Home » Aftermarket Trailer Hitch-Mounted Gasoline Range Extenders For EVs: Silly Or Brilliant?

Aftermarket Trailer Hitch-Mounted Gasoline Range Extenders For EVs: Silly Or Brilliant?

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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.”

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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?

Max1200
US Army

 

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.

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BlueDot Motorworks

 

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.

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Tesla

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.

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Car Ac 2
YouTube screenshots

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.

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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).

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etrailer

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Yes, it’s a bit absurd, but that’s what I — The Bishop — do. Or maybe it isn’t absurd? You tell me.

Relatedbar

A Daydreaming Designer Attempts To Bring EV Charging Stations Into The Late Twentieth Century – The Autopian

Here’s An Idea For The Gas-To-EV Charging Station Transition: Shipping Containers – The Autopian

These Are The Rules Of Electric Car Charging Etiquette – The Autopian

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Jakob Johansen
Jakob Johansen
3 months ago

Or, or, or, you could stop voting for complete ass hats half the time.
That might get you pack into a situation with a solid infrastructure, good school system and universal healthcare.

But no, cheaper gas, more guns and more freedom, too bury yourself deeper and deeper.

Jakob Johansen
Jakob Johansen
3 months ago
Reply to  Jakob Johansen

I know it is not the site for this kind of stuff, but your could seriously be in a much better place, if you were not so afraid to pay little more tax to get a better general infrastructure.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
3 months ago
Reply to  Jakob Johansen

You’re right. This is not the forum for that discussion.

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
3 months ago
Reply to  Jakob Johansen

I like your willingness to fight the good fight.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  NosrednaNod

Willingness to fight a debatably good fight in a place where nobody wants a fight. I don’t like it.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Jakob Johansen

What a strange anti-American sentiment to vomit out so angrily in the comments of a completely unrelated article.

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Technically it is only anti-half-of-American sentiment.

Jakob Johansen
Jakob Johansen
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The topic is gas powered range extenders to compensate for the lack of charging infrastructure.

I am claiming that voting for politicians that disregard human caused global warming, put you in this position.

EPGCivic
EPGCivic
3 months ago
Reply to  Jakob Johansen

Sir , this is a Wendy’s drive through.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago

Seems like a thing that U-Haul should rent.

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
3 months ago

Better solution: cheap low range EV for most of the time + cheap ICE for long trips. Run your own calculations to determine if it makes more sense to rent or own the ICE. Or, ya know, just buy a plug-in hybrid and be done with it…

Gee See
Gee See
3 months ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

But that requires math and personal responsibility, which it seems people these days are only interested in telling others to pull up other’s own bootstraps rather pulling their own.

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
3 months ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

I was assigned a fleet plug-in Toyota RAV4 for a week and it finally made me understand why they’re so dang popular. For someone who wants JUST A CAR/car as appliance, and needs it to be versatile enough to do everything…yeah. It’s that.

Naturally, I hated it.

Mortalcombatant
Mortalcombatant
3 months ago

This makes sense in the EU because here cars with gasoline range extenders like David’s i3 are considered hybrid. Thus cannot enjoy the benefits for electric cars like free city parking and driving on bus lanes.

Bracq P
Bracq P
3 months ago
Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
3 months ago
Reply to  Bracq P

Why stop there? Waste-to-energy is a well-established means of generating electricity. Load up your trash hopper and drive!

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago
Reply to  Scone Muncher

Reminds me of the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” episode where Charlie is explaining why he burns trash: “it provides heat, gives the bar that nice smoky smell we all like and it floats up to the sky and turns into stars”

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
3 months ago

…or you could just buy an old ICE beater for trips to places where there’s no electricity.

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago

Alternative ideas for when your EV is juiceless.

Fold-out solar array. Stored like a roof-tent it unfolds 4 times to make a 512 sq ft solar collector yielding 6400 watts of charging goodness. One hour of sunbathing will get you 16 miles to a working charger.

Sail. Wind power has been moving heavy objects for centuries. Similar to the fold out solar panel, watch me unfurl the mainsail, set the tack and cruise merrily to the next highway exit. Hey, what if the sail had solar panels?

Radioactive Power Generator. Remember Mark Watney on Mars? This could be you. A small container of otherwise worthless nuclear isotopes will provide a useful heat/power source for a very long time. Some precautions required.

Space
Space
3 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

People have complained that EV’s are bad in the cold. With RTG’s you kill two birds with one stone, free electricity and free heat! What could go wrong.

