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40 MPG Ford F-150?

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.

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10 comments ↓

#1 Ryan on 07.29.08 at 10:13 am

I have to say that that is one of the coolest and most inspiring things I have seen in a long time. My F-150 I somehow stretch right now to 20 around the city and a few more on the highway (Makes it hard to go get my AC fixed when I get better mileage because of it). But I would sign up for this in a heart beat if it was even remotely affordable. Right now I feel stuck in between loving the utility and practicality of my truck and the steady shrinking of my wallet and impracticality of it. This “bolt-on” definitely has a bright future and could no doubt jump start Ford (and the truck market as well) within the next 5 years if the technology is where it looks like it is. But your post is absolutely right about the need for this company to be strong backed because if Ford doesn’t pick this up, they are in for an uphill battle with no end in sight. Pessimism aside, this is the first real world example of technology that I really can’t wait to experience.

#2 Steven J. Bowling on 07.30.08 at 10:17 am

I have a F-150 and an Expedition. I would be interested in learning more about this technology,

#3 Eletruk on 08.07.08 at 3:36 pm

So how much would you be willing to pay for one of these kits? I would guess the price to be about $15-20k, based on most conversions cost $8000-10000 for lead acid, and lithium ion batteries for Prius around $8000-$12000 (Prius already have all the electric drive components).
So, yes you can get better mileage, but in reality 15-20k will buy a lot of gas, even at $4 a gallon. I think this as being a better option for municipalities that are looking at end-of-life replacement for existing vehicles, where the cost of the kit would outweigh the price for buying a new vehicle, the gas savings are almost secondary.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this isn’t a good idea. Just the financial side of it isn’t as great as it might look at first blush.

#4 mpg-o-editor on 08.07.08 at 4:06 pm

@Eletruk – Mass production of the technology will bring the price down considerably, but I won’t venture to guess how low it will go. If there is a disruption to the worldwide distribution of oil, these kits may be our best hope.

Government and commercial fleet conversion will be massive for both plug-in electric and natural gas kits, depending on the geographic location.

It’s well suited for retrofitting the hundreds of thousands of trucks that are landing back in the hands of the dealers and wholesalers as they come off lease or are traded in. It could easily create a dilemma for the manufacturers. A $30K 40 MPG late model retrofitted truck will be more attractive then a 15 MPG new truck for a good number of buyers.

At 20,000 miles driven per year with $4 a gallon gasoline, the savings will amount to well over $3,000 per year (minus the cost of electricity).

#5 Today’s Unwanted SUVs Tomorrow’s Collectibles? on 08.23.08 at 9:12 pm

[…] garages to transform the biggest gas-guzzlers into plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs) (like the HEVT F-150) or clean-diesel powered vehicles. The transition of today’s unwanted rolling stock into the […]

#6 James on 10.02.08 at 1:21 pm

Mass production isn’t going to do squat to the price. Everything used in this kit is already mass produced except for putting it together. The cost of a DIY electric conversion kit (available on many sites) for any vehicle will easily cost $5000 – $20000 for a bare bones & low distance solution. Electric cars and conversion kits are super expensive. This ‘invention’ is unsurprising, of course making any car or truck a hybrid is going to increase your mileage. Making it CHEAP is the problem.

#7 mpg-o-editor on 10.02.08 at 2:11 pm

@James – I’d wager that mass production will slash the cost of the Lithium battery packs, which is the biggest single component expense.

High capacity Lithium battery packs are expensive because we haven’t but a fraction of the production capacity at present. There’s no shortage of raw materials. Once the factories are built, the prices will come down. This has happened for RAM, LCDs, Plasma, you name it …

#8 Aspen Electric Motors on 12.07.08 at 1:14 am

One of the Conversion gurus in our shop did several Ford 150s last year before he started on our Porsches.
As our man Pete says: “It’s not rocket science”.

One of his next projects is to convert a VW Bug to All Electric for a local news channel in around a half hour or so.

We like to stay updated with the latest, greatest, state of the art EV components. And it looks like the Neuro Networks system from England is most interesting and we look forward to testing in Colorado.

We have an extra Porsche set a side for R&D/testing if anyone has something new they would like to put to the test. Feel free to get in touch with us via the web site: http://www.AspenElectricMotors.com

#9 2008 Hybrid on 12.20.08 at 6:41 pm

[…] Ford F-150 Hybrid (prototype) […]

#10 Franklin D. Lomax on 05.01.09 at 5:43 pm

As I have written, WSJ, MW, CBS, ABC, Guardian, et al, we can end America’s energy dependence, right now, by simply issuing a permanent NAFTA wide Free Trade $50.00 combined title, registration and license plate, for any converted, new, used electric fuel hybrid. With the light medium and heavy hybrids that we all need thus subsidized with $5000 to $15000 per year of lower costs due to the nationwide gouging competition for revenues. All hybrids would be exempted from entering any state weight or inspection station, whether it is privately owned SUV, RV, Toter truck, construction worker’s private ride, or commercial truck.

