Success Story: May 2008

An ongoing student project is underway to develop a plug in diesel-electric vehicle. The project is aimed at providing a retrofit kit to convert existing autos to hybrid operation. The base vehicle being used is an older Volkswagen Jetta.

Technically the trans-axle and engine are separated by several inches, just enough room to sneak in an electric clutch and timing belt pulley. The timing belt directly connects an electric motor to the trans-axle while the diesel engine is connected to the trans-axle through the electric clutch. With this setup, the electric motor can be used for propulsion by de-energizing the clutch, removing the internal combustion engine from the drive. Likewise, the diesel can be used by engaging the electric clutch and allowing the electric motor to freely spin. The two motors, electric and diesel, can as easily be used in conjunction. A simple concept.

Designing within a small space the implementation of a control system is an interesting challenge and requires a multidisciplinary approach. The team working on the project is composed of Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Electronic Engineering Technology majors. The aim is to produce a design applicable to kit construction. However, another major benefit of this effort is putting engineers into the work place with awareness and knowledge of hybrid cars and green technology.