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HPEV Makes Any Engine A Hybrid

HPEV is among the many companies trying to transform transport by making it more efficient.

CEO Tim Hassett said his Hybrid Plugin Electric Vehicle has patents on a technique for using heat pipes to turn engine waste heat into electricity, which can then help power the vehicle. The electric motor acts as a "load assist," meaning the main engine doesn't work as hard and uses less fuel. In an automotive application it all gets attached to your rear axle.

Hassett, who turned around a company called Hawk Motors after working for GE, is working with a company called Inverom in Chicago on the retrofits, focusing on vehicles the size of the Ford F150 or Dodge RAM 5500, which presently have mileage ratings in the single digits. (The company says Inverom can turn around a vehicle in a single day.)

Part of the pitch for commercial fleets is a quick Return On Investment (NYSE:ROI) calculation, showing that the expense saves money fairly quickly. By re-using the heat generated by motors, brakes and other car parts, Hassett says his team not only saves fuel but extends the life of a commercial engine. And not just car engines. All kinds of motors, including the largest from GE and Siemens, can use the technology.

Hassett is based in Santa Rosa, California, near the Sonoma Valley, but his team is virtual, in places like Florida and Pittsburgh. He says he's been working in electric vehicles all his life, because continuous miners that work underground have always been electric. "The technology used today isn't much different from what was presented" back in the 1960s by his father, he told me. But back then the car companies didn't want to hear about things like variable frequency drives and regenerative braking. They also didn't have lithium-ion batteries, and Hassett says they don't need them, that with his technology lead-acid batteries work fine.

When people criticize alternative energy they usually talk about solar or wind power being non-economic. But the cheapest renewable energy is still the energy you don't use. This is the energy HPEV captures. If we can cut commercial vehicle fuel use by 20%, and extend engine lives, at a reasonable price, owners are going to go for it in a big way.

Hassett and his team, which includes Quentin Ponder and engineer Mark Hadowanec, who worked at Siemens, are just one group out of many who are transforming the economy based on this cheapest renewable energy. Refitting and updating existing products so they do more with less fuel is money in the pocket, and just one way in which the renewable energy world isn't what you think it is.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.