Do it yourself: Middle Tennessee State working on inexpensive retrofitting plug-in hybrid kit

Do it yourself Middle Tennessee State working on inexpensive retrofitting plug-in hybrid kit

We love electric vehicles, but with many battery-powered and plug-in hybrids sporting sticker prices north of $30,000, they have a tendency to be pretty darn expensive and out of reach for the average consumer. Throw in limited availability in many states and a growing but sparse network of charging stations, and so far the adoption of the modern EV has been slow to spark.

But while we wait for manufacturers to figure out how to drive production costs down and a more robust infrastructure begins to take shape, a group of students led by Dr. Charles Perry, a former IBM employer, at Middle Tennessee State University are taking matters into their own hands. That’s right; the industrious group is hard at work developing a plug-in electric hybrid kit that could ultimately cost consumers far less to convert their existing vehicles than it would to purchase a native EV and boost fuel economy by as much as 100 percent.

The entire system is currently being tested on a 1994 Honda station wagon and involves a trunk-mounted lithium-ion battery feeding power to an electric motor. In turn, this motor supplies power to both rear wheels while alleviating the gasoline engines workload up front, which, thanks to the aforementioned electric motor, is only tasked with sending power to the front two wheels of this veteran Honda.

According to the university, Perry and his students are currently pitching the idea to various companies in the hopes of getting additional funding for a production version of the plug-in hybrid kit that could cost as little as $3,000. In 2009, Perry won a green energy competition from the Tennessee Technology Development Corp., and was the recipient of a $50,000 grant along with a matching investment to spur the project forward.

Could utilizing a plug-in hybrid electric kit really take off and resonate with consumers looking to explore alternative drive trains? We think so. For that kind of money and boost in fuel economy, the idea of retrofitting your existing car becomes more than just attractive — it becomes possible.

Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.

Thinking of opting for a car with a diesel engine? Here's what you need to know

Modern diesel-powered models prove that it is possible to build a clean, efficient diesel engine without sacrificing performance. Here's what you need to know about diesel cars, and how they differ from gasoline-powered models.

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.

Aston Martin’s 1,000-hp Valkyrie will boast the Mona Lisa of the engine world

Aston Martin has released new details about its F1-inspired Valkyrie hypercar. Co-developed with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie will be one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever made.

The redesigned 2020 Passat shows Volkswagen still believes in sedans

The sedan segment in America is shrinking, but Volkswagen still believes in it. The German firm has released a teaser sketch to preview the redesigned 2020 Passat it will introduce during the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti has released a teaser image to preview a concept it will unveil at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The yet-unnamed design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language.