Bedfordshire, England – A new device that fits onto existing combustion engines may make it possible to convert much of the current fleet into hybrid vehicles. The development is the result of a collaboration between the U.K.’s leading automotive engineering facilities, including Cranfield University.

Called the Affordable Add-on Zero Emissions Vehicle (ADDZEV), the system was developed on a standard Vauxhall Combo van, which was retrofitted to operate as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The development team retained the Combo’s existing, conventional front-wheel drive system, but added an electric drive to the rear wheels, powered by low-cost, advanced lead acid batteries. The vehicle has an all-electric range of over 20 km from one charge. 

The team believes that the technology could be scaled up for larger vans and even city buses.

Powered through twin liquid-cooled motors, with a maximum power of 100 kW, the electric drive is mounted in a subframe under the rear floor of the vehicle. It has been limited to propel the vehicle at speeds up to 60 km/h. For higher-speed operation, the existing diesel power unit provides conventional operation. It can also be configured to switch manually between modes, enabling selection of ultra low emission operation in a low-emission zone or city centre. The batteries can either be charged by plugging the vehicle into the electric grid, or by storing power generated by the engine when the vehicle is in motion.

Conducted as part of the Low Carbon Research and Development program run by the Energy Savings Trust, the project was jointly funded by the Department for Transport and the  European Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium.

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