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago
Reply to  Space

RTGs. Putting the radiator back into EVs!

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
3 months ago

I like the concept. Thought about diesels.

From what I have researched, could be wrong, this run on anything is once you get it started. So a small amount of diesel to start, then a small amount to switch over to purge the system. 1 gal of diesel in a reserve tank will not break the bank.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

We had a John Deere that could start on propane or gasoline, and switch to diesel. Apparently it was popular during wwII when various fuels were hard to get and starting a diesel on diesel with a hand crank was difficult.

We also had a D6 caterpillar that had a little two cylinder gasoline engine that would start the diesel engine. Had to start the gas engine with a pull rope. Hated that thing, you could spend an hour or more starting it. We would only shut it off to change the oil, and keep it working for six weeks at a time.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Ahh. The pony motor. Fun to watch that starting procedure. Apparently less-so to perform it.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

No kidding, sometimes it would take two cans of ether to get things started. I could never figure out why people wanted to start the damn thing first thing in the morning.

Electric Truckaloo (formerly Stig’s Chamorro Cousin)
Electric Truckaloo (formerly Stig’s Chamorro Cousin)
3 months ago

There are more than a few places in the US that are out of return-trip range to a charger. This would be silly for general daily use, but very helpful if you’re going overlanding and need just a bit more juice to get back to a charger.

Staffma
Staffma
3 months ago

This reminds me of wood gasification trailers used to power cars during WW2 oil shortages. I imagine as battery technology improves the current solutions will fall by the wayside like wood gas did. Also, generators on trailers remind me of the Roadkill boost-caboose, which was very amusing and somewhat functional.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
3 months ago

I still say the best solution is a roof mounted jet turbine generator. If you can solve the no charge-while-driving (which the Tesla guy apparently did in the video), then a jet turbine would serve double-duty, especially on highways. The generator charges the batteries while the turbine provides additional forward thrust.

Ben
Ben
3 months ago

I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’re going to charge off a 2000W Honda it’s going to take a looooong time. That’s 2 kW charging an 80-100 kWh battery. The YouTube guy used a 10000W generator, which is quite a bit larger than most generators you see. I have a sneaking suspicion that a generator small enough to fit in a bumper-mounted enclosure would also be too small to usefully recharge the battery.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
3 months ago
Reply to  Ben

The physical footprint of a generator can be pretty misleading, as they have large buffer zones. Even the PTO driven 25K generator on our family farm is just a bit over a foot in diameter if you ignore its trailer. Depending on engine configuration and weight limit there’s no reason a 10K generator wouldn’t fit in the box as pictured. Weight is going to be the biggest problem, especially if diesel is the fuel choice.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  Ben

How about defeat the door delete, easy enough but start running the generator at 75% charged and charge while batteries are charged so they lose charge more slowly?

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
3 months ago
Reply to  Ben

For fair weather range plans, I use 3.5 miles per kW on my Bolt. While the generator might be 2kW, that is probably peak… and more like 1.6 continuous. So drag that thing everywhere just in case some day you need to add 5.6 miles of range to your car in an hour?

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
3 months ago

I personally think that the only time an external generator makes sense, is in the case of an RV being towed by an EV. You could have a huge battery pack in the RV and a generator internally mounted running on propane, gasoline, or diesel. Since you really want the RV trailer to be quiet at the camp site, you could be charging it the whole way there with the genset running to both top the charge in the RV, and share the electrons with the EV towing it.

JDE
JDE
3 months ago

Since you cannot drive while charging anyway, but there is some merit to not getting stranded due to optimistic range calcs by the car, or dead charging stations, it might not be the wort ide to mount a small generator on your bosses stand up desk contraption so you can pull it out of the trunk and run it just outside the trunk until you get enough charge to make it to the next working Electric station. the issue of course is will you get enough charge before you run out of fuel. 110 or even 220 on 40Amps or so is still very slow proposition for most BEV’s

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Fun fact a full freezer will stay frozen for 3 days if not opened and closed a lot. That is why you should keep containers full of water/ice in your freezers open spaces. You lose cold air instantly when open a frozen jug displaces air and the ice provides refrigeration. It helps in the refrigerator too only not so much. Secondly put raw refrigeration items in the freezer when you lose power so they stay fresh but won’t freeze.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago

This seems weirdly similar to that idea that floated around about 20 years ago of putting a GG1 back in service by powering it from a diesel generator on a tender car, that ended up not panning out for reasons

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago

It is an intriguing idea, no doubt, and it is an interesting thought exercise.

