Work at Middle Tennessee State University since 2008 has culminated in a 1994 Honda station wagon being retrofitted with a laboratory prototype of the plug-in hybrid capability, a university release reported Monday.
Project leader Charles Perry, a professor of engineering, said the Honda has been fitted with electric motors in each rear wheel and a large lithium ion battery is mounted in the rear of the vehicle.
Switching on power to the electric motors on the two rear wheels made a huge difference by reducing the amount of power required from the internal-combustion engine, Perry said.
"The whole point was to demonstrate the feasibility of adding the electrical motor to the rear wheel of the car without changing the brakes, bearings, suspension -- anything mechanical," Perry said.
Perry said he is in discussion with several companies that operate fleets of vehicles to solicit funds to build and demonstrate a manufacturing version of the plug-in hybrid technology.
Nine students who worked on the project, who now have graduated with bachelor's or master's degrees, came from the university's engineering-technology department.
"The wheel-hub motor is an answer to a problem," Brent Brubaker, one of the student researchers, said.
"It's innovative technology. You can take and bolt it on a car. When people see that, their eyes light up. They think it might cost a lot of money and are surprised when you tell them it might be $3,000."