Companies that convert regular gasoline cars to electric, or add a plug-in option to regular hybrids, are nothing new.

The same can't be said for companies taking electric cars and turning them into range-extended electric vehicles with small gasoline engines--but that's exactly what Hyperdrive, from the North East of England, is developing.

The idea is sound, based on the reasons cars like the Chevrolet Volt exist in the first place: range anxiety.

Most electric cars are still limited by their range for many drivers. Cars like the Volt get around this by using a gasoline engine as a generator, providing power when the batteries run out.

Hyperdrive's system is effectively a way of turning existing electric cars into vehicles with the same benefits as the Volt.

Unfortunately, details on the unit itself are scarce. Neither Hyperdrive's press release nor its website provide many details on how the system is integrated, only that it's a 15 kW (20 horsepower) gasoline unit and compact in size.

The company's demonstration vehicle appears to be based on an electric conversion of the Daihatsu Sirion subcompact, a car not normally sold as an electric vehicle. The range-extending engine itself is designed to occupy some of the space normally filled by batteries--reducing the car's electric range, but offering more possibilities once the battery runs out.

It's mainly aimed at smaller applications--small cars, commercial vehicles, marine applications and even as a portable power pack for breakdown services. A similarly-powerful diesel range extender is also on the way, thanks to $420,000 in funding from a North East-based, UK government-backed development fund.

There's no word yet on when such a project will be available, nor how widely it can be used--but it's a novel idea, and one we look forward to hearing more from.


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