Italian startup wants to speed up transition to EVs

February 11, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Italian researchers from the Energy and Propulsion Laboratory (eProLab) at the University of Salerno have developed a kit, dubbed the HySolarKit, which converts conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) two-wheel cars into a four-wheel drive hybrid.

Currently prototyped and tested on a FIAT Punto, the hybridization kit consists of two in-wheel motors replacing conventional passive rear wheels, flexible photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof and the car bonnet, a battery and some control electronics.

Lead project researcher and professor at the Industrial Engineering Departement of Salerno's University, Gianfranco Rizzo says the prototype served as a proof-of-concept to study the upgrade feasibility from ICE to hybrid vehicles and to work on the control algorithms.

Together with research partners, he has set up the startup EProInn (short for Energy and Propulsion Innovation - and is now seeking funding through the Equity Crowdfunding platform Assiteca Crowd to produce and commercialize the kit.

The spin-off company is also looking at a possible partnership with Landi Renzo SpA, a company that designs and sells Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and Compressed natural gas (CNG) alternative automotive fuel systems and components and whose distribution network could give a boost to EProInn's visibility.

Initial tests have shown that during sunny days, the on-board photovoltaic panels can contribute up to 30% of the overall energy requested for vehicle traction, when vehicles are used for approximately one hour per day in urban areas (all this without relying on a lagging EV recharging infrastructure).

This has two effects on the ICE car, reducing fuel consumption and emissions while improving performance thanks to the added traction.

Currently, the hybridization kit sports 18% efficient flexible single-crystal silicon HF65 photovoltaic panels manufactured by Enecom, adding to the car about 270W of solar power. But Rizzo is confident that by the time the kit matures to a full production run, he'll be able to choose more efficient solar panels at decreased costs.