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Old 10-07-2008, 12:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question "Homebrew" Chevy Volt: Possible?

Ok, so, it looks like the thread I was trying to write got eaten by the Interwebs. So I had a thought a while back, and was wondering if anyone had done it, and if not, has anyone given it any thought, and is it possible.

First, a preface: My understanding of the way the Chevy Volt will work is that it will be a 100% EV drivetrain, is that correct? The 'hybrid' functionality comes in to play in that it has a gas engine which is strictly for charging the EV, is that correct?

Either way, the question is, is a setup like this possible?

My thought or "Hybrid Theory" (Linkin Park, anyone, eh, eh? ) here is that I would have an EV drivetrain, with no gas or other combustion based engine attached to it, and a gas or even CNG based engine built into the engine bay, or, if needed, the trunk area, that would (automatically?) start up and rev up to charge the EV system via an alternator, or some such business.

The basic setup is like this:

Electric Engine powered by batteries, capable of being wall-charged. If possible, I'd like to charge it off a 110 line. Any input?

Gas "charging" engine - Something like a scooter engine if possible, high revving and low fuel usage/output.

Automatic start/stop of gas charging engine based on a computer battery readout. Should be simple enough to rig up programmatically, yes?

I know this is probably a bit far out, but I want to know about the potential for this kind of system, and some sort of high-level layout for what I'd need to do. I'm also open to any opinions about this, up to and including "You're crazy."

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Old 10-07-2008, 01:05 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I believe the Volt's drivetrain is similar to the Prius' in that it has separate electric and gasoline motors. Except instead of running electric from 0-20 (or whatever) it just runs all electric till it runs out of juice, then switches over to the gas engine completely.

What you're referring to, though, is a serial hybrid like they use in diesel train engines. I've seen a few attempts at homebrew serial hybrids and apparently they're pretty complex electronically, and pretty expensive for the right components.

If you can do it, go for it! Get your google on and you should be able to pick up some good info.

*edit* - though I could be wrong about the Volt drivetrain, their propaganda is pretty vague.
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Old 10-07-2008, 01:12 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Not crazy. Your understanding of the Volt's setup is right.

Two DIY examples of the same basic architecture:

1997 Chevy Cavalier EV with onboard range extending generator:
Alain St-Yves' 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier

2000 Mazda Miata EV / onboard biodiesel generator
Pat Beirne's 2000 Mazda Miata

The Miata's EV Album page is outdated. The EV systems were somewhat rebuilt and the genset added to the trunk about a year ago. More info on this car: Building the "Zero-Carbon Car" out of a Miata, incl. biodiesel hybrid drivetrain - AutoblogGreen

The only flaw in your plan is the engine size. If you deplete the battery pack and want to continue driving, you will need a generator with a lot more power than a scooter engine - you'll essentially need an engine with, at minimum, about 1/3 to half the power of the original gas engine.
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Old 10-07-2008, 01:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
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AC Propulsion also built a range extended EV / series hybrid from a 2000 VW Jetta, with a 35kW genset mounted in the trunk. See: EV Prototypes - Vehicles by AC Propulsion
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Old 10-07-2008, 01:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I was thinking of something similar;
use an electric motor with fairly large battery pack, 110V plug in charger and an onboard electric generator to charge the batteries if your charge is dropping before you can plug in again.
Heck, add some solar panels on the hood and roof and your driving around most of an off grid electricity system.

Another interesting option is a large capacitor with an on board generator, this would be used mostly for city driving as you could use a small generator running flatout all the time to charge the capacitor which would output power in the chunks you need for city driving. Basically the generator produces only the average amount of power you need.

We'll see what the Formula 1 teams come up with for next year for their energy storage systems, the rumours so far is that they will go electric but you never know!
Ian
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Old 10-07-2008, 01:30 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Wow, guys, thanks for:
a) the quick responses
b) the wealth of information

Socket, thanks for getting me the name. Google can now assist me. And you're right about Chevy being vague (that's a polite term), it's been insane getting some decent information on the system and its inner workings. Nice to see a fellow 9th Gen Corolla.

