Engineering Question #57

Ian Burke, a 32 year old male from the Internet asks on August 26, 1999,

What do you think of a Gas/Electric hybrid car? I made a power generation device made up of 8 a.c. alternators and I placed a 1:5 ratio step-up transformer in between each alternator for voltage drops. The generator uses approximately a 40 h.p. gas engine to turn the alternators. The power generation device is used to provide electric power to an electric car. I can now get the ohms up to 3 ohms required to make current flow. Making the cable size bigger and using shorter solid copper wire also makes things work better. There is a very small margin for this device to work but with the new superconducting wires becoming available this idea of mine may one day make all electric cars totally electric but will use gas to make it happen. The small gas engine would replace the large gas engine in cars of today. A small gas engine turns alternators at 60 amps each; times 8 this equals 480 amps at 96 volts. The d.c. electric drive motor uses 96 input volts to operate at around 190 amps so my device generates at least this requirement. My device also has half the number of batteries required now in electric cars. What do you think?

viewed 16394 times

The answer

Barry Shell answered on August 26, 1999

Your idea is well known and is being used even now in many new prototype gas/electric cars. In fact this idea is central to the way all diesel electric train locomotives work. They have diesel engines that power electric generators that power electric motors in the wheels. Most of the trains in the world today work like this.

More information can be found in Popular Science magazine, which contains many articles on this subject. A quick websearch produces several articles on hybrid electric cars, e.g.: There's also the Electric Vehicle Association of the Americas Their "EVQuestions" page has links to everywhere about electronic vehicles.

Add to or comment on this answer using the form below.

Note: All submissions are moderated prior to posting.

If you found this answer useful, please consider making a small donation to