Electric Car Conversion: The Amazing 75-MPG Hybrid Car

Gasoline-electric hybrid cars aren't a new idea. In this electric car conversion, an Opel GT becomes a gasoline-electric hybrid car.

| July/August 1979


The car's exterior and its curb weight remain virtually unchanged.


With the price of gasoline already out of sight, just about everyone is scrambling for a way to squeeze the last possible drop of energy from each precious gallon. However, David Arthurs of Springdale, Ark. probably couldn't care less. He has designed and built a car that can travel 75 miles or more on just four quarts of the expensive liquid!

What's his secret? Electric car conversion; Dave took a standard gasoline-powered Opel GT and turned it into a hybrid electric car. The car is driven by an electric motor whose  "juice" comes courtesy of an ordinary, fuel-stingy lawn-mower engine! Now the fact that the system works isn't really surprising. What's amazing is that the crossbreed hookup performs so well! According to David, the Opel has not only a virtually unlimited range (when driven prudently), but also a top speed of 90 miles per hour. And it emits a minimum of pollutants as it tools along the highway. Better yet, the car can—if need be—run on its batteries alone for short in-town hops. It will never be "stranded" as long as there's fuel in the "on board" generator!

(Learn more about our Hybrid Car Blueprints.) 

World War II Technology

Mr. Arthurs is the first to admit that there's nothing "new" to the system he's developed. In fact, all the technology incorporated into his design has been available for about 35 years, just waiting for someone to put two and two together and make the whole thing work. "I began researching the idea for a hybrid electric auto about a year ago. There wasn't much information to be found on the subject, so I designed a system from scratch. In about a month's evening-and-weekend time, I had the car finished and running."

Surprisingly enough, the project didn't cost a fortune, either. Because the vehicle's components are either standard "off the shelf" hardware or available as reasonably priced military surplus, the conversion to "hybrid drive" only set Dave back about $1,500. By the same token, any necessary replacement parts are easily obtainable, and a good deal of the equipment can be "scrounged" rather than purchased new.

How it Works

In essence, David has utilized a small gas lawn-mower engine to drive a generator, which supplies the vehicle's drive motor with electricity. To do so, he first removed the Opel's original power-plant and installed a 400-amp DC motor/generator (actually a jet engine's starting motor) in its place. (Since there's no need for a clutch in Dave's setup, the stock unit was pulled out and the main shaft of the drive motor was fastened directly to the input shaft of the car's transmission.) Then, to provide a consistent source of power for this motor (and to supply an energy storage bank), the engineer installed four 12-volt, heavy-duty automobile batteries—in series—which are "fed" by a 100-amp generator that's run off a 5-horsepower lawnmower engine.

7/14/2014 5:03:48 AM

Hybrid car use raise in a huge level now, most of people like to drive these type of cars. It can generally run by electricity and battery is the important part of he car so always charging should required for running. http://www.europeanmotorcarsalpharetta.com/

fred moran
2/27/2011 12:38:59 PM

Mark S. I too am interested in David Arthur"s hybrid car plans. Please let me know if you hear anything. Thanks Fred

mark s.
2/11/2011 12:31:58 PM

Intrigued by David Arthur's brilliantly simple design--especially that it uses mostly available parts. However, I've been trying to find info beyond the plans for years. And, even tho MEN says it is their top selling plan I have yet to find anybody actually making such vehicles. Frankly if they've sold 60,000 plans their should be somewhere around 60 to 600 similar vehicles built. If anybody can direct me to a an actual builder's site I'd be much appreciative. Thanks!!!

1/8/2010 9:51:39 PM

I will warn some of you that there is a EPA ruling that may work against you if you attempt to use a portable generator to power a vehicle in this manor. Power Generators have been ruled that they must be "Stationary" while in operation... Make sure that the vehicle can run on "electricity only" while undergoing your state emission tests... Or that the generator can run on Propane or Natural Gas so that the generator can pass regular emission tests...Or convert a vehicle that is 'emissions exempt" due to its age

aaron carruth_4
7/19/2009 9:41:45 PM

i found the original blueprits to dave's idea. if you are interested please email me. the_1_killers_fan@yahoo.com

sparkie v watt
3/27/2009 1:52:01 PM

Are Dave's plans still availabile ? SVW

3/13/2009 8:36:31 AM

I once drew up a design somewhat similar to this design, with the exception of using an electric motor, my design called for a 200HP hydraulic motor, in which a 12HP lawnmower engine would in the end power. In the end I really like this idea presented here, and maybe someone who has the time and cash can utilize my concept so I can see if it would even have worked! :)

7/1/2008 5:03:19 PM

I think it's a cool idea. The car companies should take notes from this guy. I wonder how a Honda Generator would fit into the equation? It's much quieter and produces greater power more efficiently doesn't it? Just a thought,....

5/3/2007 10:14:28 PM


3/29/2007 4:28:05 PM

If you hear anything on this topic i am also interested.thanks,

3/25/2007 11:10:37 PM

Hello! We are seeking information about Eco Village, the MEN farm. We visited there in 1984 and were very impressed with the research and model homes/alternative energy adaptations. We heard it is no longer in operation, but is there another experimental farm in another location? Thank you, L and L Glass, Hauser Lake, Idaho

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