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AFS Trinity Files Patent for Plug-In Drivetrain; Focus on Affordability

AFS Trinity is using a lower-cost type of li-ion battery in conjunction with ultracapacitors in its plug-in drivetrain. Click to enlarge.

AFS Trinity has filed a new patent application addressing the architecture, power electronics and control strategy for the Extreme Hybrid (XH) plug-in it is developing in partnership with Ricardo. (Earlier post.)

The proposed XH system uses lithium-ion “energy batteries” in combination with ultracapacitors for the vehicle’s electric energy storage system. The energy batteries are lower in cost than li-ion batteries optimized for power delivery.

These lithium-ion energy batteries are expected to cost $200 to $300/kWh for this type of cell. They are different from the lithium-ion power batteries that are expected to be used by other hybrids and plug-in hybrids and that are now found in some power tools.

Such power batteries currently cost as much as $750/kWh and are not expected to go below $500/kWh in five years. We also expect that the lower cost lithium-ion batteries that the XH will use will out-perform any known nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries as well.

—Donald Bender, AFS Trinity Chief Technology Officer

The use of ultracapacitors in combination with lithium-ion batteries allows the batteries to be both charged and deep-discharged without overheating or becoming less reliable, according to AFS Trinity. Instead of the batteries delivering the short bursts of power needed for acceleration, the ultracapacitors do this work. The ultracaps also capture the regenerative braking energy. The ultracaps make possible the use of the lower-cost lithium-ion batteries that are optimized for energy delivery, not power delivery.

The company is designing the XH to have up to a 40-mile All-Electric Range and to support electric driving at freeway speeds. Once the all-electric range is exceeded, the Extreme Hybrid will operate like a charge-sustaining conventional hybrid by using its gasoline or diesel engine in combination with electric power.

Mileage savings obtained from driving conventional hybrids are not large enough to offset their higher purchase prices that are linked to their expensive battery packs. Battery cost becomes even more important for plug-in hybrids. By providing much higher mileage and using low-cost batteries, AFS Trinity expects its Extreme Hybrid drivetrain to make possible the first money-saving hybrid vehicles of any kind. Drivers should expect the Extreme Hybrid to pay for itself in five years or less depending on your driving habits and the future price of gasoline.

—Edward Furia, AFS Trinity Power Corporation CEO

In August 2006 AFS Trinity signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Austin Energy, founding participant in Plug-in Partners, a consortium of U.S. municipalities and utilities, providing them the first opportunity to test 50 or more AFS Trinity XH demonstration vehicles. (Earlier post.)



This is indeed great news! Now maybe F. or G. or D. can quickly catapult themselves into the “next generation”.

If I were the COO of, say, GM, I’d have my engineers start with the EV1, drop in this XH plug-in, and have a PHEV by, perhaps, 2008! And, thus, owning the PHEV market.

I believe they would have a vast amount of help from various members of the Plug-in Partners Consortium.


George, one of the primary reasons GM killed the EV1 and destroyed the tooling is that it would not have meet current safety regulations. Also, it was never engineered to have an internal combustion drivetrain. The EV1 is dead forever. This technology does have promise for the next stage of hybrids.

Adrian Akau

Using lithium batteries for energy rather than power deliver is the best way to keep battery costs down. Having the ultracapacitors do the power portion saves on the batteries. Now what we need is a price estimate for the car.

I personally would like to test one of the vehicles.

[email protected]

fyi CO2

"Mileage savings obtained from driving conventional hybrids are not large enough to offset their higher purchase prices that are linked to their expensive battery packs"

I'm all for better batteries but denegrating current hybrids (as above) discounts the REAL cost of petrol, which to some includes the external environmental and national security costs


Some people cannot get used the concept of paying to save the environment.


It seems like the US has been on the economic ONLY analysis since the 80s. There are many other factors, but as long as we only look at monetary, then we are not looking at everything that we need to. Even if you just wanted to look at only the economic factors, there is only partial accounting. What are the health costs of benzene in the soil, water and food? What are the health costs of people with lung and heart illnesses due to air pollution? What are the defense costs of protecting oil fields in the middle east? What are the effects of stress and congestion caused by over crowding on the roads? What risks do we take when the energy is not so easy to get and cost so much more? What do we do when our modern economy grinds to a halt?


SJC, I agree 100% on our singleminded shortsightedness. But what do we do to get the public and our "elected" "leaders" to actually take these things into consideration? I think the failure here is not just environmental but also of our social fabric.

Harvey D.


We are what we have become. Our leaders and politicians are mirror images of us, one step ahead or behind.

This phenomena most probably occured many times before. A well documented similar event took place during the last century of the Roman Empire.

Empires are born, rise to fame, become arrogant and complacent and slowly fade away. USA has been on the last phase for some times. A new Empire will rise as quickly as USA dwindles. We may speculate when it will come, from where it will come from and if the transistion will be violent or peaceful.....but it will come.

Alexander Terrell

This pays back in five years!? I suppose that's in the USA. In that case in Northern Europe it would pay back in two years.

40 mile range needs about 6.5KWhrs. At $300, this is about $2,000. Replacing the typical 1.6 litre engine with a 250 cc engine should cover the cost of the motors. So $2,000 extra for the car?

In the UK, fuel costs are about 22c per mile. Less about 2 c per mile for the electricity, gives a saving of 20c per mile. In that case, the vehicle would pay for itself in 10,000 miles of electric driving.


The Chinese empire is another great one that let complacency become its downfall (and religion to an extent). The Chinese were all set to discover Europe a good 150-200 years before the Europeans discovered China.

James Milner

This is a good idea, but not one that should receive patent protection. The idea of using ultracapacitors with batteries in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles has been around for at least ten years. Rocky Mountain Institute described this technology in 1995, and many companies and individuals, including us, are working on this well-known application.


Weight does become an issue with this design. Current packs are around 600lbs This makes it 600lbs plus the ultracapcitor. Not sure about that weight but it does mean
less overall effeciency. I like the idea though and hope it works. All I need is 150 miles per day and I can park
my most used gas car in the scrap yard.



"End is on the way" predictions are so much better than chicken-littling with a deadline; they can be in the process of coming true literally forever. And, of course, so have they been.

Rather than reflect on my favorite instances where society itself outright disappeared (because that's what we're quaking over, right?), maybe I could just offer that imperialism is 200 years deep into its death throes. The end of the supposed US 'empire' therefore is fairly yawn-inducing, aside from just being cliched by now and, lets face it, hackneyed to begin with.



The patent in this case may be for some other innovation, if the ultracap idea has been in the public domain.


[i]40 mile range needs about 6.5KWhrs[/i]

How accurate is that? And is that at highway speed? An article on GCC about a Prius retrofit w/ A123 batteries has a 30 mile range at less than 34 mph with an almost 10 kWh pack.

Something is not adding up there.


Didn't the Doc in Back to the Future also use ultracapacitors in his deLorian



$300 per kWh a breakthrough? I don't think so. A single Sanyo / Sony 18650 LiIon cell weighs 45 g and at around 200 Wh/kg contains 9 Wh. The same cell can be bought wholesale for $2.50 each (costing $1.40 to produce) for a $/kWh figure of $280 per kWh ($155 per kWh to produce).

And these are on the shelves already.


Clett, where do you get these prices? Best 18650 prices I see are $400+/kWh in 10k+ unit volumes, and that's for no name cells not Sony/Sanyo.



I think the Doc used "flux capacitors"..now if we could just get our hands on a few of those cheap! :)


Patent protection? Indeed, this is not novel or unobvious. It should NOT be awarded a patent, since many others have thought of it and put it in the public domain.

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