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Romanian Design Team Proposes Car With Detachable Engine

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SCI hyMod concept with interchangeable battery and gasoline drive modules

SCI hyMod concept with interchangeable battery and gasoline drive modules

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So you got yer gasoline cars, and yer electric cars. And yer extended-range electrics, and yer plug-in hybrids. Sure, old news, been there, done that.

How about an electric car with a gasoline engine you can swap in and out as you need it?

Think of it as a range-extended electric car (like the Chevrolet Volt) that doesn't need to carry around the engine when it's not needed.

The SCI hyMod five-door minicar concept is the brainchild of a Romanian team made up of an engineer, a designer, an automotive journalist (hurray!).

It uses what its designers call a "dedicated logistics center" for the transformation from electric to gasoline, in which the back end of the car containing a battery pack is removed, and replaced with one containing a gasoline engine module that drives the rear wheels.

In normal urban use, the battery pack powers an electric motor that drives the front wheels.

The hyMod combines elements of range-extended electric cars like the Fisker Karma and the Volt, plus a tiny, compact range extender (similar to the one proposed by KSPG in a Fiat 500 electric conversion), and perhaps even the Better Place automated battery-pack swap station.

Right now it's no more than a concept.

But we think it points to the burgeoning choices available in vehicle propulsion that will become available over the next decade.

It's all due to the energy storage capabilities of lithium-ion cells (which will likely improve at roughly 6 to 8 percent a year), combined with increasingly stringent rules on gas mileage (in the U.S.) and carbon emissions (in Europe and Asia).

Watch the video, and then tell us, what do you think? Would you like to have an electric car where you could easily swap in a gasoline engine for long trips?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Comments (46)
  1. Now at last we know why there are no Romanians in the Engineering Hall of Fame.
     
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  2. There seems to be a lot of wacky ideas emerging to come up with more range. Better batteries is all we need, but I guess a few people are hoping to come up with something so they can make a few million bucks. By the time this idea would make it to market we'll already have better batteries, so this idea would only work right now.
     
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  3. Agreed, batteries will improve by leaps and bounds when new chemistries become available so it's quite unclear how long a market for intermediate solutions will exist. Especially one so far fetched as this one. Safe to assume that this will never be more than a CGI dream.

    Anyway, a second gasoline powered car (or rental car) for those longer trips really sounds like a more practical solution to me.
     
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  4. cdspeed: batteries will not solve the problem. what many people forget is that batteries are just an energy-storage mechanism - a reservoir. just putting a larger reservoir on-board a car doesn't make it more efficient, because if you don't solve the problem of reducing the amount of energy required, and you converted every car in the world to electric and batteries, it would completely overwhelm every city's power grid.

    beijing *already* rotates the power supply across the city so that factories and homes only get power for 3 days a week!

    no, the solution is that cars need to be designed to use less energy, and that really is the end of it. less materials, less weight, better aerodynamics (that's what i'm working on).
     
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  5. @Luke: If charged at night, the U.S. grid can handle many millions of electric cars with no noticeable impact. Utilities, in fact, welcome added night-time demand, to reduce the difference between their demand peak & trough. See the 2007 EPRI-NRDC study for far more detail.

    I can't speak to the situation outside the U.S. but the ramp rate of electric cars will be slow and predictable enough that I strongly suspect they will be only a tiny portion of overall electric demand growth in any country.

    And, as I'm sure you know, in terms of raw energy content, running a car on electricity is roughly 3 times as efficient as doing so on gasoline--since gas engines waste 75% of energy content.
     
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  6. allo john, ok, let's find some figures.

    google "electricity production of u.s.", you'll find a
    page with an annual figure of 4.151 billion kWHrs per year.

    google "number of cars in u.s." and you come up with
    a number, 137,079,843.

    divide 4.151 billion by 137 million, and divide by 365,
    you get a figure - a budget - of 83kWh per car per day.

    what that means is that assuming that if everyone's vehicles in the U.S. were converted to electric, and
    they all needed an average of 83kW do to a journey of
    1 hour per day, the electricity production and the
    supply capacity of all power lines across the US would need to DOUBLE. assuming there's no spare capacity, that's roughly twice the power stations and twice the power cables.

    food for thought?
     