You covered the medium-to-large point that this would require finagling to get it to work in flight, but what if it didn’t need to work in flight? You’re out driving around and run low on juice with no charge points around – no worries, you brought a charge point with you. IOW just leave it as a thing to use while stopped: this removes the need to reconfigure the software lockout and makes it easier to cool the generator engine, since it can now run with the lid open while you’re stationary.

I would like to mention a couple of things about using a hitch receiver to carry stuff. I actually use one to transport smallish motorcycles: the bike carrier goes into the 2″ receiver and runs parallel to the rear bumper.

Not all receivers are created equal: you’ll want to be aware of the maximum tongue weight (MTW) the receiver can support. Now that you’re all done snickering 🙂 the MTW is generally related to the construction of the receiver: the one I had in the previous vehicle used four bolts, all in the middle bumper area, and it had a[n] MTW of 500lb. The receiver in the current vehicle is much more involved: it’s bolted to the body in (IIRC) 12 locations and actually replaces the ‘impact bar’ behind the rear bumper skin. Installation required the removal of the body panels but the MTW on this receiver is 800lb.

Smaller – e.g. 1.5″ – receivers are available but will likely have MTWs that are too low to provide a decent safety margin.

Side note: I like the folding legs idea, but think that they could be a PITA to reach and that the hinges (unless protected) would become immobile due to crud flying up from the rear tires. Maybe a lightweight aluminum jack with casters would work a bit better, though the casters should be at least 4″ in diameter to help you move the device around on rough surfaces.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Class 1 & 2 are 1.25″ receivers. 10% of weight rating is usually the acceptable tongue weight, so your breakdown by class would be
1: 200lb
2: 350lb
3: 500lb
4: 1000lb

These will also be limited by the tow rating of the vehicle itself, which I assume is where your 800lb number comes from. My truck has a class 4 hitch, but a 6600lb towing capacity, so 660lbs safe tongue weight in its case.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Curt hitches mount with 6 large bolts to the frame with predrilled holes that fit perfectly at least mine did. And you can’t beat frame mount, but beware the ankle buster.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
3 months ago

I think you’d have a better chance of developing and selling a supplemental battery pack. Something that gives your EV around 25 miles of range would make it easier to find a charging station if your main battery starts running low in a remote area. Ideally it would be something that either kicks in automatically or with the push of a button, depending on how thoroughly it can be integrated with the vehicle’s existing system.

Brett Chandler
Brett Chandler
3 months ago

You’re looking at 5-8kWh worth of battery for that. You can actually do that with some high end portable battery units, but you’d need more than one of them and they’d be heavy as hell, so this would always be a niche thing. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, though.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago

How about a rental unit that mounts on a roof rack? Or come to think of it just a charged battery unit rented from uhaul that you could swap out at any uhaul dealer when drained?

Last edited 3 months ago by Mr Sarcastic
Lockleaf
Lockleaf
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

This idea has been looked at in France at least that I know of. A company was leasing battery trailers for long distances. You hook it up to your hitch and pull another 40KWh along behind you. When it runs dry, you can recharge or swap at another location.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

Thanks post me an update if you see one.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I haven’t heard anything new, and didn’t see anything newer than this from a few years back. but this is the article I remember reading.

https://europe.autonews.com/blogs/french-startup-uses-battery-trailers-cure-ev-range-angst

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

Thanks but I think I saw this maybe on the other site.

MrLM002
MrLM002
3 months ago

Aftermarket Trailer Hitch-Mounted Gasoline Range Extenders For EVs: Silly Or Brilliant?

Silly, but for 5 small reasons.

1.) The overwhelming majority of BEVs are not built to be charged while driving and to my knowledge there are no BEVs that have an electrical hookup for this sort of thing.

2.) BEVs and BEV infrastructure are not optimal for towing currently so a large portion of them have no hitch to mount this concept.

3.) I doubt this setup will be light, so removal will require tools whereas a trailer type one could easily be removed without tools, making it easier for rental use.

4.) Also a trailer is much harder to steal and use than a hitch mount. To my knowledge there’s not a single state in the country that you don’t have to register your trailer with the state DMV if using it on public roads, so if someone steals a trailer in order to use it on public roads they have to register it and getting a stolen trailer legal to use on public roads is a lot harder than putting a stolen hitch mounted anything on the back of your automobile, so renting them would be a bit riskier, and owning them would also be a bit riskier.

5.) Politicians would probably ban them due to how hard it would be to regulate them.

