The $5000 Hybrid?
By Bill Moore
Imagine dropping off your small gasoline or diesel hatchback or light truck at a service center one morning and picking it up after work that night as a "plug-in hybrid" with as much as 80% improved fuel economy in urban driving cycles.
It would be nice, you say, but how much would it cost? How's between $5,000 and $8,000US sound?
Sounds improbable, right? Not if what KPIT Cummins and Bharat Forge, both headquartered in India, have co-developed -- called Revolo -- lives up to its claims. So far, according to Ravi Pandit, the chairman and CEO of software developer KPIT Cummins, their tests in India demonstrate that its entirely possible.
Here's what they are claiming in their literature: an 800cc Hatchback in a mixed urban-suburban-highway drive cycle demonstrated a 47% improvement in fuel economy and 35% reduction in overall CO2 emissions, when both the emissions of gasoline and India's largely coal-fired power grid are taken into consideration. That same 800cc Hatchback in just an urban cycle saw a 60-80% improvement in mileage. A small 800cc light commercial diesel in urban cycles experienced a 50-60% gain, while a 1400cc gasoline sedan, also in the urban cycle,saw similar improvements to those of the smaller hatchback. In India vehicles that fit these categories are the Maruti Suzuki 800 and the Tata Ace microtruck.
But Pandit is looking well beyond India, saying in this telephone interview from Paris, where he was on business, that the system can be used on larger vehicles in the 3 and 4 Liter class, similar to the Volkswagen Lupo 3 Liter pictured above.
So, what have KPIT Cummins, which developed the software to control the system, and Bharat Forge, the largest forging company in the world and one the largest automotive component suppliers, developed? Well, it's somewhat of a secret still. I asked for visuals, and received the following diagram.
What Pandit explains is that the two companies have developed an electric drive motor and control system that couples to the engine output shaft. Power to the motor is supplied by four AGM lead-acid batteries, which are mounted in the trunk (boot) of the converted vehicle. No changes are made to the original gasoline or diesel drive system. The batteries can be charged from household mains.
Perhaps more intriguing is the assertion that the software learns how you drive and where you drive and adapts the hybrid system to maximize the vehicle's performance to your daily routine. For obvious reasons, I suppose, the details are proprietary, but EV World did extract a promise from Pandit to keep us in the loop as they can reveal more of their technology.
The pricing of the system in India is estimated to be between US$1,400 and US$3,200. Given that India has some 100 million registered cars and trucks, many of them in the 800-1400cc class, converting these to hybrids, would seem to make lot of sense. Doing the same for the 800 million cars and trucks of the world would also make sense, especially if it can be done at a reasonable price consumers in both India and abroad can afford. Production is slated to begin in six months with the automotive aftermarket being the initial marketing and sales focus.