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  7. You will not be driving electric pickup trucks, vans, and large SUV's. Those, and larger vehicles, of all types, will be running on natural gas, gasoline, and diesel. They may be hybrids, and have auto stop start and other fuel saving technology.
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  8. my apologies: i read the numbers on wikipedia wrong,
    in my previous post: i had accidentally excluded the number of trucks. including *all* passenger vehicles
    (but excluding motorcycles), the budget comes out at
    44kWh per vehicle per day - assuming that the entire
    U.S. energy production is exclusively used for charging
    vehicles overnight.

    let alone the problems of taking all U.S. electricity production to charge all vehicles, a 44kWh is not sufficient power for a modern U.S.-style vehicle
    (weight 1.5 to 2.5 tonnes, drag coefficient 0.3 to
    0.4)
     
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  9. I know someone that converted a '92 Toyota pickup that only uses 13KWH for their commute of 40 miles everyday. You need to make your numbers smaller.
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  10. hey clint,

    thank you for the down-to-earth figures - i was bordering on overdramatising :) but look further at the wikipedia page for u.s. electriciy production, at the section labelled "plan". it mentions that over the next 5 years, U.S. electricity production is to increase a mere 7%.

    but more than that, there's another reason why it's necessary to reduce car energy consumption: there's simply not enough neodymium to go round, to supply all the magnets. even if there was enough (it's a "rare earth" metal, remember?), the refining of neodymium requires *vast* amounts of acid. even trying to dilute that acid with water when disposing of it isn't enough.

    the bottom line is: people really, really haven't thought this through properly.
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  11. @Luke: Dividing total U.S. electricity production by total U.S. vehicle count says nothing about how much *energy per mile* is needed to power an electric vehicle.

    It's like dividing total food bought in the U.S. by # of soldiers, and saying the result is the food needed for each soldier.

    As I noted before, you need to read the 2-volume 2007 study issued by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) + the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). If those two unlikely partners jointly conclude that recharging demand is (a) low; (b) gradual; (c) predictable; and (d) manageable, I'm inclined to give them more weight than your rather odd calcuations.
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  13. Early gas-powered cars had provisions for being horse-towed. Chuck the gas burners and get with the new generation of electrics.
     
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  14. Chucking the gas burners would limit you to about a 35mile range under the best of conditions. There is a market for pure electrics but limited range will be a major constraint for the foreseeable future. Hybrids are today's solution (for electrics) until a whole new battery chemistry comes online that offers much longer range and much shorter recharging. Perhaps an advancement of that great Romanian invention the Karpen Pile.
     
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  15. "35mile range under the best of conditions. " I am sure you know that most electric cars go more like 80 miles before recharging and that the Tesla roadster does 250 miles.
     
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  16. 35 miles of range in what car? The Volt?
     
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  17. range is a non-issue. at today's range, most people are easily satisfied.

    range will be increased when it is needed.

    price will decrease when it is needed.

    you guys still dont get it. whatever is needed to sell the cars will be available, when it is needed - IT IS THAT DANG SIMPLE.
     
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  18. Where I live, I NEED 90 miles of range (consistently) when the weather is great and 25% more than that when its' not. I'm not alone, yet range has not increased to meet that as you declare.

    Second, EVangelists need to realize that while most people only need a few miles a day to get to work, most of us also drive a LOT MORE THAN THAT otherwise.

    If a car can't get people to grandma's house or to that quick weekend trip to Vegas or wherever, people aren't gonna buy them. Even you fools living in LA must realize that.
     
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  19. @Aaron: The data on U.S. usage show that more than 75 percent of vehicles in this country travel less than 40 miles per day. For single-vehicle households, then, a plug-in car with a 70-mile range may not be appropriate.

    However, the average U.S. household has slightly more than 2 vehicles, and the affluent households that will buy the first few years of plug-in vehicles average more than 3 vehicles. At first, a plug-in replaces ONE of those.

    The newest vehicles in a household get the most miles put on them. Fairly quickly, plug-in owners come to realize that they can use their plug-in for the vast majority of their driving needs.

    Have you actually SPOKEN to owners of plug-in cars?
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  20. Aaron,
    If you have not had a chance yet, consider test driving an EV to at least know what they are all about. It really is a different driving experience even though I know it probably will not be the vehicle for your needs.
    Thanks
    John C. Briggs
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  21. aaron,

    the car companies do not care if they sell you or me a car.

    they have X number of cars to sell. they have waiting lines for those cars.

    so as i said, PRICE and range will become better AS NEEDED.

    this means that when the cars they have for sale outnumbers the buyers that want to buy, then we will see "improvements".

    this is not rocket science, merely business as usual.
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  23. @Aaron: Source on that "Best estimates are a 10% market share in fifty years," pls? Most analyses I've seen go only to 2020 or 2025. I'd agree with you over the next 10 years, but it seems to me the height of arrogance for ANYONE to say they know what the car market of 2062 will look like.

