By on November 19, 2012

Hmm. Fox News has the story about a bolt-on kit that converts just about any car into a plug-in hybrid that gets “ 50 percent to 100 percent better mileage” at a cost of only $3,000. But will it qualify for the tax credit and the HOV sticker?

As a student project, the DIY kit was developed under the guidance of Dr. Charles Perry, a  professor at the Middle Tennessee State University. The Rube Goldbergish system consists of 27 electric magnets attached to the hub that promise to turn into an in-wheel motor..

Fox loves this story. It already  had it in August, but sold it as new two days ago.

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46 Comments on “DIY Plugin Hybrid, Only $3,000...”

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why someone would invest $3,000 on a decade old car, that is worth less than $3,000 for a fuel economy that in real life would probably be lower than expected.
    If it was that good, the Toyota Prius would have a similar system.

    Another green sham. They only make up a good dream to attract public monies and grants.

    • 0 avatar

      Why would someone spend $3,000 upgrading an old car versus buying a new one for $30,000 (about the average price paid for a new car)?

      Let us count the reasons.

      One, it is cheaper.

      Two, it could be an older car, it could be a newer car. Some people enjoy driving obsolete, weird, or just plain old cars.

      Improving the fuel economy of a gas guzzler getting 12 mpg saves more fuel than eeking another couple of mpg out of a Toyota Prius.

      Americans are holding on to their cars for longer. A lot longer. Could it be because cars are getting pricier, but wages are stagnant?

      Suffice to say, I doubt this would ever be more than a niche product…but then again, so are supercharger kits, and there is plenty of money to be made in that market. How many people are STILL buying superchargers for Fox-body Mustangs?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      There are people who would rather (or have to) spend 3 grand to fix their vehicle than put 3 grand down on a new car. I could see guys putting this on their daily driver with a zillion miles on it and keep on going.

      • 0 avatar

        3 grand to fix a vehicle is not the same as 3 grand on a dubious student project.
        By the way, I am selling a super-carburator you could fit on any car (new or old) and will triple the MPG. I will sell it for $2,500. It is a $500 discount over this system. Deal?

      • 0 avatar

        Why is this a dubious student project? The supposed purpose of a university is to teach. Engineering students learning by doing, in conjunction with book learning, is desirable. Even if and when they come up short, they are learning what won’t work, as important as learning what will work.

        I would share cmoibenlepro’s disapproval if this were a corporate effort funded from the government’s Jack and the Beanstalk magic beans initiative. Like, for example, a half billion bucks spent on Solyndra. My own experience as a student with mucking about in the engineering lab is that the costs are dramatically less.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree that there is a clear educational value in working on this project. But the value for car owners is much more murky.

        I was answering harshciygar and El Scotto comments, I have myself an 8 years old 2005 Dodge Neon and plan to keep it for some time. But I would rather keep my money for a future car than investing $3,000 in a pie-in-the-sky aftermarket gizmo that makes dubious promises.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        @ cmo Ya gotta get the Australian magnet thingy where magnets ionize the fuel in your fuel line. :p

    • 0 avatar

      Please don’t use “Fox” and “news” in the same sentence. Can’t wait for mythbusters to get a hold of one.

    • 0 avatar

      The professor clearly states it is an “in town solution” for folks who don’t want to buy a new hybrid vehicle for $30,000 or more.

      Actually, another company (Poulson) tried a similar solution, but their price has climbed from being originally $4,000, to over $8,000, after they tried to mass produce and distribute it.

      • 0 avatar

        Poulsen says “the Poulsen Hybrid does not affect brakes, steering, suspension or any original safety systems.” Let’s see; it adds 38 pounds of unsprung weight outboard of each rear wheel, and effectively gives the rear suspension a new trailing arm on each side, possibly fastened to something that was not engineered to have a suspension trailing arm attached to it. Nahhh, that won’t affect the handling and safety of the car at all, why would you think that?

    • 0 avatar

      Good, ‘ol-fashioned American innovation at work.

      Why would you be opposed?

      If it means I could convert my Ford Ranger into a hybrid, then why not? $3,000 is more affordable than $25,000 at this point.

      • 0 avatar

        car_guy2010, I understand why you keep a Ranger on a long period, it makes sense.
        But why would you waste $3,000 into an old Ranger, instead of keeping the money for others needs, like buying gas?

