A recent ban on plying of diesel cabs in Delhi, India has left many taxi drivers bewildered and anxious for a solution that could help keep their diesel cars in business. CNG conversion of diesel cars is both an expensive and untested technology, making it not-an-option for most.
So could the electric hybrid conversion kit from Altigreen be a solution to the problem? Amitabh Saran, the co- founder of the company believes so. Altigreen Propulsion Labs, a Bangalore based startup, has built an electric hybrid system which it claims can be retrofitted to any four-wheeler, petrol or diesel, converting the car into a hybrid.
The solution has already found endorsement by one of the leading figures in Indian electric vehicle industry, Chetan Maini, founder of India’s first indigenous electric car Reva, who has invested in the company.
For Saran, Toyota Prius, like many other green mobility solutions being researched upon in the labs of developed nations, was a solution that had lost track of the problem itself. To resolve the issue of pollution, there has to be mass adoption of the alternate green technologies. For this, it has to be affordable.
Altigreen was set up in February 2013 with a solution that is not only affordable but also well suited to Indian road condition.
The hybrid kit produced by Altigreen is fitted alongside the engine and includes dual-electric machine, generator, wire harness, power and control electronics, and batteries. The system gets power from the energy that is produced by the engine but is otherwise wasted. “A car uses only 25% of the energy produced by the engine and the rest, 75%, is wasted. We are tapping into that 75%.”
Saran, a PhD from University of California, explained that the system adjusts according to driving behaviour of the driver and optimally uses the energy. The proprietary algorithm has been developed based on data collected during testing, spanning several thousands of kilometers on Bangalore roads, in various types of four-wheelers.
The system still uses Lead-Acid batteries, which Saran claims is still one of the greenest technologies. “Lead-Acid is the most recycled product in the world— more than aluminium cans. There is nothing that goes to waste.”
“We are still using Lead-Acid battery and trying to build on its capabilities. Yes, the energy density of lead-acid is not high but our complex technology has helped us reduce the size of batteries that we use. How we work with it is our secret sauce.”
The 48V battery pack is made up of using four lead-acid batteries that can be easily fitted in the boot of the car without needing much space.
Saran claimed that the technology will improve the fuel efficiency of a vehicle by an average of 20% and lower emission as well by similar amount. The final product is expected to be priced in the vicinity of Rs 1 lakh (US$1,600), which will depend on the size of the vehicle.
“While designing the technology, we had set a few parameters that it had to meet. The final product should be usable in any four-wheeler; the process of installing the solution should be completely reversible; and the most important, it should not use any external electricity to get power like all full-electric vehicles do, Saran said. “Yes, Chetan Maini is onboard with us, but I have to admit I am not too fond of full-electric vehicles just as yet.”