DIY Plug-In Hybrid Car

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Ordinary guy with no special skills, just trying to change the world one backyard invention at a ...

Intro: DIY Plug-In Hybrid Car

This Instructable shows how I built a Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle.

A plug-in hybrid is a car which can run off a combination of electricity (stored in batteries) charged from a wall outlet, and some other fuel, such as gasoline.

This vehicle uses ONLY the battery-electric system to start with, and has manual control over when the other energy source is used, in this case, a propane generator.

Using only electric power, and THEN switching to a hydrocarbon fuel only when needed, is sometimes also called a Range-Extended Electric Vehicle, or EREV.

Think of this car as a poor-man's Chevy Volt or Plug-In Prius.

I already converted this Geo Metro to run on electricity. You can read all the details about that at my ELECTRIC CAR CONVERSION INSTRUCTABLE.

This Instructable will detail adding a second power source to the vehicle to extend its range.

I've been driving this car for about two years now as electric. The only thing I don't like about it is that I find that there are a few too many times where my destination is just a little outside my range, or there is no access to electricity at the destination to be able to recharge while I was there.

Adding the second power system to the car allows me to make trips that I would otherwise need to use a gasoline vehicle for.

In a nutshell - the generator makes AC electricity that powers the traction pack battery charger. The charger passes DC electricity into the batteries. By constantly "topping-off" the batteries, they are kept more full and allow the car to drive farther. The generator is NOT powerful enough to drive the car directly from. However, the generator can continue to run while the car isn't using any battery power, such as rolling downhill, or at a stop light.

So, the smaller, but steady power of the generator provides additional range, while the torque and energy of the electric motor and battery pack give the car good power for acceleration and hill climbing that the small generator engine would NOT be able to provide.

Also, engines running at a steady speed at fairly wide open throttle are MUCH more efficient than one running lightly loaded or at varying speeds (such as in a standard gasoline car.)

See more of my clean transportation projects at 300MPG.org

Step 1: Tools and Materials

To get started, we'll need tools and materials for the project.

Also, this project involves AC and DC electricity, Batteries, Generators, Flammable Fuels, Welding, and Power Tools. Always observe all safety precautions. Wear safety glasses, work gloves, and ear protection. Never use tools or techniques you are not comfortable with.

Essentially, this is an electro-mechanical project.

For materials, we will need:
Electric Car
Generator
Circuit Breaker
Electric Outlet
Angle Iron and misc metal (check the scrap metal pile!)
Some plywood
Propane tank
Propane Primary and Demand Regulators
Propane hose, hose clamps, and threaded pipe
Muffler and pipe
Electric power cable (6 ga or thicker)
Heat Shrink and misc wiring connectors
12V relay
The Mechanic's manual for the car
3/8ths inch bolts, nuts, washers, lock washers, and threaded rod

For tools, we are going to need a bit of everything:
Wrenches
Ratchet and sockets
Wire Strippers
Crimper
Work Light
Drill & Bits
Screwdrivers
Battery Charger
Welder (although bolt-together construction would also work)
Tubing cutter, scissors, or knife
Clamps
Volt Meter
and assorted other home workshop tools.

I'm a pretty big fan of my Craftsman Cordless Tool set. Two drills/screwdrivers, a work light, a reciprocating saw, circular saw, flashlight, and power stapler all run off the same interchangeable batteries.  I have two chargers and four batteries.
It's great to always have the right tool handy and not have to trip on an extension cord!

Step 2: Generator

The heart of this project is a generator, which creates electricity for the propulsion system.

A friend of mine is an RV mechanic. A while back, I got an RV generator from him. It was non-functioning and pulled out and replaced with a new one. He told me that if I could fix it, I could have it.

He was also kind enough to loan me the repair manual!

Since it's an RV generator, it's already approved for use in vehicles, has a remote start feature, and uses a 12V starter with negative ground (just like on any old car!) The generator is a brushless, computer-controlled, variable speed generator, sometimes called an "outrunner". (Because the permanent magnet rotor is on the outside of, and revolves around the stationary internal stator.)

It's a 3400 watt generator - pretty powerful for how big it is.

Going through the manual, I followed all the troubleshooting suggestions, checked the spark, air filter, and oil - all the typical things you would do for a small engine.

Not included with the generator when I got it was the muffler and the propane regulator. It took me a while to find the exact right regulator. It's a fancy Garretson brand, "demand-type" regulator. The regulator prevents any propane from flowing through to the generator UNLESS there is vacuum on the output end. When the generator runs, it creates vacuum, which opens the valve and allows the right amount of propane from the tank to the generator.

I also needed a primary regulator - the one that goes right on the LP tank. It required an 11 inches of water column regulator, which could provide at least 100,000 BTUs. Those are pretty common. I picked one up at the local hardware store for $23. The Garrettson demand regulator was mail-ordered and cost $50, plus shipping.

Much of the time spent on the project was just to get the generator working right. It requires pretty specific regulators, and the fact that it was partially non-functional when I got it meant I had to really learn some troubleshooting. However, a FREE generator was part of the inspiration for this project as the cost was right.

The other thing I like about this generator is that it runs on LP gas! While I would prefer to run the car on electricity (from renewable sources, whenever possible) some hydrocarbon fuels are better than others. The propane burns really clean. This is a four-cycle, single cylinder engine. (Much better than 2-cycles! Ick!) Gasoline is smelly, nasty, and volatile. Also, it goes bad.

In the Chevy Volt, if you never use the gasoline generator, the generator will eventually run automatically, all by itself, just to run some of the gasoline through to help keep it from going bad in the tank. You don't need to do that with propane.

Step 3: Mounting Bracket

The generator is small enough to fit in the back of the Geo Metro. However, it is designed to hang down between mounting rails in an RV. The flywheel, oil filter, and muffler all are suspended BELOW the bottom of the generator. You can NOT simply set this generator flat on its bottom. It needs to hang.

So, what I needed was a way to mount the generator in the car AND have space below.

The spare tire well is perfect for the lower space required. Now, I just needed a way to span the back of the trunk, so the generator could hang down into the "below the trunk" area.

Looking through my recycling/scrap pile, I found that I had some pieces of old bed frame. It's a very sturdy material. It cuts well with an angle grinder with a cut-off wheel, and it welds OK. It is pretty difficult to drill a hole in though. You will want some high-quality metal-cutting drill bits.

I test-fit the generator to see exactly where it would go in the back. I also measured the depth of the generator and made sure it would clear the sloping "shoulder" of the spare tire well.

The bracket is a capital H shape. I measured the distance across the back of the trunk, and cut two angle irons that size. Then I cut two cross pieces the length of the generator (16 inches) to go between the cross rails.

After double-checking the measurements, I checked for squareness, and then welded the four pieces together.

I then fit the generator into the bracket, between two sawhorses, so I could see how it would hang, and check for any other issues. Good thing I did! The bottom of the generator has an odd shape to it. I had to use the angle grinder to trim just a tiny bit off one part of the bracket for clearance.

I could then mark the center of the mounting flange holes - two on either side of the generator. I pulled the generator out of the bracket and drilled the holes. First, start with a small drill bit, then work your way up to larger sizes, the last one being 3/8th inch.

The bracket also got 3/8th" holes at it's ends where it will bolt into the car.

Once all the holes were drilled, the bracket got a coat of primer and a coat of black paint.

Then, the bracket goes in the car, and gets bolted in. The generator drops right into it and is also bolted in with 3/8ths" bolts, washers, lock washers, and nuts.

Step 4: Remote Start

One neat feature on this generator is that it has a REMOTE CONTROL PANEL connection on it. That panel is an option for this generator, which allows you to turn the generator on and off from the front of the RV. It also supports an "ON" indicator light and an hours meter.

However, I didn't want to spend money on a special order RV part, (you wouldn't believe how much money they want for it....) and I really just need to be able to kick the generator on.

Fortunately, the repair manual has the schematic for the remote control cable.

By grounding the proper pin on the remote cable, the generator will kick on the starter.

I ran a 14 ga wire from the spice off the ignition to a 12V relay. The leg opposite of that goes to ground (the car body.) When I turn the key the relay is activated. The other two pins on the relay are the wire from the remote cable, and also the ground. When the relay connects the remote cable wire is grounded, and the starter is remotely activated.

A new battery power cable needs to be run to the generator for the electric start. This will provide the 12V+ cranking power for the starter. The 12V negative is through the frame of the generator to the frame of the car, and back to the 12V accessory battery.
The cable needs to be heavy enough to support the amperage required for starting. Since this is only a 220cc single-cylinder engine, I can use lighter cable than would be required for a typical car engine. I looked at the cable on the generator that goes from the starter solenoid to the starter. It was 6 gauge. I used the same weight cable to run 12V power from the battery in the front of the car to the rear of the car, up through one of the drain plug holes in the spare tire well (through a rubber grommet) and to the starter solenoid.

Another great thing about this generator, is that it has a 12V charging circuit. After the generator is running, it charges the 12V battery used to run the starting motor. In my application, this is really handy. On my EV conversion, there is NO ALTERNATOR to charge the battery (because there is not engine to run the alternator.) Nor is there a DC/DC Converter - a device that converts one level of DC electricity to another - for example, 72 volts from the main battery pack to 12V for the headlights, radio, etc. Instead, I simply had a small 12V charger right on the battery. It would trickle charge the 12V battery while the car was plugged in. Most of the time, this was fine. But in cold, dark, winter weather, the 12v battery didn't always perform as well as I would want it to. (For example, dimmer headlights than I would want.)

Now, the generator will take care of the charging the 12V battery. 

Step 5: Circuit Breaker and Outlet

With the generator working, I now need a way to get power OUT FROM the generator.

Even though the generator already has it's own built-in circuit breaker, it seemed like a good idea to have a separate one.

In the RV repair manual, it always showed the power from the generator going to a power center or main breaker box in the RV.

I bought the least expensive breaker box I could at the hardware store, and a single 20-amp breaker. I also picked up an outlet and box to mount it in.

I screwed the breaker box and electric outlet box to a piece of plywood. I then mounted the outlet in the box and installed the cover.

In the car, I mounted the electrical panel vertically to save space. This also faces the electric outlet to the front of the car. For additional rolling testing, I can have the Kill-a-Wall right there to see how many watts the charger is pulling.

The plywood is mounted upright with steel angle brackets, and a triangle of plywood on the end for cross-bracing.

The power cable from the generator feeds through the top of the box, with the hot wire going to the circuit breaker.

I did some early testing on the work bench to confirm everything was working right. An electric space heater makes a swell electrical load.

Step 6: Propane Tank and Mount

The propane tank mounts to the left of the generator.

It needs to be securely bolted down. The only really nice solid mounting points were already used by the generator mounting rack to hold it down to the car frame.

So, I removed two of those bolts, and replaced them with threaded rod. Threaded rod comes in 36" standard lengths. I cut one of those in half to make two 18" long pieces. That's long enough to reach from the car body to the top of the LP tank.

To cut the rod, I threaded on two 3/8ths" nuts and marked a line at the middle of the rod. I put the rod in the vise, but protected the threads by wrapping it in cardboard. I cut the rod with the cut-off blade in the angle grinder. After the cut, I unthreaded the two nuts off the CUT end of the rod. This makes sure the threads keep nice, instead of getting all mangled, and allows nuts to go back on later.

The threaded rod went up through the car body and had a washer, lock washer, and nut on the bottom. Above the floor of the car, it got a nut to prevent the rod from falling back through.

I then measured between the two rods and marked the length. Another piece of bed frame is cut to the measured length plus enough room to drill a hole in either end of the angle iron for the threaded rod to go through.

The bed frame goes through the handle and another hole in the top ring of the tank. Since it's angle, it completely clears the valve.

Adding top nuts and tightening them holds the LP tank securely in the car.

Step 7: Charger and Regulator

Both the charger and the demand regulator are mounted to the right of the generator.

The charger is a big square box, but needs to have adequate ventilation around it. The regulator is an odd shape, and the mounting holes (two on the bottom, two on the back) are in a strange orientation, making that challenging to mount as well.

This isn't a big car. The suspension mount on the right gets in the way as well, so I built a bracket that raises the charger to make plenty of room for both the charger and regulator.

This bracket is basically just a wood box, make of two pieces of plywood and some 2x4s.

Like under the LP tank and electric panel, the base of it is plywood, cut to fit inside the angle iron frame.

Both the regulator and charger have 1/4"-20 mounting holes. I marked and drilled two holes where I wanted the regulator to go. I put it on an angle to match up how the fuel line would run to it. Two bolts run up through the bottom of the plywood to hold the regulator in place.

I traced out another piece of plywood to match the dimensions of the charger, and then added an inch and a half off the back. That makes it easy to run wood screws through the top of the plywood into 9" tall 2x4 vertical spacers (legs) that connect the top and the bottom of this wood box.

1/4" holes are marked for mounting the charger. Drill the holes, and run 3/4" long 1/4-20 bolts through the plywood to hold the charger.

Wood screws go down through the plywood top into the 2x4s and UP through the bottom plywood into the 2x4s.

The entire contraption - plywood box, regulator, and charger are all put down into that corner of the car. Then I ran a couple of self-tapping screws through the wood into the generator support bracket.

I cut two pieces of hose to fit from the propane tank to the input of the demand regulator and from the output of the demand regulator to the generator's fuel input line.

Both ends of both hoses get a stainless steel hose clamp, tightened down snug.

I like my Handi-Cutter for cutting air hose and the like. It makes nice clean, easy cuts. Far better than a utility knife for this sort of thing.

Step 8: Muffler and Exhaust.

Converting the car to an EV simplified a lot of things. It totally eliminated the fuel, exhaust, and cooling systems.

With conversion to a hybrid, those now still need to be taken into account.

The propane tank is much smaller than the original gas tank on the car was, and easily fits next to the generator.

This is an air-cooled engine, so there is no need for coolant or a radiator. An integral fan pulls air through the top and exhausts it out the bottom to cool the engine.

That only leaves the exhaust system. Exhaust needs to be routed to outside the car. The generator also did not have a muffler when I got it. Getting the "right" muffler for this generator would mean special ordering one for big bucks through an RV dealer.

I figured that the engine was about the same size as a basic riding lawn mower. So, I just bought a riding lawn mower muffler. That muffler uses a 1" NPT connection. A 3/4" pipe is nearly the exact same size as the exhaust pipe on the generator. Also, this car has several drain holes in the bottom of spare tire well. A 3/4" pipe fits nicely through any of them.

Remember how I originally test-fit the generator in the rear of the car before designing the mounting rack? That was partly to figure out where the muffler would go.

I threaded a 3/4 to 1" adapter into the muffler, and a 3/4" pipe into that. I pushed that up through the spare tire well from the bottom, and then screwed on a 3/4" coupler. That lets the muffler hang, and then tightening it and the muffler to each other clamps the whole unit onto the sheet metal of the car. A 3/4" pipe then goes up to the generator exhaust.

Step 9: The Finished Car.

I will still need to collect data on total electric energy and LP consumed based on various range trips.

In electric only mode, this car has already clocked in pretty consistently at about 130 Miles Per Gallon Equivalent.

Running as a hybrid, it will NOT be as efficient, but I will be able to use the car on many more trips that I would have otherwise driven a gasoline vehicle.

I also like that the generator provides charging for the 12V accessory battery and has some possible use as a winter heater as well. (This car does NOT have an electric rear defrost, but the generator is right under the back window....)

Running in Hybrid mode, the car IS louder than a typical gas car would be, (from the drivers point of view. It's really not that loud from outside the car. )  I may explore completely boxing in the back, including soundproofing.

I also like that I have complete manual control over the generator. In commercially produced plug-in hybrids, the driver doesn't have any control over when the car switches over to run the generator. I like that I can decide when to run it, based on my battery charge and how far away my destination is. 

Overall, I am very happy with the finished project.

Swing by my blog for info on my other clean transportation projects.


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    151 Discussions

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    EcoExpatMike

    9 months ago

    Why not a trailer with a generator & fuel storage. Attach it when you know you'll be driving out of pure electric range?

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    urwatuis

    3 years ago on Introduction

    This is a cool idea. Are you still driving this car? Did you address the propane tank safety issues? I would think all you have to do to make the passenger compartment safe is A) remove the hatch. B) weld a metal sheet vertically behind the rear seat. C) install a safety glass rear window

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    Bobey

    5 years ago

    This is crazy but my favorite car is a Geo Metro I know crazy right

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    rdelaplaza

    6 years ago on Introduction

    The whole thing is excellent... BUT talking about efficiency;
    you are losing energy in the conversion from 120 VAC through the battery charger. That means part of the energy of the propane you are burning
    is becoming heat besides the heat loss of the engine itself.
    Which by the way could be used to heat the car in winter.
    Generating 120 VAC power with the generator then
    using a battery charger to convert it to 12 VDC is not efficient.
    You should get a generator which generates 100% of its power at 12 VDC
    (there are a few with that will generate 12 volts; problem is that only as a small percentage of the total generated power.. not good)
    Then use those 12 VDC to charge the batteries directly, other solution could be using a 120 VAC 3 phase motor (very efficient; with an IGBT controller that will generate 3 phase current to control your motor) and feed the system with 10 x twelve volt batteries in series, that way you will only need a bridge rectifier (converts AC to DC) directly from the 120 VAC generator output to the batteries.
    A suitable "regulator" should be used to avoid overcharging the battery pack, there are 100's of circuits out there, to build your own battery charge regulator. That will do the job in the most efficient way.
    I'm an Electronics engineer and I'll help you if you want or need any help.

    2 replies
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    treeologyrdelaplaza

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Electronics engineers- anyone Help. I have the Range issue on my Zappino electric scooter so i bought a 900 watt generator and hooked it up to a schumacher 72 volt charger (10 amp). But the motor is pulling 1500 watts at governed mode. (3000 watts max). So even going 10 miles an hour i couldnt charge fast enough.. It seems just like mentioned here that i should be able to turn the ac to dc and have more amperage. A bridge rectifier, Im not afraid i will build whatever or cant i modify the charger for more amps output. Speaking of output any input please will be much appreciated. Hell i will reward any savior(s)with some Grgich Hills Wine...Thanks -Treeology

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    bennelsonrdelaplaza

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    A few good points in there, but to be clear...

    I got the generator for free. I did the whole hybridization with existing components I already had.

    Also, I would NOT want a generator that puts out 12V, I would want one that outputs a bit higher than the voltage of the battery pack, which can be anywhere from 72 to 144V depending on how many batteries I have in the car.

    While creating AC to go to the charger to create DC is NOT the most efficient way to go, I already had both the generator and charger. As for a suitable "regulator" to prevent overcharging, that's built right into the charger as well.

    I had considered using a bridge rectifier to convert the output of the AC directly to DC, and running the car at that system voltage, but by that time I had decided that I wasn't really that interested in continuing to run the car as a hybrid, due to noise and space considerations.

    Were I going to build a new hybrid from scratch, I would definately consider using an AC motor, IGBT control, etc, etc, but sometimes you can to weigh efficiency VS cost as well.

    PS: Actually, I AM considering building a dedicated hybrid right now, but it will be a parallel hybrid rather than a serial hybrid. Still, the electronics and controls will be the most challenging part of the project.

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    trav997

    6 years ago on Step 9

    If i did this conversion with a truck and put batteries and propane in cargo area would this be legal?

    1 reply
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    keyguy13trav997

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yes. people have been turning ford rangers into electric vehicles for years.

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    tootall1121

    6 years ago on Introduction

    to love4pds. Your idea is self defeating, the power it takes to propel the car is one thing, adding the required energy to propel fans is another, and self defeating. You can't take in more power than the fans would take away. That's one reason electric cars need to be as aerodynamic as possible, to create less drag, and hence take less power to propel. I think teaming an electric motor with a CVT transmission is the way to really go, it would certainly help on take offs, CVT stands for constantly variable transmission, or gears to put it simply. Thus a motor spinning at a given speed would be able to propel the car from a standing start to high speeds without the motor ever changing speeds. What would change is the amount of power required to maintain that speed, but the slicker it is, the better. It doesn't take all that much power to propel a car at a steady fifty miles an hour, but to get there takes torque, and when you go faster than that, the power requirements to do it go up exponentially.

    1 reply
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    keyguy13tootall1121

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Why have a transmission at all? Put a motor at each wheel and you don't need a transmission.

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    tootall1121

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Henry Ford's original idea was an electric car, but Edison recommended he not do that, with the technology available at that time. The model T's were made so that they could also run on alcohol, since at that time having a still was legal and there were a hell of a lot more of those around than gas stations. The Chevy Volt is doomed to failure. The batteries that would make it work well were bought out by Chevron, and hidden away, even though Toyota had already started building all electric cars with those batteries with good results and reasonable range. The Volt, however only gets 100 miles at best, 40 to fifty miles at worst, and has no self recharging method. Seems to me, a solar panel on the roof and or trunk could recharge the car while people are at work, the major use of many vehicles. However, if the range might only be fifty miles, and many people commute farther than that, it won't do the job... it's also gutless and has a hell of a time with hills, while depleting the batteries faster. Tesla is on the right track, but their methods are still too expensive to be viable. They actually use bunches of laptop batteries.

    As to the safety issue, so what? Life is a gamble. So what if a bunch of people get killed in such vehicles? That helps the planet by reducing the population... you won't see me in one, I think there are better alternatives. You can fuel a vehicle with almost anything that will burn, with a few modifications and installing a "smoker" pot. I've seen a truck that runs on wood chips, dry grass clippings, anything burnable.

    8 replies
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    keyguy13tootall1121

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    You're completely misinformed about the chevy volt. It has a 50 mile range which has been shown over and over again to be the average distance most people commute in a day. The generator recharges the batteries if you aren't the average commuter or if you are going farther. Considering the price of the vehicale and the enormous savings on gas, the Chevy volt is the best hybrid out there right now. The prius is awesome but only gets about 55 mpg. The volt gets closer to 98 eMpg.

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    bennelsontootall1121

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The Volt is designed to run 40 miles on just batteries, and then switches to gasoline power after that. Between the batteries AND gasoline, the driver can go HUNDREDS of miles. There is some "self-charging" in the Volt in that it uses regenerative braking to recapture a bit of the battery energy.

    I wouldn't say the Volt is gutless either, it has a sport mode, which gives fairly fun acceleration. I do not live in an area of mountains, but hills were not an issue at all.

    I did a video test drive review of the Volt a while back. Please watch it if you have any other questions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYjqQC28JGo

    The SL version of the Nissan Leaf has a PV solar panel built in to the rear spoiler. It doesn't charge the traction battery pack, but DOES top off the accessory battery.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH77btVH628
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gS7X7jXt6ho

    Full specs on the Volt and the Leaf are available on their web pages, for anyone who wants to know the actual range, horsepower, fuel economy, etc.

    I AM a big fan of "gasifier" vehicles. I have several friends working on gasifier systems for home heating and power generation.
    The guys over at Beaver Energy built a really nice wood-gas car: http://www.beaverenergy.com

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    love4pdsbennelson

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I am not a car person, so this could be a very stupid question. But why not put a fan in the front to help generate electricity as a turbine would, or even use the one that is on the inside for the water thingy (please don't make fun, cant think of the name of it), while driving to recharge the batteries?

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    J-Rilove4pds

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Having a wind turbine on the front requires energy to turn. Even something small, like a radiator fan (is that the "water thingy" you mean?) in it's original location will use more energy to turn that you get out of it. I believe the best thing to do would be to completely seal off the grille area since very little cooling is required, or leave just enough to provide adequate cooling if heat is an issue.

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    love4pdsJ-Ri

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I meant as the car is driving using batteries the fan would spin from the wind of the moving of the car. So could that be the energy that moves the fan and charge the battery with that wind while using the battery or engine?

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    J-Rilove4pds

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    That's what I thought you meant. It takes more energy to turn the fan than you get from a generator it would turn.

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    tootall1121J-Ri

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Unless you're driving into a strong wind, yep, that would be the case. The odd thing I don't see any of the electric car makers doing is adding a few solar cells for charging the batteries while it's parked. Granted enough solar cells to run the thing constantly wouldn't be weight efficient nor would they work at night, but most people drive to work, or wherever, then the car sits outside in the sun all day. Even if the solar cells only gave back half the charge used to get to work, it would be worth doing. I think in the eight to twelve hours most people work, a couple of cells in the roof, hood, or deck lid would be able to charge it to full capacity. Why aren't they doing this? Seems like a Duh to me.

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    bennelsontootall1121

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Solar cells right now are not efficient enough for a few cells to do much in charging for an electric car.

    A full-size, main-stream manufactured EV like the Leaf has a VERY large battery pack, and requires considerable power for recharging. The Leaf has something like a 20 hour recharge time from a 120V 15 amp outlet.

    There are a few vehicles out there that do have a small solar panel, but it's for the ACCESSORY battery and or some summer cooling of the car. There are versions of both the Leaf and the Prius with small solar panels on them, but neither is for propulsion.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it can't be done, it's just that it's not practical, due to the expense, size, and shape of the vehicle (PV panels are NOT aerodynamic!)

    Vehicles that spend nearly all their time in the sun, use less energy, and are boxier, are good candidates for PV on the roof. There are a fair number of electric golf carts with PV roofs for example. I also know a guy with an electric pontoon boat. He has a fair number of PV panels on the roof of the boat (which shades the boaters from the sun.) He has lake access that is OFF his property, so there isn't any shore power available to him there. The boat is COMPLETELY solar powered, he doesn't even have a wall charger for it.

    For most people, solar panels on their garage, with a grid-tie and net-metering payment system is what would make the most sense for a clean energy source. Alternatively, many electric power providers offer some sort of Renewable Energy Program, where you can purchase renewably sourced electricity over the grid.