Starting the Chevy ReVolt Hybrid project

by Ben N on November 30, 2010

Propane Generator for use in Electric Car

NP-40 generator

Well, I guess I just threw my hat over the fence.

For some time, I have been wanting to do some work on my “Electro-Metro” Electric Geo Metro conversion to add a “range-extender” feature to it.

The idea is simple – provide SOME of the energy to power the car with an on-board generator. The car will still be electric, and still run on batteries, but will be able to go father per trip. In my case, I find that I do a lot of short trips (which I use the Electro-Metro for), but I also do some fairly long trips. For those longer trips, I use my Chevy S10 pickup truck. While I can get up to 30 mpg in that truck, there are still plenty of times where I am just transporting myself (not heavy/bulky items, tools, or materials) All I really need is just a very small, efficient car.

Rather than try to fill my Metro to the brim with batteries, what about using a generator to extend its range? By using a smaller generator, costs can be kept down, and the generator will run mostly near max throttle, which should keep its efficiency fairly high.

In ways that it will be DIFFERENT from the Chevy Volt, I simply picked two common complaints that I have heard about the Volt on web forums.

1) You have to haul around the engine, fuel tank, exhaust system, etc ALL the time, even if you never use it! (What a waste of space and weight!)

2) The Volt uses GASOLINE. Anyone who has ever left gas in a weed-wacker over winter knows that old gasoline sitting around is a bad idea. (GM solves this problem by automatically running the engine at a certain point if you never do.)

So, my solution to these problems is a) make it removable, b) run it on something other than gas.

A friend of mine donated to me an RV generator. It’s a variable speed, computer-controlled 3400 watt generator. And it runs on propane. Being from an RV, it’s ALREADY DESIGNED for use in a vehicle. It even features a remote start, allowing the user to electric start the generator from somewhere other than directly at it. This means I could control the starting the generator with something as simple as a button on my dashboard, or possibly even rigging it up to the original ignition crank position of the car!

Ever see those “cargo trays” that slide into the hitch receiver on a truck? It’s a great way to add a little more cargo room to a vehicle. Hey, what if somebody put a generator on there? Ooh! and it’s removable!? Imagine that. A way to extend the range of an electric car, that you don’t have to lug around on all your short trips!

I have often found that the best way to get something done is just to tell everyone you are going to do something. Now you HAVE to do it! That’s what I did to build my electric car. I just told everyone I was building one. I had no idea how I was going to do it. However, just telling people was the start.


Here’s a video to get your creative juices going.

Got any suggestions for this project? Leave a comment and let me know!


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