market for a few years. I would imagine that they can keep the engine running at a fairly constant rate. I think that they are somewhat more efficient than standard transmissions, but not by a huge factor. What makes hybrids special is that the engine produces almost constant power, not just speed, because it uses the batteries for power storage when it is generating a surplus. This allows for much more efficient operation than just a CVT. It's interesting that some of the hybrids use a mechanical transmission in addition to the electrical boost. I gather that that's because the mechanical drive was more cost-effective for transmitting that portion of the total power.

    • Here [evworld.com] is an interesting related interview. Also check out the specs for these ultracapacitors [maxwell.com]. The key benefit of capacitors over batteries is in deep discharge, near instantaneous bursts of current. It takes the load off your bulk storage supply, allowing them to operate more efficiently.

      I still can't buy a hybrid flexible fuel vehicle, so I can shift my usage over to a more renewable source [ethanol.org]. This system opens up some options though. I like!

      Aside: The regenerative braking aspect of all hybrids is

      • Before I forget, you can buy small quantities of ultracapacitors directly from Maxwell for US$25/each. Discounts kick in for quantities of 100 or more. Just fill out their form [maxwell.com] if you're interested. I've been playing around with a few as battery replacements in toys around the house. :-)
      • "I still can't buy a hybrid flexible fuel vehicle, so I can shift my usage over to a more renewable source (ethanol). This system opens up some options though. I like!"

        Yeah, you'll be literally drunk with power!
  • Just a guess (Score:2, Informative)

    by erick99 ( 743982 )
    I am guestimating about $2,500 for all the parts.

    Cheers,

    Erick

    • Re:Just a guess (Score:5, Informative)

      by YankeeInExile ( 577704 ) * on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:40PM (#10093589) Homepage Journal

      Not bad ... in their own site they suggest MSRP should be +/- 2800.

      Q. How much does the Electrocharger(TM) cost?
      A. Estimated retail is $2800.00 USD.
      • Re:Just a guess (Score:3, Interesting)

        by afidel ( 530433 )
        Still way too expensive for the benifits (in terms of dollars and environmental impact). A Honda Civix LX 4-door with 4 speed automatic transmission only costs ~$16,700 vs ~$21,000 for a Civic Hybrid CVT. The difference in fuel economy? Less than 20% (38 vs 47 highway). The cost of all of those electronics, batteries, and other components both in terms of energy input as well as disposal hazards probably is not a huge net win for the environment. I would like to see a total environmental impact study done b
    • So at 2.09 a gallon (locally here in WA), and a guesstimate of 25 miles per gallon you will have made your money back in under 45k miles.
      • Re:Just a guess (Score:3, Interesting)

        So at 2.09 a gallon (locally here in WA), and a guesstimate of 25 miles per gallon you will have made your money back in under 45k miles.
        I don't follow your math. For that to work out, you'd have to go from 25 mpg "before" to 98 mpg after to have a payback in 45000 miles (pretty unlikely!), or go from 14 mpg "before" to 25 mpg for the same effect ( a change in s.f.c of about 40% which would still be pretty amazing )
      • I wouldn't care if it took 100K miles to regain my investment.

        This is a website for geeks. I personally would rather drive at 40mpg and pay 3000 to the engineers and company that designed a hybrid engine than drive at 35mpg and pay 1000 to the billionaire aristocrat oil tycoons.

        Wouldn't you?
  • Seems like - (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thewldisntenuff ( 778302 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:42PM (#10093606) Homepage
    A performance part to me.....Hell, the website is devoted to such parts

    $2800 MSRP (according to the FAQ) seems like a hell of a lot to me, considering the fact that it is not a true hybrid conversion, but rather, a bolt-on part.

    But really, how many people will spend that much for what seems to be a little gain in performance? Maybe the tax break helps?

