Hybrid VW Bus

The fleet of internal combustion/electric vehicles David Arthurs built in the late 1970s/early 1980s included a hybrid VW bus.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
May/June 1980
Add to My MSN

David's newest car conversion, a hybrid VW bus.

Content Tools

Nearly a year ago in 1979 we featured an article about a 75-mile-per-gallon hybrid electric car that a gentleman named David Arthurs from Springdale, Arkansas had put together for a total of $1,500. Six months after that we ran a short update on the success of Dave's design and mentioned that he was working on several other alternative transportation projects that we felt sure MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readers would want to know about.

Well, Mr. Arthurs recently gave us a call to let us know that one of those vehicles — his hybrid VW transporter bus — is now on the road and in regular use.

The Volkswagen bus uses essentially the same circuit as did Dave's original hybrid Opel GT. He has, however, made some improvements and design changes which not only simplify construction of the vehicle, but make it a downright practical form of urban transportation.

The new hybrid delivery van still uses a 400 amp starter/generator as its "prime mover," and that motor is coupled to the existing transmission through a clutch and commercially available adapter plate. Four batteries within the vehicle provide "juice" to make the system operate. The big change is the charging setup: Instead of mounting an internal combustion engine within the body of the bus, the inventor chose to mount it — and its generator "mate" — on a separate trailer fabricated from some pieces of tubular steel. Heavy gauge welding cable ties the mobile power-pack to the VW's drive motor, and the trailer itself is clamped tightly onto the rear bumper of the tow vehicle.

In addition, Dave has opted, for economy reasons, to go with a 9-HP Lombardini air-cooled diesel engine rather than a more conventional gasoline-powered unit and, with the generator charging at a rate of 200 amps, the soundness of that decision is verified by the 1/2-gallon-per-hour fuel consumption figure that David has calculated. Other changes include a reduction in the number of relays required (he now needs only two ... the main power and generator switches).

With his delivery vehicle as it is now, the engineer has the option of either disconnecting the power trailer completely (and taking short local drives on battery-stored energy) or leaving the trailer connected, and — with help from the diesel engine — providing "juice" to his power packs for an extended driving range at in-town speeds.

At this point, Mr. Arthurs is — to say the least — sold on hybrid electric vehicles. He is, in fact, so involved in the concept that he's started a newsletter to encourage an exchange of information among HEV enthusiasts. So, if you're building a hybrid car and need a little help, drop Dave a line ... and by all means, if you've finished your home-built fuel-sipper, be sure to let MOTHER EARTH NEWS know about it!

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.