        If you want to spend $3,000 on an aftermarket gizmo to save eventually $10-20 per month on gas (if any), I repeat my offer for my $2,500 super-carburator. It is very efficient as it works with high-power monopole-magnets and unicorn-powder. Please tell me if you are interested.

      • 0 avatar

        The Poulsen website (link above), showing an actual production version of this idea, estimates $8600 for a compact car. They have nothing ready for trucks yet. But you could figure on $10-12K when all the dust has settled.


  • avatar

    Not a fan of Fox News, but I have to admit that their science reporters are easier on the eyes than CBC’s Bob McDonald.

    “Hi! I am an attractive blond in a red dress. Now to our reporter on the scene, an attractive blond in a red dress.”

  • avatar

    So have many miles/years of city driving only would it take to cover the cost of this system before saving any money and would it still be working by then – no long terms tests ? If it only works at speeds under 40mph wouldn’t hauling around all the extra weight actually give worse gas mileage on the highway ? The size of that battery pack/computer in the rear cargo area looks to be a drawback too as well as a safety issue . Once again Faux News reports half a story .

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, and no word on long-term reliability of a third-party system.

    • 0 avatar

      News flash. News organizations do not have technology literate people working for them. Please don’t forget to slam the other news networks, as they are also techno-imbeciles.

      An excellent exception to the rule is James Glanz, PhD Physics, Princeton, who works for the NYT (or did).

      • 0 avatar

        “News flash. News organizations do not have technology literate people working for them.”

        And that goes triple for Faux News which manages to twist and distort the facts much more than all the others combined !

  • avatar

    Well FoxNews really got the election correct (just ask Karl Rove!). This must be a sure-thing too. ;)

  • avatar

    TTAC seems to be bashing this students findings after no research. If it’s good enough to report on isn’t it worth a subjective review? If this system delivers even close to half of what’s promised it could be worth it for prospective car buyers considering anything labeled hybrid or eco that’s on the market now. This could help us V-6 and V-8 drivers get better city economy without giving up our driving souls. This may just be a prototype by some kid but I think (with access to lithium batteries) he could be onto something.

    • 0 avatar

      >>> TTAC seems to be bashing this students findings after no research.

      No, no, we’re not bashing the student’s findings, just the dumb as a brick Fox News network.

      Sorry, that wasn’t called for. I want to apologize to all bricks everywhere. Thank you for your understanding.

  • avatar

    Gee, why didn’t Toyota think of doing that? We’ve been getting ripped off all these years!

    This story has so many holes, I don’t know where to begin. As an engineer and a Leaf driver, I’m amused.

    1. The $3000 figure is fiction.
    2. The fuel savings estimate is fiction.
    3. The packaging scheme is hokey and unsafe.
    4. Does mounting the electromagnets on the rear wheels turn an Accord wagon into an AWD vehicle?

    Well, the messengers are appealing – I guess that’s important.

    • 0 avatar

      The words Fiction and Fox news go together great. Now if they would just air it on MSNBC so the other extremest can get it.

    • 0 avatar

      This is actually pretty old news. First covered by other networks months ago. This is an actual student project, and the savings are based on testong with the vehicle fearured. The motor is assist only, and not powerful enough to drive the car by itself. It’s a mild hybrid system at best. Interesting magnet arrangement, too. Assymetrical to clear suspension components.

      Been trying to e-mail the professor for an interview. Haven’t got one yet.

      Just because it’s on Fox doesn’t mean it’s BS. Granted, it might never be commerciable, but that’s an actual working prototype.

      There are several hybrid conversion kits out there, including this, the Poulsen and the Rwvolo. The Poulsen, quite frankly, is over-priced and looks like garbage, but this and the Revolo both promise rather easier and more seamless integration. The Revolo, for one, is projected to come in at around 2.5k in India, and has been successfully tested in bpth FWD and RWD configuration (there are separate kits). It’s unknown whether it will finally be commercialized next year or whether the whole thing will go up in smoke, but it’s interesting, nonetheless.

  • avatar

    Interesting, two different authors. Was it purposely a retread, or did the reporters pull one over on the editors?

  • avatar

    Considering that TTAC runs ads about “Housewife’s teeth-whitening secret that has angered dentists!” I can’t see any moral high-ground for skepticism.

    • 0 avatar

      Laugh all you want, but do you think the second reporter’s teeth got that white naturally? She obviously is a member of the B&B, read the teeth whitening ad and tried the product, put on a bikini, got noticed by Fox news, and voilah: reporter.

