Eltek Valere introduces marine DC power system
Azure Dynamics receives orders for 27 Transit Connect Electric vans

Perspective: Europeans in the lead with range extenders for hybrid vehicles; 2nd vs. 3rd generation

by Dr. Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx

We are in the decade of the hybrid electric vehicle despite the fact that most off-road and underwater vehicles are pure electric. That includes most forklifts, golf cars and mobility vehicles for the disabled plus Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and personal submarines. Indeed, most electric aircraft are pure electric as well. These vehicles are mainly small, as are electric two wheelers which are also almost all pure-electric. Small vehicles rarely need to travel long distances. In addition, these pure electric vehicles are often used where a conventional engine is banned as on lakes and indoors or where it is impracticable as with underwater vehicles.

By contrast, half the electric vehicle market value lies in larger road vehicles, notably cars, and here the legal restrictions are weaker or non-existent and range anxiety compels most people to buy hybrids if they go electric at all.

Electric Vehicles—Land, Sea & Air Europe 2011
IDTechEx is producing an event looking at the whole range of electric vehicles. The “Electric Vehicles—Land, Sea & Air Europe 2011” conference and exhibition will take place in Stuttgart, Germany 27–28 June.
Optional masterclasses and visits to local centers of excellence in the subject are offered on the day before and the day after this event. There will be an investment session and an awards dinner.
The company is also producing a US variant of the conference in San Jose, California in November.

Largest sector by value. By value, hybrid cars are now the largest electric vehicle sector and, since they will be with us for at least fifteen more years, improving the hybrid technology is of major interest. Indeed, it will benefit the rapidly growing sectors of hybrid buses, trucks, boats and aircraft. For example, the new IDTechEx report, “Electric Buses and Taxis 2011-2021” forecasts more than 91,000 hybrid electric buses being made in 2021.

They will sell for up to 65% more than the price of conventional buses but still have lower total cost of ownership over life. Most importantly, the local and national governments and transit companies buying buses are determined to go green. That means a global hybrid bus market of around $40 billion in 2021 by our analysis. Equivalent forecasts for hybrid cars can be found in the IDTechEx report, “Hybrid and Pure Electric Cars 2011-2021”.

Here come range extenders. All that is dependent on progressing from internal combustion engines not designed for this purpose to engines optimized for use in hybrid power trains. Such vehicles will have the substantial all-electric range demanded by users, having batteries storing more energy and plug-in capability. That will become the case for land, water and airborne hybrid vehicles.

Second or third generation? The more battery/ less engine scenario is encompassed in the term range-extended hybrid. These second generation engines retain piston-driven, internal combustion technology. By contrast, third-generation hybrid engines dispense with pistons in order to improve environmental credentials even more and offer further benefits of size, weight, cost, reliability, economy and alternative fuels or at least some of these.

The question is whether we shall jump straight to these third-generation engines for hybrids. After all, they are already seen in some buses and aircraft and a Suzuki two wheeler and they are in trials on many other platforms.

Taking the second-generation approach, Lotus, the DLR German Aerospace Agency and others have designed simplified “monoblock” engines that are more economical in fuel use, lower cost to buy, less polluting, space saving and potentially more reliable.

Taking the third-generation approach are fuel cells from Intelligent Energy in the UK and others and Bladon Jets mini turbines. Bladon Jets in the UK is an investment of Tata Motors Europe, which will incorporate two of these devices in each of its planned Jaguar CX75 electric supercars. Daimler AG subsidiary Mercedes Benz in Germany will soon put on sale the world’s first electric car with a fuel cell range extender.

In Italy, ENFICA-FC has successfully flown its two-seater aircraft with a fuel cell range extender and AeroVironment in the USA has fuel cell extended Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAVs in the form of aircraft, a Northrop Grumman version being a fuel cell range extended electric airship.

Could these third-generation hybrid power trains enter mass markets soon and obsolete second generation designed-to-purpose ICE range extenders before they are launched? The answer seems to be no. There is now evidence that there is some window of opportunity for the interim product—perhaps upgrading the impressive Adam Opel Ampera in Europe, for example.

Second generation success. Lotus Engineering has recently received enquiries from several OEMs to take 5,000-10,000 units of its simplified internal combustion engine annually. This device is specifically optimized for the near constant revs and torque of a hybrid vehicle range extender. The new Lotus Range Extender [earlier post] is a three-cylinder monoblock motor, meaning the head is inseparable from the block, which lowers weight, reduces production cost, and eliminates a major point of potential failure—the head gasket, bane many of today’s hybrid engines. In addition, the exhaust manifold is cast into the block, for the same reasons as the integral head.