    -thewldisntenuff
    • And as with any performance part that adds a significant amount of power, you can kiss drivetrain warranty coverage goodbye. I'd rather have the ability to make a warranty claim on my engine or transmission, should one become necesssary, than get an extra 10 MPG.
    • Re:Seems like - (Score:3, Insightful)

      by windex ( 92715 )
      If you can get 30HP out of it, $80-90/hp isin't too bad. :)
      • It seems to me that this is really a competitor to supercharging -- since it provides 30HP no matter what you hook it to, it seems good for small engines (i.e. Civics and such). Contrast this with superchargers/turbochargers, which increase power in proportion to the engine size (i.e. 30HP on a 100HP engine, but 100HP on a 300HP engine).
  • Devil in the system (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Billy the Mountain ( 225541 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:42PM (#10093607) Journal
    It may not be too prevalent in electric motors, but there's a demon that lives in power transmissions, especially where shafts are involved. It's called tortional vibration. It's a close relative to harmonic vibration of the type that tears poorly designed bridges down in heavy winds. Automotive companies are able to tweak a design until all or most of the tortional vibration is ironed out, then they mass produce. Building a one-off unit, you'll have to resolve these issues, as they may crop up, on your own.

    BTM
    • How do you see torsional vibrations coming into a system like this one? I admit my ignorance of mechanical engineering but at first glance it looks like this takes a driveshaft that's known to work and adds a constant torque to it.
      • by deacon ( 40533 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @10:36PM (#10093836) Journal
        The vibrations come from using a toothed rubber belt (gimler belt, which is springy or elastic) to join two inertias or masses (the crankshaft and the new alternator/generator thingy.

        Since the engine output is pulsed (a pulse happens with every power stroke) there is a ready supply of driving or excitation vibration which is just waiting to find the resonant frequency of the whole system.

        And since the pulse frequency varies with the engine speed, you have a full range of driving frequencies to work with.

        If the resonant frequency of the engine/gimler-belt/alternator system is outside the driving frequencies caused by the engine, everything is fine.

        If not, the forces in the belt can become "Large"

        :)

    • by sopuli ( 459663 )
      A friend of mine used to have an experimental Saab that ran on vegetable oil. When you drove behind him, it smelled like a barbeque.
  • by screwedcork ( 801471 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:45PM (#10093617) Journal
    Grease Car [greasecar.com] offers conversion kits to run your diesel car off of vegetable oil for a mere $800. It may seem like a half-baked idea, but it's really not; also, most restaurants will give you their used oil for free, and after filtering you have a virtually unlimited fuel supply. Saves you money, saves the environment, and helps eliminate our oil dependancy.
    • Not that our national goal is actually to eliminate our dependancy on oil, but here is another site [grassolean.com] about turning your car into a bio-diesel burning rig. This one has the backing of Darryl Hannah, no less.
    • It's free and unlimited, but it's going to take a lot to motivate people to start messing around with smelly cooking oil in their garage. It also limits you to trips near your home. Last time I was on Route 80, I didn't see the sign that said "Last Vegetable Oil 20 Miles." It's still a cool idea though. This country needs to put more effort in energy alternatives that can actually be useful. A solar car will never cut it.
    • And some day I want to run it on algae oil. This article [unh.edu] was on /. not long ago.

      We could grow almost all the oil we need, certainly enough to make a huge dent in imports, on a couple hundred square miles of the Senora Desert. I know it's ecologically sensitive but I think for oil independence the scorpions, mice and other critters can just deal with it.

      Why aren't we doing this now? Guess it couldn't be because we have an oil family with connections to the Saudi Royal family in office? Or big oil comp

  • Transmission woes. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pyro226 ( 715818 ) <Pyro226.hotmail@com> on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:50PM (#10093642) Journal
    The transmission would be one of the hardest things to deal with. You want the gasoline engine to be at a peak efficiency RPM as much as possible. The best way to do this in a hybrid car is to have the electric motor generate electricity when spinning the engine at an efficient RPM would provide too much acceleration, and use electricity when an efficient engine RPM isn't enough acceleration.

    The toyata prius has a very special system that deals with this, as this page [howstuffworks.com] shows. Especially with hybrid SUV's [fordvehicles.com] coming out soon, building your own hybrid seems like it would be way too much work.

    Also keep in mind, that right now making a hybrid car (for a major automanufacturer) costs several thousand dollars more than making an equivalent conventional car mostly because they don't have enough mass production on the hybrid parts, and they are making thousands and thousands of cars. Buying the parts individually, the price would be outragous.

