Why Can't an EV be More Like a Locomotive?

by Terry Evans
(Roseville, CA USA)

Locomotive Hybrid Electric Car

Locomotive Hybrid Electric Car

I'm a conductor for Union Pacific Railroad. I've often wondered why someone doesn't (maybe they do) make a car like a locomotive only much smaller scale.

Take a 2 cylinder turbo diesel that turns an alternator that powers an AC motor (we have DC too but the AC is much better) I'd like to start with something functional, instead of a 1 or 2 seater poly-vinyl-leisure scooter take like an older Mazda truck or the old VW pickup (yeah they're like older Volvos, either you love them or hate them) so that it has functionality. anyway you can have batteries that do get the charge from the dynamic (regenerative) brakes.

So If I were to take on such a project, Deutz makes a 2, 3, 4 and 6 cyl (turbo or non-turbo) engines - but from there, I'm lost. Where would I start looking?

Thanks so much - oh, and what do you think about those in-wheel motors, I've not read much on them.

Hi, Terry!
There's someone who's built a home-brewed series hybrid like you're suggesting: His name is Alain St. Yves, and you can read my interview with him here. That's a good place to start.
He converted a light pickup to electric, and has a portable generator in the back to recharge the batteries on longer trips.

About in-wheel motors: Right now they're very expensive. Paul Liddle from Cool Green Car (read the interview with him here) says they're 20K each. There are just much more satisfying ways to spend that kind of money, in my opinion; )


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Any changes
by: Anonymous

I also for years wondered the same. And the answers I get are always systems that I’m not even talking about. I’m talking about a electric vehicle with a small diesel power generator to only charge the batteries.

I wish too, but good luck.
by: Anonymous

auto manufacturers will never build mini locomotives for the road for the regular guy to buy . simply in my opinion because oil companies/investors have them by the nads !

Chevy Volt - Series Hybrid (Locomotive)
by: Contrablue


You should check out the Volt, the power plant of which is configured very much like a diesel-electric locomotive, only with a gasoline-powered generator instead of a diesel.

As currently configured, the Volt shows some signs of "risk avoidance compromise" in its design, which has raised the cost of production and the ultimate retail price unnecessarily. The generator power is supplied by a 4-cylinder gasoline engine that appears to have been adapted from an off-the-shelf automotive unit. Ideally, though, a purpose-built unit designed for durability and efficiency within a narrow band of engine speeds would be best: this could be a small diesel fitted with a large turbocharger (this would reduce weight and increase thermal efficiency -- and the turbo lag would be irrelevant).

The resulting powerplant would look very much like that of a modern diesel-electric locomotive, with the addition of substantial battery/supercapacitor capability to improve vehicle performance under varying road conditions.

Diesel electric propulsion
by: dan bentler

In my opinion rail should go all electric at least for the long range freight and passenger. Milwaukee did it so did Great Northern (only in Stevens pass was it??)

Trucks are now going hybrid. Eaton has a package that Kenworth and International are installing. Dunn Lumber has a 31,000GVW KW.

IF you are the "average? (??) American driver EV only will satisfy your daily driving needs with a range of 50 mile or so.

IF you are a contractor sales etc and drive all over then you will need hybrid. Choices and setup will depend on your driving needs. Seattle Portalnd will more than likely need a power plant large enough to drive the motor circa 30 to 50 HP. Prius would be your best bet for now and next year - after that ??

Around King County 30 or 40 miles you could get away with a 5 Kw unit especially so in stop n go.
Could trailer mount it and not tow when not needed.
Dan Bentler

Have you seen the Hybrid Trains in Japan and Europe
by: Jerry

In 2007 the Japanese added a Hybrid engine to their train lines. It saves about 20% fuel and 50% less emission. The ones in Europe made by Bombardier in Canada and CS electric do even better.

Have you looked at the XR-3?
by: Rich

It's a parallel hybrid (not like the series hybrid you're suggesting), but your idea reminded me of the XR-3 hybrid here:


Riley's plans call for a small diesel engine up front, with a separate electric drivetrain in the rear. I believe that he specified a small Kubota 3 cylinder engine.

Once again, a slightly different idea, but he has some cool plans on his site that might give you some inspiration.

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