Would you rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic? How about getting the carpet cleaned in your family room while a storm-felled tree sticks through the ceiling? Most of us don’t ignore the primary problem in a situation, but somehow with EVs I feel like the elephant in the room is still not being addressed fast enough.
The odds are that if you talk to any electric vehicle owner (well, at least non-Tesla owner) you’ll get at least one tale of woe. Something like “I thought I could make it home, but it died a few blocks away.” Or maybe “I barely made it to a place with a charging station, but all the chargers were being used!” A common favorite is one that goes along the lines of “the chargers at the hotel were all filled up so I drove around until I found a WalMart with an open one around one in the morning and slept in my car until it was charged.”
This is lunacy, and while the situation with chargers (as well as car range) will surely get better over time, it could be an eternity before you can drive through bitter cold or into the most desolate part of Montana without fear of being stranded. You can’t just put a gallon of electricity in your car. Or could you?
Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention
Some time back, we posted a story about a system that was proposed by a company called BlueDot Motorworks to add electric power to almost any car with batteries, motor, and a drive system that bolted right to the lug nuts of your rear wheels.
This seemed like an interesting solution to make a hybrid EV conversion, but it would seem that the real need might be for a hybrid conversion of EVs themselves. Let me explain.
[Ed Note: The Bishop wrote this prior to the Ram 1500 Ramcharger debuting; it seems Ram gets it. -DT].
While few will dispute the advantages of clean electric power in a car, many people are leery of investing at least $40,000 of their money into something that might turn into a paperweight if you drive it too far from a sometimes difficult-to-find charging station. Even staying within the seemingly safe confines of an urban area doesn’t protect you from the possibility of out-of-service chargers, chargers that don’t work with your car, or lack of openings.
There is a reason why hybrids and especially plug-in hybrids remain best sellers today. Besides traditional hybrids, cars like David Tracy’s i3 can be equipped with a “range extender” gasoline motor to increase battery life on the go. Oddly enough, we’ve actually seen makeshift examples of people doing something similar for different automotive needs on various social media posts. The air conditioning on your old w126 560SEL shoots craps and you commute in Florida? No problem. Just strap a gas generator onto the roof, put a small unit in an opened rear window that you seal with duct tape, and problem solved. Is this legal? They don’t seem to care, and if you’ve ever been to Daytona Beach in the summertime, you wouldn’t care either.
As crude as this setup seems, others have done essentially the same thing to get more range in EVs. I did not watch the below video in its entirety, but the owner of this Tesla (a reputable YouTuber) has indeed installed a gas generator into what used to be his cargo area to increase his range enough to go four-digit mileages without the need for a charging station.
Another option is to carry a generator on one of those metal platforms you can buy that fits into your trailer hitch socket (obviously this isn’t an EV, but you get the idea).
I do not know if these people are heading to a distant campsite or just afraid of confrontation at a charging station, but according to various websites it’s very possible to use one of these to charge your EV, even if it will likely take longer than a typical charging station [Ed Note: All EVs will lock out “drive” when you’re plugged in, so you’d need to do some software hacking to use this while driving. -DT]. Still, a space saver spare tire is not as good as your normal rubber, but it beats sitting beside the road. If this range thing is a common issue, why can’t we take this makeshift solution and embrace it?
You Want To Put It Where?
My concept is called the Charg/R; a self-contained internal combustion generator that sits in a module that hangs off of the rear of your EV, fitting into the trailer hitch socket. Inside the clean-looking box, the generator and fuel tank are arranged inside along with a small battery that is used for the tiny starter motor. For the fuel, I was thinking of diesel for a couple of reasons.
Sure, it’s loud, but with a diesel engine you can typically run all sorts of different fuels you might find, from kerosene to the dregs from what you had left over from a fondue pot. Secondly, diesel fuel is flammable, but far less combustible than gasoline. In a collision, it would be unlikely to explode so you would not have a Ford Pinto situation on your hands.
There’s more that you can do with the Charg/R. Wheels fold down from below with casters so it’s easy to remove and attach to your car, plus you can roll it away to store in the garage. You could also roll it around at the camp site, job site, or use it when your power goes out at home.
The Bigger Question
I know what you’re asking now: Could this thing run and charge your EV while you are driving? The simple answer is that with most cars today is, probably not. My plug-in hybrid won’t do shit if the charger door is open. However, the principle could work if the car’s electronics would allow. I don’t doubt that software hacks could make it possible, as proved by some of the YouTube freaks.
If you did have a system like the Charg/R, the hope would be that one day the infrastructure will be so good that you’d never have to drag this thing behind your EV ever again; that day could be a long time coming. Until then, something like this could come in handy. Unless you want to strap a Honda gas generator on your roof instead.
Yes, it’s a bit absurd, but that’s what I — The Bishop — do. Or maybe it isn’t absurd? You tell me.