  • Other types of kits? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Kow ( 184414 ) <<putnamp> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:53PM (#10093652)
    Having looked recently at the state of California's DMV website that there are a number of ILEV (compressed natural gas, electricity, etc.) equivalents of current vehicles (Dodge Caravan, etc.). Are these just normal cars, made to fit ILEV standards by use of kits as well? If you're in California this may interest you, since ILEV vehicles (assuming they pass SULEV standards, which most ILEV *and* hybrid cars do) can drive in the HOV lanes w/o meeting HOV passenger standards.

    Unfortunately, though I've heard some debate on this regarding current events, the state of California does not allow hybrid cars in the HOV lanes w/o a second passenger. This seems funny, since my Toyota Prius gets ~50 MPG, meaning its consuming less than half that - and often closer to a third - of most large SUVs. One person using gas in a 50 mpg vehicle still means less consumption than 2 using a 15-20, and the whole point of the HOV lane was to promote conservation. :/
    • >the whole point of the HOV lane was to promote conservation.
      Close. It was to promote conversation.
    • I don't mean to detract from your point about mileage, since it's a good one, but HOV lanes are also designed to reduce congestion on the roadway. A Prius may weigh a fraction of an Escalade, but its footprint is somewhat more comparable, especially when you factor in the space between the cars.
    • and the whole point of the HOV lane was to promote conservation.

      Actually, no, that's not the point of the HOV lane. The point of the HOV lane is to reduce traffic congestion by providing an incentive to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Lower pollution is a significant bonus, which they felt was valuable enough to grant exceptions for alt-fuel vehicles
      • Disregard then. I'd still like to know if anyone knows whether or not they've changed the laws to allow SULEV/non-ILEV vehicles onto the HOV lanes in California, though.
    • and the whole point of the HOV lane was to promote conservation. :/

      Okay, but where do you think the line should be drawn?

      First of all, I doubt you are getting 50MPG in the real world, and even if you are, I'm getting 40+MPG with my normal 4-cyl small car. Should everyone with a small car be allowed to drive in the HOV lanes? Takes away the whole point, doesn't it?

      Personally, I happen to dislike the idea of HOV lanes in the first place.
      • Actually, driving home today I got 55 mpg. The other point here was that hybrid vehicles are also SULEV, which your small car may not be. In fact, I've read in two places now that the Prius actually meets all of the specifications listed for ILEV standards (which I find surprising, and am not putting much faith in at this point), but there is a specific caveat that the CA DMV is enforcing that hybrid vehicles *CANNOT* apply for an ILEV sticker.

        Supposedly there is legislation in the works to rescind that,
  • by huchida ( 764848 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:53PM (#10093658)
    I'm not sure, but something tells me this will void the warranty.

  • ive got a hybrid (Score:2, Informative)

    by the_bellman ( 807480 )
    i get about 5 litres for a hundred kms, which is good, but driving in it is offputting cause it makes virtually no noise. the first few times were too wierd, and when you stop at lights it turns off completely as if you'd stalled (but hadn't).
  • $8,000 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Dixie College in St. George, Utah offers a class where you provide your own pickup truck, and make the truck completely electric.

    You use a pickup truck because the allows you to fill the bed with batteries (1 layer deep) and then build a nice looking cover for it and still use the bed of the truck.

    It is all electric, not hybrid.

    The cost is $8,000, not including the vehicle.

    What I really want to know is if hybrids built using Toyota's hybrid engine, which is a FULL hybrid (meaning it can operate on elect
  • by Tehrasha ( 624164 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @09:57PM (#10093672) Homepage
    Local boy here tried that route. Was making all of his own bio-deisel by recycling/converting waste deep-frier oil from the local resturaunt chains. Made the newspaper, was praised up and down for being thinking outside the box, was really cool....

    Now the state govt. has stepped in and want him to pay state fuel tax on the fuel what he makes and uses himself....

    If he were making it and selling it to others, I could see their point...but jeez!