Now Lotus Engineering in the UK has told Autocar that it has received “significant” interest in its range-extending engine for series hybrid passenger cars. Chief Project Engineer Lee Jeffcoat told the publication that there is interest from several companies in acquiring 5,000 to 10,000 units annually, including three major passenger car manufacturers.

He added that some small-scale automakers have also inquired about taking between 100 and 1,000 units a year. The 3-cylinder gasoline (petrol) engine has been undergoing testing in a range of vehicles, including Jaguar’s Limo-Green, though the planned Jaguar supercar will use Bladon Jets mini turbines as range extenders. The lotus product is also being tested for Proton’s EMAS, and Lotus Cars’ Evora 414E hybrid concept car. This, and consultation with potential customers, has led to changes to the design. One example of this is that the engine can now be installed at any angle between vertical or horizontal.

Lotus Engineering is also preparing a supercharged variant alongside a naturally aspirated version. When supplies commence, production will be outsourced to Spain’s Fagor Ederlan Group. It remains to be seen which company will be the first to use this engine in a production vehicle.

Europe in the lead. The Europeans are therefore leaders in range extenders for hybrids as they gradually transmogrify into pure electric vehicles. The Europeans are fairly strong in traction electric motors but the Europeans are weak in the traction battery technology required for all forms of electric vehicles; their efforts, while impressive, being early stage Third Generation such as Oxis Energy lithium sulphur batteries, or niche such as military and other traction batteries from SAFT in France and ABSL in the UK. Volume production of today’s second generation lithium-ion batteries is being left to the East Asian giants such as Panasonic, LG Chem and Samsung, with automotive leader Toyota making its own.

IDTechEx is a research and consulting firm primarily providing services in the printed electronics, energy harvesting and RFID markets.



I've always considered the hybrid drivetrain ideal.

Our real problem is not how we power our automobiles as much as that we drive too much, too far, for too many purposes with too high costs and impact.

The plug-in hybrid drivetrain, combined with rooftop photovoltiac solar panels, offers households the choice whether to drive or use hybrid battery pack energy to cut household electricity bills.

Picture an emergency grid-failure practice drill: How long can a household with a rooftop photovoltiac system with a plug-in hybrid battery pack function on minimal electricity? This leads to conservation of household electricity use AND conservation of energy used for transport.

With an ICE, the emergency grid-failure duration practice drill can be extended via the use of whatever combustable fuel is available.

With a BEV or fuel cell vehicle, once the means to recharge the battery pack or fuel cell is exausted, so too the household reaches its limit of functioning off the grid.

In addition, the plug-in hybrid battery pack is about 1/3 the size of a BEV battery pack. Thus, we must choose whether to power 1 BEV or 3 PHEVs.


The FFV hybrid could be an optimal use of batteries and resources. If the Open Fuel Standard passes, we could have million of cars that can run methanol. If we put in methanol blender pumps, we have M100 and can run fuel cells when they come along.

Mid grade 89 octane gasoline is not recommended by any car maker. Those pumps could be used to dispense E85, M85 or any ratio with blender pumps. Of our 150,000 fuel stations with more than 1 million pumps, only about 2000 are E85 mostly in the mid west with more than 8 million FFVs on the U.S. roads. We need to do more.


SJC, agreed about the FFV hybrid leading. It is doubtful the US EPA will ever allow M100 as it is so dangerously toxic.

As for leadership - not sure which Euro cars are considered range extended and where they can be purchased.


M100 can be dispensed safely.


"Methanol is toxic, but it is less toxic than the petroleum fuels. In 1991, the U.S. Department of Energy
concluded gasoline to be more hazardous to human health than neat (pure) methanol.

Methanol poses no known cumulative health hazard and is not classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic. The
petroleum fuels are a complex blend of chemicals that include, for example, benzene, a chemical that is
considered to be extremely toxic and carcinogenic."




Please take a second look at methanol's toxicity.

Paraphrasing myself (from http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/archives/2009/09/webchat_larry_burns_discusses_hydrogen_technology.html ):

    (I’m no expert, but methanol does, indeed, seam to bring a health hazard which may turn out a big problem. It is absorbed from skin, lung, etc. and if drunk “It is toxic: drinking 10 ml will cause blindness, and as little as 100 ml will cause death”. Is kind of scary for general usage. In industry, with assured proper care, it’s ok.

