Knoxville company helping build affordable hybrid engine

Knoxville company helping build affordable hybrid engine

At NTRC, they're developing a drive system that weighs 60 pounds. At NTRC, they're developing a drive system that weighs 60 pounds.

April 26, 2006

By JOHN HANEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- No matter how you slice it, we're still paying about 70 cents more per gallon for gas than this time last year. But a Knoxville company is working to make gas saving technology more widely available.

The National Transportation Research Center (NTRC) in West Knoxville is building an affordable hybrid motor for U.S. consumers.

Program manager Mitch Olszewski says, "The motor right now is probably about 40 percent too heavy. And it's about twice as costly as it really needs to be, in order to be a cost effective option."

With Toyota now the undisputed world leader for hybrids, the U.S. admittedly has some catching up to do. But engineers with NTRC have a plan.

"Our goal, working with the Department of Energy, is to reduce the cost of those components that make the hybrid vehicle. So that you the consumer could make your money back in three years or less, with gasoline at about three or four dollars a gallon," Olszewski says.

A Toyota Prius motor, currently on the market, weighs about 150 pounds. But at NTRC, they're developing a drive system that weighs 60 pounds. It would have the motor, the transmission and the generator. When it gets to market, that would result in much more efficiency at a much lower cost.

"So we're talking about really leapfrog technology in this area, which is really what it's going to take to overcome the Japanese lead right now and to establish the U.S. in a leadership position," Olszewski says.

Throw in the reduced emissions and decreased dependence on foreign oil resulting from the new and improved hybrids and it's a win-win future for all American car owners.

The research center hopes to have its hybrid products on the market within three years.

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