I’ve been designing and building electric vehicle systems since 2004, before there was any hype about EVs – when you couldn’t buy one, so you had to build them. In 2015, I started a project adding a high power electric assist system to a 3-series BMW. I had it operating, and ran into a guy that is now a good friend. He said I should make a system for the F-150, seeing as it’s the most sold vehicle in the US.
And then Lightning Struck.
So I became the proud owner of a 2017 3.5L Ecoboost and began its transformation to a hybridized system with a battery pack, electric motor, and DC-DC converter (which takes the high voltage battery pack and steps it down to the 12 volt system to eliminate the loading that the alternator puts on the engine which both increases fuel burn and decreases power to the wheels). We call it Unleash Energy to highlight how it is bringing more energy to the system and allowing the gas engine to become free from some of the loads it has on it (like running the 12 volt system) so it can deliver all its power to the road.
Just this week, we were able to demonstrate the full system operation on-road. Here are some pictures:
The motor sits above the rear differential and is belted to a pulley that sits between the driveshaft and the pinion shaft. No modification is needed to the driveshaft and all pieces bolt on without any drilling, welding, or other modifications to the stock vehicle.
Rear view showing the battery pack in place of the spare tire (sorry spare tire, but the battery pack is better). No other functional space is used and the payload hit is under 100 lbs.
Rear view showing the motor sitting above the differential.
The system is very subtle with only the bottom section of the battery pack visible and the charging port just below the bumper.
The battery pack just before installation. It bolts to the trailer hitch and tucks up in the same space the spare tire resided in. Complete installation can be done in 1-2 hours. Removing the system pets the truck back in stock condition.
Preliminary fuel efficiency improvement has been about 60% (around 17 mpg city driving to about 27 mpg). There are still a lot of tweaks being done, so we’re optimistic we’ll be able to break into the 30’s. Not only is fuel efficiency improved, but power is added to the system. Right now, that’s about 10 HP. With some of the planned mods, that could go as high as about 30 HP.
The default mode of operation is to have the electric system provide as much assist as it can all the time until the battery is spent. This takes some 50-60 miles to do. The mode of operation can be changed so that the electric assist is proportioned out over a longer period. This is ideal for longer commutes. Two methods are being used to switch between assist levels: 1) a smart phone app and 2) vehicle buttons. With the radio off I have the vehicle indicate the button presses on the volume up/down buttons and can use those to change between assist levels. The next version of throttle interceptor will have audible feedback to indicate how aggressive the assist is.
The DC-DC converter is able to provide all of the electric power from the high voltage battery pack. The gas engine no longer has to provide this power and that frees up some excess. This power (up to several HP) can now be directed to the wheels or simply reduce the amount of fuel that is burned.
We’ll continue to see how power and fuel efficiency are improved and will post updates as we go. Still several things to enhance and features to add, but it’s been an exciting week to finally get it on the road and start getting the data.