  • avatar

    /Sarcasm On
    More proof (if any was needed) that just adding magnets will improve your fuel economy

    /Sarcasm Off

  • avatar

    The thing is probably only ON/OFF. It likely only generates about 5-10hp (I’m being generous), so could work limit switches on the brake pedal and throttle and add a little boost/brake (much like basic trailer brakes) when needed. The drag created by the regen would be less than that of the engine drag of a manual transmission car.

    The real issue would be incorporation into stability control, traction control, and ABS.

    • 0 avatar

      What is the coast down HP requirement at 40mph? That’s the design upper limit on speed per the prof. You need more to accelerate, etc, but maybe not too much if you are only city driving. Be interesting to see a video of an urban drive. And why wouldn’t ABS, TCS, etc be run through the brake disk platter outboard the magnets thingy just like on a for real car?

      Adding those widget to unsprung weight would make you want to limit speed anyway….. Wonder if it adds more weight than super large diameter wheels?

  • avatar

    You lost me at “Fox News”….

  • avatar

    I think this could be useful as a sort of e-4WD system like the Nissan Cube offers.

    I’m with the skeptics on the system being able to pay for itself. Most cars that are light enough to benefit from tiny hub motors get fairly good fuel economy anyway.

    I think it would be great to add a little 5-10 hp boost to the rear wheels of an economy car. Even if I only used it a few times a year, it sure would beat putting chains on or buying a Subaru to climb my driveway when it snows.

    • 0 avatar

      Buy some winter tires for the winter and FWD will do you fine. And I’m a Subaru driver.

      • 0 avatar

        Absolutely not true. Pointed up a hill, with an open differential and no ability to build/maintain momentum, snow tires and FWD is not just fine.

        Previews of the 2015 Prius are circulating the web – Toyota is planning to offer e4WD in the new model. While it’s not a big selling point now, I predict that when car makers start offering e4WD as a cheap option with little to no fuel economy penalty, purchases of traditional AWD drop dramatically.

  • avatar

    “The system is compact using electromagnets which fit between the back wheels and the brakes.”
    “You can fit this on any car with no modifications and you don’t have to weld anything. You just get longer bolts and stick it on.”

    Sounds like a plan. My questionz: What bolts? Are they talking about wheel studs? What about changed wheel offset which changes the suspension geometry and puts a bigger load on the wheel bearings? What about the increase in unsprung weight? How do you mount the fixed part that the coils react against and presumably where the wires come out to go the battery, which is mounted how solidly in the trunk? Who is going to be certified to safely install the kit, or does Joe the local plumber set himself up as an expert? Is it CARB legal?

    I don’t expect an answer to any of these questions, since pie in the sky stuff like this features know-nothing designers (in automotive terms) talking to know-nothing reporters (in any sense) about saving the world for the Magic Pelican. Disturbing, because it’s a side show that diverts effort away from doing something intrinsically useful.

  • avatar

    This $3K hybrid add-on sounds like a rip-off. Buy a dihydrogen-oxide (HHO) kit instead, those are awesome. Or magnets, those work well too.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    This will work great with my electric supercharger!!now i will have power and economy!! OH boy I cant wait for the UPS truck ,I am so excited!!.

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    I feel compelled to say that you folks stopped sounding like you know what you are talking about when you expressed your analysis of news services. That is to say you expressed your analysis of Fox news. Fox news is biased to the right but I think the mainstream news services have been guilt of far worse in their (successful) effort to re-elect the president.

    I gave away my TV before the 2008 presidential election. I cannot stand the drivel that passes for news. If I were to attempt to watch the news without vomiting I think I would go to fox. At least their bias is more aligned to mine.

    I suspect this will subject me to bias or vitriol so I unsubscribed from the thread. Catch me next time that you feel compelled to show your expertise all all things.

  • avatar

    If he can get 24 MPG out of my Land Cruiser in town than this kid not only deserves my 3 grand, but perhaps also the Nobel Prize for physics. Think I’ll wait for a neighbor to buy one and see how it goes. Otherwise I’m holding out for my Mr. Fusion.

  • avatar

    I have no idea why anyone would purchase something like this, when they can just buy Pch101’s Magic Fuel Injector Juice™ for only $39.95, plus shipping and handling.

    Order now! and get a free bottle of Pch101’s Super Duper Wax. With Super Duper, you can wax your car just once every ten years, and never wash it again! Operators are standing by!

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