Metro, thanks for gracing my meager thread! I'll definitely research those links from you.

Quick question: By scooter, I meant something like a Vespa, or some other similar item, preferably with a 250cc engine, which should provide decent power. I'll read the links and see if there are some sort of baseline specs I should be looking into.
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Old 10-07-2008, 01:33 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndyIan View Post
I was thinking of something similar;
use an electric motor with fairly large battery pack, 110V plug in charger and an onboard electric generator to charge the batteries if your charge is dropping before you can plug in again.
Heck, add some solar panels on the hood and roof and your driving around most of an off grid electricity system.

Another interesting option is a large capacitor with an on board generator, this would be used mostly for city driving as you could use a small generator running flatout all the time to charge the capacitor which would output power in the chunks you need for city driving. Basically the generator produces only the average amount of power you need.

Ian
Thanks Ian. I've read though that solar cells really don't put out anywhere even close to what you'd need to charge an EV. In fact, I think that was a response to a previous thread of mine. Solar needs to come a long way. That said, when I have a house I can charge up from, putting in solar cells on the house would be a great way to charge up as well as cut some energy usage from my home needs.
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Old 10-07-2008, 03:06 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncc74656m View Post
Thanks Ian. I've read though that solar cells really don't put out anywhere even close to what you'd need to charge an EV. In fact, I think that was a response to a previous thread of mine. Solar needs to come a long way. That said, when I have a house I can charge up from, putting in solar cells on the house would be a great way to charge up as well as cut some energy usage from my home needs.
Well the solar race cars seem to do ok I do agree that solar panels on a daily driver car aren't going to do a whole lot. If you only drive your car every couple days though it could add up. It would be a fun exercise though, instead of paying $25k for a Camry hybrid, what could you put together for the same amount of money?

Grassroots motorsports holds a $2000 car performance challenge every year. No real rules except it can't cost more than $2000, not including your labour. Then they have a bunch of races, autocross, road race, and a drag race, combine the scores and see who wins! A vacuum floor Corvette won last year, and it kills anything new short of a Viper...

Anyways we need a similar competition for car energy efficiency, no rules but $2000 and road legal... Have a 10 mile city loop with minimum allowable speeds(25mph?) and highway loop 30 miles long with minimum speeds(45mph?) as well. Lowest combined energy usage wins! Then everyone can see what works and what doesn't and build it if they can or want to.
Ian
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Old 10-07-2008, 03:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndyIan View Post
Well the solar race cars seem to do ok I do agree that solar panels on a daily driver car aren't going to do a whole lot. If you only drive your car every couple days though it could add up. It would be a fun exercise though, instead of paying $25k for a Camry hybrid, what could you put together for the same amount of money?

Grassroots motorsports holds a $2000 car performance challenge every year. No real rules except it can't cost more than $2000, not including your labour. Then they have a bunch of races, autocross, road race, and a drag race, combine the scores and see who wins! A vacuum floor Corvette won last year, and it kills anything new short of a Viper...

Anyways we need a similar competition for car energy efficiency, no rules but $2000 and road legal... Have a 10 mile city loop with minimum allowable speeds(25mph?) and highway loop 30 miles long with minimum speeds(45mph?) as well. Lowest combined energy usage wins! Then everyone can see what works and what doesn't and build it if they can or want to.
Ian
If I ever get around to doing a build, I'd be up for it.
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Old 10-07-2008, 05:09 PM   #10 (permalink)
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homebrew Volt is old hat

Mother Earth News magazine did this in the 80's. First they reviewed a guy who'd done it with an Opel GT (!?), then they did their own using a Subaru glider and a Lombardini compact diesel. I think they used a serial-hybrid system, so it could roll all-electric for a limited distance or run essentially unlimited with the ICE running.

I found on the Web one fine day, just wandering around, Mr. Sharkey. I'm not sure who this guy is, but he's got a converted Volkswagen Rabbit which is fine for around town, and a pusher trailer made from the front end of a Rabbit Diesel. It's funny, it looks like he's being tailgated. It's a long but fascinating read.

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