I generally agree with your concept though, range extenders shouldn’t be proprietary integral units that will have questionable user reparability and parts support.

Last edited 3 months ago by MrLM002
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

A lot of people just put hitches on to hold bike racks or ramp platforms for mobility scooters or a rack for a cooler, so more EVs have them than you might think, they just might not have a wire harness for trailer lights installed

MrLM002
MrLM002
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Wow, I completely missed the fold-down wheels the first time I read the article.

That being said the wheels in the concept are way too small. I’ve yet to see a parking lot so smooth that wheels that size could roll easily. Personally I’d go with non pneumatic tires/wheels as large in diameter as you could get.

Backing up a trailer can definitely suck, but you could also have a “trailer” that has swiveling castor style wheel(s) instead of the whole trailer articulating around a ball or pintle hitch. Swivelwheel trailers use this design.

Last edited 3 months ago by MrLM002
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Maybe use a cart with stretcher folding wheels?

MrLM002
MrLM002
3 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Both of which are awful for range.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Uhaul will install wire harness relatively cheap

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Not sure but I didn’t register my tow dolly in AZ or PA and never got bothered even when pulled over for other reasons. Instead of renting I bought a tow dolly, trailer ed my JH to PA and sold it for more than I bought it. So when moving from rust free areas to rust belt areas you can use it for free and maybe make money.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
3 months ago

I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing for trucks, utilizing the rear underseat areas + the bed. Like if the OEM sold a maverick hybrid that could be converted/specked up to a PHEV with different options of battery size, it would be a great solution.

So if you’re good with the standard hybrid, cool – the 1.1kwh battery will suffice. But maybe you want to go up to 5/10/15/20 kWh? Things like weight, payload, packaging would be challenges for sure – but solvable. Like you do a decked type solution for the bed for the biggest sizes – and generally, the batteries would be pretty replaceable / swappable. Also, it could be scaled up depending on your need. Change jobs and get a longer commute? Ok, maybe 10kwh satisfies your need. Batteries start to deteriorate? no problem, take advantage of the recycling program and swap in some new ones.

Something along these lines, and figuring out a way for at least a partial frunk would really be slick.

I had a long car ride yesterday to think about this, in lieu of the ram charger announcement haha.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
3 months ago

This concept is a natural for something like a Grounded or especially a Winnebago eRV2. I would consider an electric camper only if something weather-resistant like this was available.

Lokki
Lokki
3 months ago

I just…. I mean… you are taking a vehicle that is more complex and more expensive, and with less overall capability than an ICE vehicle and trying to overcome one of its major limitations by making it more complex and more expensive.

Or you could just buy a comparable ICE vehicle, pocket the savings up front and be dome with it.

I will say that this is a very elegantly conceived and engineered Rube Goldberg-esque piece of kit. What is the guess on what this would cost, installed?

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
3 months ago

These things are hanging off the back of the car like the moment about the rear axle won’t make them ride, steer, and handle like shit. Sure, most trucks could handle it with less impact, but it will affect a car or cute-ute significantly. It’s one thing to put the weight above an axle or between the axles, but a lot worse to hang it off the back.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

Airflow to cool the generator could be a major issue. Years back on RV.net, people talked about overheating their generators in the bed of their truck or on a hitch-tray while powering their RV’s or trailer’s rooftop AC unit during travel. Perhaps a powered exhaust fan with multiple possible outlets —and including a pressure gauge to determine which works best for a buyer’s application?

Alexk98
Alexk98
3 months ago

I think the biggest reason this is likely a no-go for pretty much any modern EV, and the reason why EVs and PHEVs lock out drive if the charge door is open, is the inverter in the car does double duty, both for charging and discharging (aka driving). Meaning if there were an AC current into the charge port, and also the switching of battery DC voltage to three phase AC for propulsion, something would let out its magic smoke. And as we all know, no magic smoke left in the wires means no more go.

BlueBlurr1565
BlueBlurr1565
3 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

Exactly this. And the cooling needs of the vehicle would likely double (or more) when driving + charging at the same time.
These reasons are why most solutions will manually switch the drive system to a different source of energy.

Sklooner
Sklooner
3 months ago

Mount some sort of aircraft APU to the back and your good

Gardenbolt
Gardenbolt
3 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

or cats on a treadmill, ala david tracy, I am not sure what kind of output they would get.
what is that unit of energy. cats per mile?

Sklooner
Sklooner
3 months ago
Reply to  Gardenbolt

3 Schrodingers per hectare

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