Nick Lyons


What happens if you drink 100ml of gasoline? I'm no fan of methanol as a fuel (low energy density), but I'm not so sure it's less safe than gasoline.


I do not advise that you drink either methanol or gasoline. If you worry about absorption through the skin, do not bathe in either. Methanol is much less harmful than gasoline with under ground tank leaks.



As I wrote, I'm no expert, and will not pose as one. Information I gathered over time always pointed to methanol as being a lot more hazardous to human beings.

I've seen many times careless people "pumping" gasoline with their lungs using hoses as straws and they kept alive for a long time. (Don't take it as scientific evidence, nor as endorsement to those stupid practices).

I was told by a navy guy that methanol was previously used as torpedo propellant by US NAVY (and then by ours). They had manuals recommending extreme care, including skin exposure (in line with what is written at the CDC site). Tiny amounts in touch with a cut or a wound would be enough to intoxicate leading to blindness and possibly death.

Now and then we hear of an accident here in Brazil were some ignorant guy was dead for using a vessel to drink something previously cleaned with methanol. Trace amounts only leading to big consequences.

Once we had a big controversy here (Brazil) when we used a bit of methanol mixed to the gasoline. We are used to ethanol for a long time as cane and sugar has been a big industry for centuries, but not with methanol.

Safety regulations for workers in fuel service stations would have demanded training and the use of gloves, etc. No way one could make the clerks (or the rest of the public, btw) use gloves given the high temperature we get here. It was difficult making people understand that even though "álcool" (ethanol) was secure, similar looking methanol-alcohol was not, and demanded great care.

Methanol is still not allowed in planes/flight. Not even tiny methanol-water fuel cells used to recharge/extend notebook or smartphone battery "range". There were companies developing similar ethanol-water setups to avoid those usage limitations.

The point is that while the economics are ok, and that methanol is not a wide scale hazardous material to the environment, it is poisonous and hazardous to human beings, even more than gasoline, or at least in more acute ways. While it can be safely handled by care-taking informed people for industrial uses, it brings some risks to the general population from potential (and probable) misuse.

I don't feel comfortable proposing an alternative energy carrier that bring that kind of externalities to the general public. While better than energy-starve, it's not really desirable. Most of what can be done with methanol could be done with less hazardous ethanol or methane/NG/SNG with a bit more of effort.

    What happens if you drink 100ml of gasoline?
I guess it won't make any good.

If the guy was not forced by savage mobsters, or in a strange accident, he should get psychiatric help!
But note that gasoline, diesel or ethanol are not even listed in the CDC's - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) - "The Emergency Response Safety and Health Database" at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/AgentListCategory.html, while methanol, ethylene-glycol, etc. are. Methanol is classified in the "Systemic Agents". Just to have it clear, they're not talking of the whole environment here, but about humans.

Could it be overstated ? Maybe, but neither I'm not in a position to refute, nor I have any credible input to do so.


For those people that worry a lot, they can put rolls of thin plastic gloves near the pump and you can dispose of them in the recycle bin. Any residual fluid on the pump handle will evaporate before you come in contact with it.

It could be argued that you get more methanol in your system drinking diet soda than you will ever get from a methanol pump handle.


Lots of people (many of them chuldren!) get drenched with glow fuel at RC model airplane fields across the US, for many decades.. Yep, its 70% methanol. They also breathe the fumes in.. must be the reason my hair is thinning out after such a long time :)


I read somewhere that Fagor Ederlan will manufacture the Lotus range extender, but they will not use the modular "one casting" for the head or exhaust header. Another promising range extender is the pulse detonation turbine out of the University of Michigan.. that one promises very light weight and high efficiency. Light weight and low cost are the most important factors for range extenders... assuming the plug-in BEV has a sizable battery.


OFS will make FFVs that run on ethanol, methanol or gasoline at almost no extra cost per car. What fuels we provide is our choice. If E85 is any indication, there will be few alternative fuel pumps until incentives make it happen. Those could be profits and/or assistance but one thing is clear, if we do nothing it will just get worse.


Is the headline just an attention grabber? A sort of joke?

Or is publishing "plans" to do something the same as doing it.

The comments to this entry are closed.