• Apr 20th 2010 at 9:29AM
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With 10.2 million fleet vehicles in use in the U.S., innovative start-up company Alte saw a market opportunity to develop a plug-in hybrid conversion that would transform the nation's inefficient vehicles into the fleet of the future. The company, founded less than two short years ago, hopes to convert 500,000 fleet vehicles over to extended-range plug-in hybrids in the next six years. While conversions are quite a regular occurrence, Alte offers something that most don't: a 50,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Here's a brief Alte history. Fifteen months ago, the company had little more than a Powerpoint presentation demonstrating its ideas and worked out of a small place in Plymouth, MI. Now, with 185,000 square feet of space in Auburn Hills, MI, 16 employees (expected to be over 300 by 2012) and former Chrysler President Thomas LaSorda and former Chrysler sales executive Steven Landry on the company's board of directors, the future looks bright. Add in $8.4 million in state tax credits and the possibility of a $101 million loan from the Department of Energy, and the ball is rolling in the right direction.

Alte has developed the plug-in powertrain in-house. Converted vehicles will travel 40 miles on a full charge before the gasoline engine springs to life. In most applications, vehicles will have a 400-mile range and return between 80 and 200 percent better fuel economy than non-converted counterparts. Who's buying? The company recently signed a $240 million deal with Gulfstream Coach for 3,000 powertrain kits for shuttle bus use. And, if you still don't believe that the company has a chance, there's one more thing to add: all three founders worked for Tesla Motors back in those early days in 2007 when few believed that the company would ever make it.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      They seem to have the high volume conversion space all to themselves. Hopefully the per vehicle cost for the conversion will be cheap enough to make it worthwhile versus just buying a brand new all-electric vehicle and selling off the old one (which will bring anywhere from $15k to $80k depending on size/type of vehicle).

      I'll have to put Alte on my watch list.
      • 5 Years Ago

      The conversion process consists of replacing most of a vehicle's whole drivetrain with its modular series hybrid system (like that in the Chevy Volt "extended range electric vehicle"). It can be sized for vehicles from pickup truck size on up through medium-sized trucks, vans, and light buses. Components/processes:
      ENGINE: up to 5.4L gas or Diesel is replaced with a 2.0L or 3.3L gas engine driving one or two 82 kW permanent magnet (PM) generators.
      AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION: kept but re-tuned, with the torque converter removed to enable 90+% efficiency); the motor/generators connect to wheels through the transmission.
      ACCESSORIES: retained but electrically driven.
      MOTOR/GENERATORS: 2-3 82 kW PM, the same ones used for the engine-generator set.
      BATTERY: 15-70 kWh Li-ion battery pack, depending on vehicle size, for up to 52 miles of pure electric (EV) driving per charge.
      OPERATION: Vehicle is driven as an EV until the battery is depleted, then the engine is started to keep the battery from further discharge. The engine is not mechanically connected to the wheels.
      PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY: As a hybrid — after a 40-50 mile all-electric range — mileage expected to improve by 55-130% over the original vehicle (25-32 MPG vs. 14-16 MPG for an unconverted Ford F-150).
      ATTENTION TO DETAIL, including a liquid battery cooling system, and additional weight of as little as 200 lb.
      CONVERSION COSTS of as little as $21k per vehicle."
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thanks for the info, herm! You answered my question about cost - and it's a WINNER at $21,000 per conversion. Since they are replacing the ICE and many of the components this could be the ideal answer to the question of what to do with a high mileage commercial vehicle!

        Oh, and that you get such a boost in fuel economy is just icing on the cake.

        Increasing fuel economy in trucks by 50% or more would go a long way toward freeing us from the grip of foreign oil.

      • 5 Years Ago
      ahh its all clear.. they remove the V8 in a truck and replace it with a transversely mounted 2.0L genset.. its a series hybrid. There is an animation in the ALTe website that explains it clearly.

      • 5 Years Ago
      So the fact that they worked for Tesla is supposed to give me more confidence in them?
      • 5 Years Ago
      THANK GOD, finally!
      When can we buy one?
      People are going to drive trucks, why not make them plug in hybrids.
      There is a HUGE demand for this technology in a 4x4 pickup. I live in Canada where it's not uncommon to wake up to a foot of snow on the road. I would like to be able to still get to work, store or where ever.
      I know that some people think that we don't need 4x4 trucks, try to get your little car through anything higher than 6 inches, not going to happen.
      Plug in series hybrids though are the way to go, I want one.
      • 5 Years Ago
      it may be tailored towards converting gov (fed, state and local) fleets, and as such price wont be too important.

      The picture on the original article shows a motor over the transaxle of a transversely mounted engine, on what appears to be a truck chassis.. a FWD truck on a chassis?

      Most likely they are doing a pancake motor placed behind the clutch or torque converter. Any links on their conversion kits?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, look at that, they want to do what the auto manufacturers refuse to do. I though we bailed out some auto corps to retool and make vehicles like this. What happened?
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