The Ford F-150 pickup truck has been an unparalleled sales success throughout the era of cheap gasoline. There are millions upon millions of F-150s on American roads. But with the days of cheap gas and chart-topping full-size pickup truck sales past us, we are left with a big question.
F-150 gas mileage figures have languished for decades. As a consequence, countless companies and individuals are burdened with trucks that have become too expensive to operate. As this cloud has settled upon the country, owners have been asking, “is there an honest-to-goodness way to dramatically increase the gas mileage of the F-150s that are prowling our streets?”
One of the answers surfaced at the Plug-In 2008 conference in San Jose, California this past week.
The folks at Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies, Inc. (HEVT) – a start-up out of the Illinois Institute of Technology – have designed a bolt-in hybrid system that pairs a hefty electric motor, batteries, electronics, and software with the stock F-150 drive train.
HEVT’s goal is to retrofit the existing fleet of F-150s.
It’s not just about the F-150s that have already found a home. The unwanted trucks currently being traded in – as well as those coming off lease – are piling up in dealer, wholesaler, and auction lots represent a positively enormous opportunity.
HEVT brought a fully operational prototype to Plug-In 2008, equipped with a 12 kWh battery pack. In this configuration, the truck promises a 15 mile pure electric range, with up to 41 MPG in 30 miles of mixed speed driving. While the numbers might seem small to some, this is an initial prototype that more that doubles the standard mileage, and a worthy real-world contender in the Automotive X-Prize competition.
As Andy Grove’s Plug-In 2008 keynote brought to light, a huge opportunity to jump start our economy awaits. The backs of the pioneers must be strong, to both carry the weight and fend off the inevitable arrows and hatchets.
The folks at HEVT aren’t just pioneers. They’re true American heroes.
– by Daniel Gray