Decoding Design

'hyMOD' lets driver swap out either electric or gas engine

'hyMOD' lets driver swap out either electric or gas engine

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Romanian startup SCI has designed a concept hybrid car that ditches the gas engine, literally.

A Romanian engineer, designer, and automotive journalist walk into a bar... Well, you'll never guess the punchline, and it's not even a joke. This Romanian trio is real, and they have founded an automotive startup called SCI. The first offering is a concept car that is designed to provide the benefits of an electric vehicle with the benefits of a internal combustion engine, without having the drawbacks of either.

Called the hyMOD, the concept car has a gas propulsion system with an electric range extender. In this way it's not unlike the Chevy Volt. But unlike the Volt, the driver can actually have the gas engine removed -- at a special hyMOD service station -- and swap it for a secondary battery pack which puts the car into fully electric mode. The idea is that drivers would use only electric power for urban driving, and then switch to the gas engine when traveling further afield.

The gas engine has a 35-liter (9.24 gallon) tank, and when combined with the electric range extender (in other words, when used in hybrid mode), the vehicle's top range is 385 miles before it needs a refill or recharge. The top range in fully electric mode is about 100 miles. Swapping the gas engine for the extra batteries provides the added electric range without having to lug around the gas engine. But users would need to balance that benefit with the potential hassle of finding a engine-swapping station. Though the SCI video makes the swapping look rather speedy, something tells me it wouldn't always be quite that simple and fast.

The listed price is €25,500 (around $34,000). But that price doesn't include the "modules," i.e. the gas engine and the battery pack. The company's website notes that these would be rented rather than owned, and presumably at a fee that is base on usage. It would seem only fair that someone who drives her hyMOD every day and is often swapping the engines would pay a higher engine rental than someone who does so infrequently.

The concept is complicated, but intriguing. The swapping approach isn't new, Better Place has been establishing battery-swapping stations for electric cars for a few years (though none of these have arrived on U.S. soil). But the approach has yet to be applied to gas engines. As John Voelcker notes over at Green Car Reports, the hyMOD "points to the burgeoning choices available in vehicle propulsion that will become available over the next decade."

Who knows whether this idea will germinate. As commenters at Green Car Reports pointed out, in the time it would take to bring the hyMOD to market, battery technology will be more advanced than it is today.  So that begs the question: would we even still want a gas engine for longer trips? Of course, answering that question comes down not only to battery technology, but charging infrastructure build-out, as well.

Via: Green Car Reports

Images: SCI

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Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure