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bennelson 05-29-2012 01:02 PM

Open Source Plug-In Hybrid Super-Truck

Well, itís time to throw my hat over the fence.

What? Youíve never heard that term before? Ok, let me explain. Letís say that you really want to get yourself over the top of a fence. But itís tall, and the top is pretty pointy. Maybe youíll do it tomorrow.. So hereís what you do. You throw your hat over the fence. Now you HAVE to get over the fence. If you donít youíve just lost your hat! Not that too many people are climbing over fences recently, or even wearing cool hats for that matter, but hereís why I bring it up.

A couple summers ago, I built an electric car. In the end, it was a fantastic project. I was amazed at how much I learned, how many neat new people I met, and how proud I was to have my own personal transportation that didnít use one lick of gasoline. If there was any single ďsecretĒ that I could give to anyone else on building your own electric car, itís this: Tell everyone you are building an electric car. I mean it, everyone. Your friends, your boss, the postman, everyone. Why? Because there is magic in it. Ok, well magic might be a stretch Ė maybe itís more meta-physical. Did you watch THE SECRET? Yeah, I know, it was a bit ďairy-fairyĒ for me too. But there were a few things in that film that were pretty self-evident to everyone, things that you simply knew to be true. And one of those things is that saying you are going to do something MAKES it happen! At a bare minimum, you friends will start pestering you Ė ďHey, howís that car project going?Ē and at best, the Universe will reward you for your intent, and start helping you on your way.

When I told all my friends I was building an electric car, people came out of the woodwork to help me. A friend who works in construction said that they were scrapping out their welding cable, and asked if I wanted it. ďSure!Ē. He showed up a few hours later and dropped off 150í of 2/0 welding cable in my driveway. Wow Ė several hundred dollars of battery cable for free! (Thanks Mike!)

Thatís just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of the other magic was things like ďDo you know Hotrod Jim? He might be able to give you a hand!Ē Indeed he did. When I visited Jim, he was doing custom work on a mint í57 Chevy that looked like it had been hand-dipped in chrome. I explained my project. Jim said heís never worked on an electric car before. Suddenly, helping me out was at the top of HIS project list.

But why have I been wasting your time with several paragraphs about an OLD project? Because this is really about the newest one. For some time, Iíve had an idea rattling around in my head. It just keeps rattling around in there, getting louder, and I canít get rid of itÖ.

First, I built an electric bike. It was from a kit, and simple. Anyone could build one. Then I built an electric motorcycle - not much more complicated than the bike, but more time, work, and money to put together. Then winter happened, and I decided it would be better to have an electric vehicle with a roof and four wheels. By the end of the next summer, I had built an Electric Geo Metro. It was powered by a forklift motor, and eventually the motor controller was a collaboratively-built Open Source project.

The car was great, but relatively short range. So when a friend gave me a non-running LP generator, along with the repair manual for it, I started thinking HYBRID! I fixed up the generator, and mounted it in the trunk of the car, along with the LP bottle from my Bar-B-Q grill! Wow! A series hybrid that actually worked!

Well, it worked, but the generator wasnít exactly quiet. Also, it was running on propane, which burns clean, but is still a fossil fuelÖ.

My gasoline vehicle is a Chevy S10 Pickup truck. I can get 30mpg in it in the summer. But itís still running on gasoline. Hmmmmmm. Even the Prius runs on gasoline. And you canít plug a stock Prius in to charge from the wall the way my Geo Metro can. And a Prius really isnít designed to tow either. It would be nice to pull my utility trailer and teardrop trailer on occasion.

So hereís where things start coming together for me.

I have a pickup truck. They are a good platform for experimental vehicles, as they have a solid frame, and plenty of outside space both in and under the bed. A few years back, I picked up a diesel engine out of a Mercedes 240D. Itís a great engine, that has been very popular for vegetable oil conversions. While itís not turbo-charged, itís very durable and simple Ė no computer controls here.

Iím also a member of a hackerspace and DIY electric car club. A few years ago, we pulled some big forklift motors out of a junkyard. So far, we have two Ford Rangers running on them, and a Saab in the works right now. Those motors have both drive-shafts and tailshafts to connect either end of the motor. Some EV hot-rodders have even used that to connect two electric motors end-to-end to double the power of their vehicle. What if it was instead connected to a diesel engine?

So, here goes. I present to you that I am going to build an Open Source D.I.Y. Plug-in Bio-Diesel/Electric Hybrid Pickup truck and share it with the world!

Have I ever done something like this before? Heck no. But I have played around enough with motors, engines, cars, cycles, and batteries to think that it is totally possible.

HOW will I do it? I have no idea.

But I also had no idea when I started the cycle or when I started my electric car. But Iím pretty good at learning by doing. Iím also pretty good at talking to folks and learning from them and making new friends.

One thingís for sure. Iím going to need your help on this one. The project is going to take a while and I am certainly NOT going to be able to do it all by myself. But thatís the fun of collaboration Ė working together, learning, and sharing.

Look to this blog in the future for updates as the project picks up steam. (Steam! Thatís a great power source too. Um, maybe for a different projectÖ..)

Iíll be taking photos, posting YouTube Videos, and Twittering like a mad man once we really get going. (Yes, you can find me on Twitter now! -!/300MPGBen )

Speaking of going Ė Iím headed out shortly to the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington. If you are going to be there too, come see me. Iím be giving a presentation on DIY Hybrid Vehicles, and Iíll be talking there more in detail about the Super-Truck project. (ecomodder's own MPaulHolmes will be there as well!)