    Remember, 50 years ago, Ford was predicting nuclear-powered cars ... :)

    Best estimates I've seen are a 6-to-8-percent annual improvement in Li-ion cell performance. That halves the cost by 2020 or so, but takes you to some very interesting places starting in 2025 or thereabouts.

    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1074183_how-much-and-how-fast-will-electric-car-battery-costs-fall
     
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  24. @John Briggs - ignored my point. The study only looked at urban and suburban drivers. Not everyone, nationally.

    People, for four generations now, have come to EXPECT certain things from automobiles. You can call those expectations "wants" if you wish, but that doesn't change the market. It will take generations to unlearn those expectations. Until then, the majority of people will not buy cars that do not meet those expectations.
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  25. @John Voelcker - see "A dynamic model of plug-ion electric vehicle markets and charging infrastructure for the evaluation of effects of policy initiatives" by Yamashita, Niimura, Takamori, et al. It was published last year in the PSCE and is basically a beg-a-thon for government handouts to the EV industry, but it makes guesses, using current and expected growth rates, for EV proliferation both with and without government money (internationally) for 10-50 years. It's widely cited by the industry.
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  26. @Aaron: I'm presuming this is the paper you're referring to? http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=5772534

    Regrettably it's behind an IEEE paywall, so I have no way of accessing it unless you have a digital copy you care to send me: john (at) highgearmedia (dot) com.
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  27. There are more comments in this thread
  28. Fast chargers are coming along quite quickly. Most people just need to charge up when they are at home. The limitation I see is that it will still be inconvenient to charge frequently for long trips, or large vehicles. I propose natural gas or natural gas/gasoline for those needs. Natural gas will help moderate the future price of gasoline. Hybrid technology can be added too.
     
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  29. well, i guess everyone else beat me to it !!!
     
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  30. aaron,

    do you have trouble reading ? your comment back to me is what is insane.

    car companies do not care who buys their car. they only care about the car being sold to someone.

    there are waiting lines for evs, because our supply is still just in the beginning stages.
     
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  31. So your contention is that the auto industry would be calling, say, me, directly, asking what I want, then building it? Instead of just "selling to anyone?"

    There aren't huge waiting lists for EVs. They shut down Volt production because they had 90+ days of inventory sitting around that nobody's buying. I literally spoke with a GM rep for Voltec who confirmed that to me Monday.

    The only EVs I know of that are sitting on "waiting lists" are those that just barely released, like the Karma and the CODA. You could put out an Indian air car and you'd have a waiting list of suckers to buy it. Doesn't mean the car will ultimately sell well.
     
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  32. no, that is not my contention. reread what i said. the goal of the car company is to sell the cars that they make.

    as they need new customers, "new improvements" will be made.

    they dont currently meet your needs. you will come in a later wave. they know what it takes to sell the cars that they make.

    the price will decrease, the range will increase AS NEEDED in order to sell the current bunch of cars.

    there will come a time when an ev meets your needs, and you will purchase one.

    the volt is not an ev - it is a hybrid. and it is gm's excuse. i said from the get-go that it would not last long.

    has the waiting list for the leaf been fulfilled ?

    we will all see this unfold as each year passes by.
     
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  33. This is an excellent concept in the right direction. What I want is an electric car with (a) swappable batteries (so I'm not locked into aging battery tech) and (b) a swappable way to range extend / recharge the batteries (so I can burn/convert "whatever" happens to be lying around). There is likely a chemical process that extracts more kWh out of gasoline than an internal combustion engine attached to a generator - and when that comes out I want to "plug it in" to my timeless vehicle. (Mr. Fusion is next right?)
     
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  34. Personally, I agree, there's a ton that this concept could do. An OPOC rather than a standard ICE, fuel cells, more batteries, micro-turbine, or even just more luggage space when you just need the small range the built-in batteries offer.
     
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  35. Did anyone else notice that this concept vehicle has no trunk? Look at the side view pic at the top of this article.
     
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  36. Trunk is in front, atop the motor and controllers, ala a VW Bug.
     
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  37. That is pathetic, you wouldn't be able to take the family shopping in it.
     
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