Convert Your Car To A Plug-in Hybrid? All You Need Is $3,000

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Not everyone can afford a new hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric car, but those who still wish to drive such a vehicle can still take the conversion route.

Electric car conversions have been around for many years, and many people have converted their regular hybrids to plug-ins too, but a team at Middle Tennessee State University has developed an inexpensive plug-in hybrid kit that could potentially be used on almost any vehicle.

To prove it, MTSU has a technology demonstrator running in a 1994 Honda Accord Wagon.

The kit comprises a battery pack and controller in the trunk, and each rear wheel is equipped with a brushless DC electric motor.

This side-steps the first problem often associated with conversions, which is how to package the electrical components and how to hook up the motors. Each motor in the Honda demonstrator fits around the brake rotor and the wheels can be attached as normal, providing a seamless solution.

The motors--which each develop 200 lbs-ft of torque--then work with the gasoline engine when driving along, reducing load on the engine and resulting in much better fuel efficiency for the same performance.

How much better? Well Dr. Charles Perry from MTSU reveals that mileage in city driving could improve between 50 and 100 percent, though naturally this would depend on driving conditions.

There's no direct connection between the gasoline engine and the motors. Instead, the system operates much like a motorized trolley you'd find in warehouses, where the motors kick in to assist when needed, rather than being constantly powered. As well as being a simple system, the reduced complexity also contributes to a low cost.

That cost is as little as $3,000, according to a statement on MTSU News, and its viability on such a wide range of vehicles means it could become one of the most cost-efficient ways of adoping plug-in hybrid technology.

Conversions can sometimes be hit-and-miss, but Perry says a manufacturing partner has already stepped forward, and the team is approaching companies who might like to adopt the technology to improve the fuel efficiency of their fleets.

That lends the concept some significant clout, so perhaps it isn't too long until you can turn virtually any vehicle into an inexpensive plug-in hybrid...


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Comments (13)
  1. Very cool technology. However, I am skeptical of the $3000 price tag. Something tells me that the batteries alone will be more than that.

  2. Sounded inexpensive to me too John, though perhaps they think a combination of a few more years of development and high demand from clients might enable a low price.

  3. I have this exact car ('94 Honda Accord Wagon), and I'm pumped to be able to do this (soon, hopefully). My daughter uses this at college, and I know that she'll love the gas savings!

  4. Want!

  5. Does this use regenerative breaking to charge the batteries, or is it solely plug in?

  6. The team hasn't made it clear whether it has regen, though theoretically there's no reason why not - when it's not providing power, the motor has very little else to do than act as a generator. Providing the electronics controller can handle it, I expect it would offer some regen.

  7. I'm a little wary on this point, in the video he makes it very clear than it doesn't effect the driving characteristics at all, except for the amount engine power required for the same amount of speed. Regen breaking does indeed effect driving characteristics.

  8. Depends how strong it is, really. Usually regen is responsible for the "engine braking" effect in hybrids, but it's feasible that you wouldn't notice weak regen over the car's normal engine braking.

    Of course, I'm merely speculating here. Given that no regen is mentioned, chances are it isn't there - but it's feasible.

  9. I have 2009 toyota tacoma 4 x 4 pickup, will the ever be anything for me, so i can make it a plug- in too? In 2000 toyota, was going to come out with truck hybrid, but they said it wasn't up to their standards so, they decided not to. I would love to basically say good bye to gasoline. I would like your honest opinion on this..

  10. I seriously doubt that it will be that cheap especially if the kit will work on a whide range of models. The battery alone will cost $1k-$2k. The controllers will be at least few hundreds. The motor will cost another few hundreds. Plus profits, labor and overhead. That is also assuming there are no fancy cooling/heating control and charging system. A J1772 plug will cost at least $150.

  11. Interesting. I like that the brush less DC motors fit in the space normally occupied by the hub which contains the wheel bearings behind the braking system. 200 foot-pounds of torque per motor is actually quite impressive and the rear wheels of a front wheel drive car would put out 400 foot-pounds of torque. It sounds like the controller operates off the gas pedal since it is designed to be seamless. It appears that the DC motor is mounted behind the rear disc brakes or does it somehow replace the rear disc brake? Or does it just replace the rear hub assembly and take the place of the rear wheel bearing? I have a hard time believing that the kit would cost would only be $3000 dollars and wouldn’t you have to make different adapter plates?

  12. A Hybrid car can be driven in EV mode if it has enough power. You need a kit to give it more power and a plug to charge it.
    MD-Tech make a kit that will give you 40km EV mode driving in a converted Prius. Retailing in Europe for €3500 including batteries and plug. see

  13. By using the rear wheels of a front drive car for added propulsion, they are driving wheels that were only designed to go along for the ride. I hope they looked at the new loads being introduced to the car's chassis.

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