Introduction: DIY Open-Source Plug-in Hybrid Pickup Truck

About: Ordinary guy with no special skills, just trying to change the world one backyard invention at a time. See more at: On Twitter - @300MPGBen and at
My name is Ben Nelson. 
My proposal for the Jack Daniels INDEPENDENCE Project is a D.I.Y., Open-Source, Bio-fuel-Electric Plug-in Hybrid Pickup truck.
Whew, that's a mouthful - so far, I've just been calling it the "SUPER-TRUCK" for short.

Some of the newer vehicles out there, such as electric and plug-in hybrid cars are a great start to help us reduce our dependence on petroleum and foreign oil, but a brand-new car is out of many people's budgets, and doesn't nessisarily meet the needs of rural people, off-gridders, homesteaders, DoItYourselfers, and the more self-sufficient folks.

For the last few years, my friends and I have been hackinghybrids, designing electronics, and building and driving DIY Hybrids, and DIY Electric Cars, Trucks, & Motorcycles.

So, my idea is to create a pickup truck which can run on a combination of bio-fuels and electricity. The truck would be made from a combination of used and new, stock, affordable components, and DIY Open Source power electronics. The vehicle would be powered by a 2.4L diesel engine and a series-wound electric forklift motor in a parallel configuration, so that the two systems are independent of the other. The driver would have his or her choice of driving on the diesel, the electric, or both. Should either system ever need to be repaired or upgraded, the vehicle would still be driveable on the other system.

The electric drive system would provide very clean, quiet,  and efficient driving in your neighborhood, the city, and on short trips, so that the internal combustion engine would never even need to be fired up. Electrics can also be charged from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

The diesel engine would provide freeway speed and power for long-distance travel, while still being able to run on bio-fuels instead of fossil fuels, and get better fuel economy than a gasoline engine would.

Using both the engine and motor would provide additional power for acceleration, passing, and towing.

The pickup truck longitudinal engine mounting and rear-wheel drive design allows for the additional space needed to add the electric motor and batteries, as well as the very simple power-split device to connect the motor to the driveline. By using a popular vehicle as the base truck, spare parts are easy to find and affordable, and there are many aftermarket parts and upgrades.

We already have the truck, the diesel engine, and the electric motor to build the first one. The motor controller will be a 1000-amp, customized, hybrid version of the Open Revoltmotor controller project. The battery charger and BMS (battery management system) will also be open-source, with those interested helping design them, and the final electronic schematics and parts lists will be freely available to anyone through web forums and Wiki.  We will be GIVING AWAY all the information anyone needs to build a similar project.

The goal is to build a vehicle that can tow a trailer, haul firewood, AND also be able to break 100MPG.

While building the project, we will take photographs and film video, and post instructions and progress through YouTube, web forums, and social networks. By the end of the project, the accumulated photos and videos will be collected together into wiki and DVD formats to teach ANYONE how they can build their own Open-Source, DIY, Plug-in Hybrid Pickup Truck.

This isn't about just building one truck. It's about showing how anyone can free their minds and their hands to create amazing projects that are useful in the real world, and help as many other people do the same.

While the project would work with even off-the-shelf lead-acid batteries, to go the distance and greatly increase fuel-economy, LITHIUM batteries are what's really needed. Although lithium battery costs are always coming down, they are still way outside my budget. By winning the $25,000 prize, we would have more than enough to pay for the battery pack.

As part of the greater scope of the project, the truck will be driven around Lake Michigan (over 1000 miles) on less than one tank of fuel, and not a single drop of gasoline. That will be the kick-off of the "Loop the Lake DIY Fuel Economy competition". Other plans include filming both the construction of the vehicle, and the trip, and making it into a documentary film to entertain and inspire audiences to take their lives into their own hands, and gain their own independence, through creativity, community, and hands-on can-do!

This is a REAL-WORLD project. It is NOT some dream of "oh, if only I had the money". We already have many of the components, and the people, skills, and motivation to make this project happen and share it with the world.

Jack Daniel's Independence Project Contest

Participated in the
Jack Daniel's Independence Project Contest