  • by doorbender ( 146144 ) <doorbender@hotmaTOKYOil.com minus city> on Friday August 27, 2004 @10:04PM (#10093689) Homepage
    The Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Dragsters may not have an electric motor configured to add power to the wheels.
  • by spidergoat2 ( 715962 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @10:06PM (#10093701) Journal
    There were plans for hybrid cars in the 70's. Plans were available in the back of every Popular Science magazine. You started with an old Pinto or Vega, put in a Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engine, and some kind of big electric motor. I was ready to build one till I figured out I'd have to pop the hood every morning and crank up the engine with a pull cord.
  • by jeffmock ( 188913 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @10:07PM (#10093709)
    Wasn't that the cover story of every issue of Popular Mechanics during the 80's? It's nice to see /. appealing to my aging tastes.

    jeff
  • You would think that a car is sufficiently complicated at this point to keep an after-market conversion of that magnitude from being anything but a disaster or let-down.

    Didn't the US auto industry try this with Diesel back in the seventies and learn this lesson for us? Are we doomed to repeat that mistake too?
    • Diesel got a bad rap because of the Oldsmobile Diesel [google.com] engine, which was just a gasoline engine block that was "converted" to be a diesel engine.

      The block and crank and bearings were not strong enough for the much higher forces in a diesel engine, and the Olds diesel had poor reliability.

      People who bought a Mercedes diesel did fine, but the money they spent on the car was never recovered in fuel savings.

      People who bought a diesel volksvagen rabbit did fine too, but that car had poor acceleration, I've drive

  • Pretty foolish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @10:11PM (#10093727)
    The return seems pretty slim for the amount of hassle and cost that you will put yourself through. Making huge powertrain and weight modifications to your car will likely have unexpected and bad consequences, which you will be on your own to fix.

    IMHO, if you are truly economically sensitive to gas prices, I suggest that you buy a '94 or '95 Toyota Tercel/Corolla, Ford Escort or Honda Civic. You'll easily get 35-45mpg with these cars and spend a grand total of $3-5k for the whole vehicle.

    If you want to make a statement about "saving" the environment, move closer to work.
  • now I'm going to have to register:

    byoHC.com

    =(

    e.
  • An optional stand-alone charger is available if your [sic] into drag racing

    Not that I'm that much of a stickler for grammar or anything, but, yeah, I'm going to trust these guys.

    Can it be as simple as replacing your alternator with a belt-driven motor and battery pack? (How big is that battery pack, by-the-way, compared to "real" hybrids?

  • by ChiralSoftware ( 743411 ) <info@chiralsoftware.net> on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:03PM (#10093956) Homepage
    Hybrid cars are pointless [slashdot.org] from an economic point of view. You won't save money. That includes if you buy a ready-made hybrid car, which was built that way at the factory. It is cheaper in every way (time and money) to get a hybrid built that way at the factory. If a factory-built hybrid is pointless, a home-made hybrid is even more pointless.

    If you want to really save money and do something cool, go for an all-electric car. With lithium battery chemistries, the range is good [acpropulsion.com]. There are plenty of companies that offer help in retrofitting old ICE cars to be electric. The big problem here is that automotive-scale lithium batteries are not in mass-production yet so they are very expensive. The battery pack on a lithium-powered electric could cost in the tens of thousands. This is not because the materials that make up a lithium battery are inherently expensive; they just aren't mass-produced in large enough sizes and quantities yet.

    As a further advantage, all-electric cars have much less maintenance. Hybrid cars should have more maintenance than regular ICE cars because hybrids have everything a regular ICE car has, plus all the electric stuff, plus a complicated way to interface the two of them.

    Maybe if you do almost all stop-and-go city driving, hybrids have some advantage, but I think they are just a boondoggle [slashdot.org]. If you don't want to buy gas, then go 100% electric, but don't think that bolting on a bunch of electric parts to your current ICE is going to do much more than have you pay a hefty up-front fee to save a trickle of gas over the next decade.

  • 1. Remove the gas cap.
    2. Move remainder of car off the driveway.
    3. Attach a Toyota Prius or Civic Hybrid to the gas cap.

