Three years ago as a senior at Kennebunk High School I decided to do an independent project that involved converting a Ford Ranger Truck to a gas-electric hybrid. What started out as a high school project has turned into a lifelong passion. I’ve always loved cars, but this project has brought my appreciation to a whole new level. With help from my advisors Dr. John Collier, Mr. Doug Fraser, Mr. Matthew Boutiler, Mr. Michael Lewis, and my Dad I’ve learned more about subjects like AC vs. DC motors and fabricating drive shafts than I ever thought possible.
The basic design concept for my truck is that there is a DC electric motor inserted between two steel drive shafts and attached to the frame of the car using two steel cross members. The motor is able to power the back wheels off of battery power while the engine is idling in neutral. When the electricity runs out I can turn off the electric motor and put the car into gear so the gasoline engine can power the car. With this set up I have retained my use of four wheel drive for the winter season and created a functional electric vehicle that can get me into town and back. Basically I can do all my town driving on electric but still drive to the mountains on the weekend to go skiing.
As of now the mechanical work in the truck is completed (yay!). I have installed the electric motor from Netgain Inc. with a steel drive shaft attached to each end, rerouted the muffler so as not to overheat the motor, created a custom PVC gas tank to replace the oversized original one (with help from Triple M Plastics in Kennebunk, ME), and made appropriate structural modifications to ensure that the gas tank is protected in case of an accident. This was tested recently as I was rear ended last month and nothing happened to my gas tank. I don’t think anyone has been so happy as I was to be rear ended because it meant I could call my Mom and say, “Look, we did a good job!” The truck has been on the road for about a year and is running smoothly. What my truck really needs now is some electric juice!