WastingtonDC: Detroit will never prosper, or survive, as long as 20 million local, state, and federal bureaucrats work with congress, to force the auto industry to build the wrong products, while they work a nation wide roadblock system designed to extort fees, fines, taxes and roadside repairs, thus applying a hidden tax, to the GDP, that no people would tolerate, were it applied by their own taxing authorities. GM can build a Plug In & Out diesel/CNG fuel/electric hybrid truck, sized to meet the needs of 80,000,000 working Americans, in any of their closed truck factories, and sell every one they can make in the next decade, right now. Or they can let foreign manufacturers get the concept right, first, and introduce the World Truck Hybrid, as Detroit goes out of business. Working Americans must have fuel/electric hybrids, now, at $60K to $120K, or more, for heavier, long range models. None of us can haul our crews, tools, machinery, generators, and materials, in the fly weight Plug In only electrics that are the flavor of the day. The few millions of those fuel/electric mini cars sold this decade, will allow our cadre of millionaire extremist environmentalists to make statements on greening America, while our GDP does not get built, serviced, or delivered, when OPEC’s terror financiers tighten the tap, next time. Working truck owners use, and for that single reason, are best placed to save, some 30 to 60 percent of our liquid transport fuels, this decade, or to replace them with bio-fuels, or US CNG fuels, now. Using World Truck million mile hybrids, present technology batteries, and charging from the grid at off peak electric rates, and charging to the grid, or to our spare battery pod trailers, during peak electric rate hours, we can pay for our investment in a vehicle that lets us live off grid, farm all electric, and cut OPEC’s terror financiers off at the knees. The rest of the world’s workers need the same vehicles, now, to power their family compound, or village when the truck is not on the highway, and to use the locally produced bio-fuels that American farmers and co-ops will use to leave the grid entirely, except when we sell the grid our power, at bonus rates. GM must reclaim it’s ownership of the productive worker’s vehicle market, or turn out the lights, as the last GM worker starves out of Detroit. The congress’s envisioned, limitless subsidy, extorted from our taxpayers will never make the flyweight hybrid’s capable of eliminating our dependence on terror financier’s cartel/suppliers, for petroleum based fuels. On the other hand, simple federal preemption of all title, license, and and other taxes and fees extorted by our 20 million civil servants, most neither civil, nor servants of our peoples, from working truck owners, and passed on to their customers, and their helpless families, will result in energy independence, within a generation, at no felt cost to the taxpayers, by stopping egregious tax, fee, fine, and roadside repair extortion that costs billions of dollars and thousands of highway deaths and injuries yearly, all for nothing but revenue competition among city, county, state, and federal bureaucracy. The “no felt cost to American taxpayers” solution is easy, and simple: Issue a NAFTA wide fixed price, federal $50.00 title and permanent license plate, for any new, used, or converted hybrid vehicle, of any size, or weight, and their power pod pup trailers, and any trailer used by those hybrids. The permanent plate allows “free trade” use of any NAFTA highway, including all of the US system, Canada, et al. for the life of the vehicle, as long as it uses fuel produced within NAFTA, or electricity generated within NAFTA, to replace liquid transport fuels imported from outside NAFTA. This subsidy results from unheard of tax relief from interstate tax competition, and does not come out of the working families pay check. Vehicles using imported fuels will continue to pay $5000 to $10,000 per year, at the tax fee and fine road blocks, but every GM/Detroit, UAW/CAW World Truck Hybrid series vehicle, will be exempt from the time, fuel and life wasting tax competition, at up to two dozen weigh stations in a run from NY to LA. That hybrid exemption will end the production of light medium and large Petroleum Fueled vehicles within a decade or two, and free America from imported energy dependence, while reducing the cost of working American’s personal and business vehicles, and the draconian hidden taxes the bureaucracy imposes on every thing purchased by American citizens. That would be everything not delivered the last miles, to the customer, or vendor, by airplane, ship, or train, using airfields, piers, or train depots, hidden just like the draconian tax, fee, fine and roadside repair extortion that costs every consumer a huge portion of the price of every product or service that makes our life possible, and worthwhile. Of course, the infrastructure necessary to support fuel/electric hybrid trucks will be built first, and fast, by the private sector, and will support the Plug In and Out mini hybrids that will be built, once we have returned the OPEC cartel and their terror financiers to their caves, with their misguided supporters in relative penury, since their terror tax on all petroleum based transport fuels will be collected, by NAFTA and other nations of the free world, at their own borders, instead of by the terror financiers of the Levant. Break out, build the products that we need, and break the backs of our terror financier petroleum suppliers.

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