    Seriously, it seems like it would be very difficult and expensive to make this work, and even if you did somehow succeed, most states would require you to get the car smogged or otherwise inspected, which could prove difficult after such extensive modifications. If you want an inexpensive hybrid, I suggest a 2001 or 2002 model Prius. They're cheap because everyone wants the 2004 model.
  • Broadband is gaining widespread acceptance- if your job is a desk job, then you should theoretically be able to do it through videoconferencing and online collaboration, if the right software was there. Then again, if your job could be done from a distance, then it will probably end up being outsourced to another country, and you'll only be able to find jobs that need you to be there physically anyway. :/
  • The electric motor/generator part is listed as becoming available in the fall/winter of 2004. This makes it vaporware, as far as I'm concerned.

    Now give me a hand while I try to keep my tinfoil hat on while installing this little fan under my carburetor that will supermix the gas, giving me 25 per cent more power....

  • by dexterpexter ( 733748 ) on Friday August 27, 2004 @11:34PM (#10094119) Journal
    The University of Tulsa Hurricane Motor Works [utulsa.edu] converted a Geo Metro as well as built several one-off concept cars from ground-up.

    A look at the converted Geo is here [utulsa.edu]. It was retitled the "Paradyne."

    A much cooler looking HEV, though, is the Proxima [utulsa.edu], which was built ground-up. I was on the team that built and designed the car. The design and material cost for this car, being built from ground up (I kid you not. I remember nights out there with a heat gun, hot glue, and pipe making the frame and shaping the body) is way out there.

    I don't remember the costs of the conversion for the Metro, since I wasn't involved, but someone interested in the numbers could certainly write and ask. Contact information is on our webpage, or you could IM me, and I could ask next time I am around the HMW.
  • I'm all in favor of this, and let's mass produce it to get the costs down. I'm sick of the price of auto parts and labor. Recent repairs have involved $200 to replace door hinges that were sticking, and $380 to replace a computerized security module that would decide not to recognize my key on damp mornings.

    You can't diagnose a car without closed-source software, specific to the brand. You can't get parts from just anybody.

    Build cars like we build PC's and they'll be cheaper to repair, more efficient,
  • Oh please (Score:2, Informative)

    by SidV ( 800332 )
    Brought to you by the makers of http://www.tornado-fuelsaver.tv/?source=gg&camp=tf &grp=name&term=tornado%20fuel%20saver [tornado-fuelsaver.tv] If it sounds to good to be true, guess what. And for regenerative braking you need an actual motor attached to the wheels.
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @12:19AM (#10094339)
    Redesign the engine for better fuel efficiency.

    Thanks to the phasing in of low-sulfur gasoline (petrol) and diesel fuel here in the USA starting in 2005, we can apply the latest in fuel-delivery systems and exhaust emission controls to improve fuel efficiency AND reduce harmful exhaust emissions.

    In the case of gasoline engines, the switch to direct fuel injection (where fuel is directly injected into the combustion chamber) could improve fuel efficiency in the range of 15 to 20 percent! :-) Thanks to the arrival of low-sulfur fuels, it means we can use the latest in ceramic catalytic converters that will also reduce exhaust emissions to Super Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) levels without worries about sulfur compounds ruining the catalytic converter.

    In the case of diesel engines, the arrival of low-sulfur diesel fuel means we can use common-rail direct fuel injection for very precise fuel delivery and also use the latest in diesel engine catalytic converters that will remove diesel exhaust particulates in addition to dramatically reducing other harmful exhaust gases. By switching minivans, SUV's and light trucks to these new cleaner diesel engines it means these class of vehicles can get 35-50 percent improvements in fuel efficiency compared to the current gasoline engines being used.
    • I think that Internal Combustion needs to be cast aside in favor of gas turbine engines like those used in helicopters. The power to weight ratio available with a gas turbine is generally much better than that of an internal combustion engine. Mass produced parts made of ceramics and possibly plated with amorphous metals could withstand the high heat and a lengthy undercarriage exhaust system could dissipate the heat to currently accepted levels.

      The problem with this idea is that a gas turbine runs at a ce

C for yourself.

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