New kit could convert any car to a hybird (Society’s Slideshow)

By Dave Palmer

Many Americans are feeling the pinch in their wallets from rising fuel costs that affects everything from how much their daily commute costs to the final total on their grocery bill. Auto manufacturers have finally bucked the desires of the oil companies and are building hybrid and electric vehicles in order to address this consumer concern. While this is a fantastic step toward transitioning transportation to alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles, some Americans simply cannot justify the cost of a new vehicle to gain extra gas mileage.

Electric vehicles have not yet gained enough range to be attractive to most consumers. So, turning to a hybrid seems to be the next best option. However, hybrids can cost many thousands of dollars more than their gasoline-only counterparts, and that cost is reflected in the monthly payment one has to take on for the next five years. I won’t even get into the added insurance cost of full-coverage broad form collision coverage on a brand new vehicle while the loan is paid off.

However, consumers who wish to save gas mileage or just be a little greener may have a cheaper alternative in the not-so-distant future.

According to a Yahoo/ABC news story, former IBM engineer and current Middle Tennessee University professor Charles Perry and his students have designed a hybrid retrofit kit that could turn any gasoline vehicle into a hybrid. The story also states that the kit is designed to attach to the rear wheels of a vehicle, and attach to a lithium-ion battery which is stored in the trunk.

Apparently, the technology has been in the works for a few years, but is getting closer to market release. The kit is expected to cost around $3,000, and while some people might not be able to install it themselves, Professor Perry insists that anyone who can change brakes can install the kit.

There is no information available at this time regarding when the kit is expected to hit the market.

In the past, I have considered buying a moped, a small motorcycle, and riding my bike to work in order to save transportation costs. However, my current teaching career requires me to transport files and student work back and forth to my workplace that could not be carried on the back of a moped, motorcycle or bicycle. Before I stumbled across this story, I thought that I might never be able to afford a hybrid vehicle until they found their way onto the used market.

Now, it seems that a hybrid vehicle may be within reach of more consumers than can afford a car payment and the associated increased insurance costs. $3,000 for me, and many other people, might be easier to come up with as a single expenditure versus a monthly payment for five years.

Even if $3,000 is still out of your price range, still keep your fingers crossed for the arrival of this tech on the market. If its popularity takes off like a skyrocket, you can count on the fact that the price of the technology will become lower over time, and may one day be readily available in any auto parts store. It may even become available in the auto parts section of your favorite department store for a few hundred dollars.

Being environmentally conscious is expensive and challenging. This hybrid retrofit kit is a way to make it cheaper and less challenging to more consumers. Lower fuel costs could equal a boost to overall economy, and less demand for gasoline could lead to lower gas prices overall.

Kudos to Professor Perry and his students for diligently addressing the cost issue of purchasing a hybrid vehicle with this proposed new kit. They have realized that while hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles are the wave of the future, not everyone can afford to ride that wave at this time, which keeps costs high through lack of demand. Through that realization, they have found a way to make hybrid technology accessible for more people. Look for this product on the market, and seriously consider it if you want to extend your gas mileage and save the environment while you are at it.