We heard about this company installing hybrid conversions on heavy trucks to provide improvements in fuel economy. The more we think about it, the more we think it’s got potential in the enthusiast market. If you think you could never own a hybrid, think again.
WHY WE’RE INTERESTED
Electric motors deliver 100% of available torque at 0rpm. This means an electric motor installed inline with the driveshaft (on rear- or all-wheel drive vehicles) could reduce the demand on the internal combustion engine under the hood, improving both fuel economy and acceleration performance.
ElectroMotive Designs already has this technology on the road across America. They use it to move big trucks. We’re thinking it could be used by automotive enthusiasts and competitors.
HOW WE SEE IT WORKING
For the high speed crowd, we see this being like KERS in Formula 1; an immediate 80-100hp burst of additional power coming out of the chicane or toward the top of the straight to pass that closely-matched competitor. Those who prefer the path less traveled could enjoy improved fuel economy around town in their 4X4s, but increased precision creeping over obstacles in the wild.
Where a pure EV might need 1,000lbs (450kg) of batteries to store enough electricity to deliver any useful range, we’re not looking for range so much as we are a short burst of power when we need it – to pass slower traffic while towing a trailer, for example. This means we could likely get by on far fewer batteries or, as Electromotive Designs has done, replace the batteries with ultracapacitors.
SCALABILITY AND COST OF ENTRY
This technology is still very new and well out of the reach of the average enthusiast. The price point probably only makes this tempting to those with fleets of heavy trucks getting single-digit MPGs who can amortize the investment over wide scale fuel savings. But there’s still potential for the enthusiast market, as well, and we at Gearbox Magazine think this technology will start showing up in gearhead garages sooner than later.
We don’t need enough power or capacity to accelerate a 4mpg, 50,000lb dump truck (though it might be fun to try), so maybe less powerful motors and relatively smaller storage solutions could ease enthusiast entry to the market. Could we run a 25hp motor for 10 seconds? A pair of 25hp motors for 5 seconds? A single 100hp motor for 2 seconds?
WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW NOW
This is where you come in, gearhead. Forget every “electric supercharger” pipe dream you saw hit your forum. This is the real deal. How much power would you want, for how long, how often, and how would you price it relative a nice, ball bearing turbocharger upgrade? What would you need to know before you’d get excited about this technology for your vehicle?