If you have some ideas about the project, or even just a few words of ďYes! We can do this!Ē please let me know!


MetroMPG 05-29-2012 02:13 PM

Very cool, Ben.

I think it's worth linking back to the thread where you first started noodling about this idea, since there are lots of links and some discussion of other DIY hybrid conversions that got people's creative juices flowing:

Daox 05-29-2012 02:17 PM

Wooo, I like throwing hats, though I've probably lost many in my statments of "I'm going to do X".

Do you have any idea of how you're going to start? Are you just going to start by getting the diesel installed before thinking/doing anything with hybridizing?

bennelson 05-29-2012 03:13 PM

Rough Plan:

1) Convert Truck to Diesel

2) Make sure everything runs right as diesel

3) experiment with bio/diesel and veggie oil

4) Add motor and battery system

5) Aerodynamic cap and other misc. improvements.

6) Figure out the zillion little details of making it all work together.

In all seriousness, this will be a big project that will take a lot of time.
Ideally, for the EV portion, I want an open source: motor controller, charger, BMS, and instrumentation.

I'd also like the charger to run from 110 or 220V and be able to make use of J1772 chargers.

Figuring out things like how to balance a drive-shaft with a motor in it should be fun!

Ryland 05-29-2012 06:58 PM


Originally Posted by bennelson (Post 309466)
Rough Plan:

1) Convert Truck to Diesel

2) Make sure everything runs right as diesel

3) experiment with bio/diesel and veggie oil

4) Add motor and battery system


I'd also like the charger to run from 110 or 220V and be able to make use of J1772 chargers.!

Solid state chargers like my Elcon charger have an input voltage range of something like 85v up to 260v, it doesn't have any switch or user input, you just connect the voltage you have that is within that range and it works! now there are open source chargers that more or less work the same way but the kit I saw was $400 and was not well designed or user friendly to build, the charger I bought that is plug and play was around $600, so totally worth the small extra cost.

I would put the experimentation with veggie oil lower on your list, sure it's a new area for you to get in to, but you can buy or make bio-diesel that will run in a stock engine and any modifications you need to make to make it run off straight veggie oil are already out there and well thought out, so my train of thought would say to stay focused on adding the motor in there then build the 2nd fuel tank and veggie oil system around that instead of it getting in your way.

Other then that, I think this sounds like a great project! and once I get my electric motorcycle done and a few of my own small projects around the house completed I'd be all for driving the 4-5 hours that it would take to help you out for a weekend or something if there was a point in time that it would make sense to do that.

bennelson 05-29-2012 07:32 PM

The order of a couple of those items isn't set in stone.

I'd like to make an aerodynamic fiberglass truck cap, and that could happen in a timeline that's really not dependent on anything else.

The main thing is that I would like to keep the truck drivable as much as I can. That will make one less vehicle in my driveway!

mechman600 05-30-2012 02:16 AM

Subscribed. This is gonna be good.

rmay635703 05-30-2012 01:28 PM


Originally Posted by bennelson (Post 309496)
The order of a couple of those items isn't set in stone.

I'd like to make an aerodynamic fiberglass truck cap, and that could happen in a timeline that's really not dependent on anything else.

The main thing is that I would like to keep the truck drivable as much as I can. That will make one less vehicle in my driveway!

Get a FWD Lupo 1.2 TDI with a 6sp stick for the truck, that would be interesting combined with a rear AC drive motor :)

You would have regen and 4wd.

bennelson 05-30-2012 02:09 PM

I've kind of thought about 4-wheel drive, AC motors, exotic trucks ("hey, why don't you use a 1947 Unobtainium?") and have in my mind eliminated a lot of that.

The reason is simple. I already have access to some more basic things, I already own them, they are easy to work on, and it's stuff other people can get their hands on too.

Make something from a lot of odd rare parts, and you might have a unique vehicle, but you wouldn't have one that anyone else would be able to make.

z_power 05-30-2012 06:18 PM

First - thanks for starting some very inspiring threads Ben!

DIY and low cost equals to DC these days - it means no regenerative use of motor... So I'd rather consider hybrid-plugin setup, like your DB diesel for high speed cruising and electric for all "unstable dynamics" like acceleration or stop & go traffic.

This way you'd start from you driveway with electric motor, then pass trough a few crossings and STOP signs and finally you get to 4 - 14 - 114 miles freeway part of route. As a conscious user you decide then to switch to diesel for this part because it's what diesel likes - long stretches of constant conditions... (of course it was already warm enough thanks to mains-fed electric heater with programmed timer...)

Yo're coming to destination town after consuming a few liters of biodiesel, being a conscious driver you flick the switch 700m before freeway exit so next acceleration is pure electric and so on to destination point...

This means there should be choice between drive source "in the fly" so some clutching/coupling system needs to be designed, knowing characteristics of available ICEs and electric motors I'd place this clutching/coupling device in front of transmission. But how? First idea is to have chain sprocket on transmission input shaft, second sprocket on separate driveshaft parallel to main axis and pointing rearwards, then some kind of "teeth clutch" (sorry, forgot english term for it) connecting to DC motor under rear bed.

We as ecomodders and DIYers have an advantage compared to GM/Toyota/other hybrid mfrs average customers - we can do with our brains what they don't know or don't care, relying on car's brain to do. It means that with few relative straight mods or builds we can achieve goals that manufacturers have been chasing for a long time being tied with average mental and knowledge levels of their customers. At least at designing and reserach/test stage we can steer our hybrid drivetrains manual way ;)

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