NASA Spinoff

Retrofits Convert Gas Vehicles into Hybrids

“This is breakthrough technology,” says NetGain Technologies member Dennis Bieschke. “EMIS allows people to convert the vehicle they have and not buy a new hybrid vehicle.” This makes it economically possible for many people to own a hybrid, Bieschke notes, especially fleet owners who cannot afford to invest in an entirely new fleet to enhance the efficiency and lessen the environmental impact. For fleet or other vehicles with standard, readily available parts, the conversion process can be accomplished in one day, says George Hamstra, also a NetGain member.

“You can drive a vehicle in as a gas vehicle in the morning and drive it out as a hybrid in the afternoon,” Hamstra says.

Not only has NetGain pioneered a commercial HRS based on its work with NASA, but it has also innovated the related electric motor technology. The company learned from the various mechanical failures it encountered during the development of the HRS system with NASA, which led Hamstra to make a series of positive engineering changes to electric motors. NetGain’s sales of these advanced motors quadrupled from 2004 to 2005 and nearly tripled again in 2006. In 2007, Hamstra formed a sister company, NetGain Motors Inc., to focus on manufacturing and marketing the entire line of electric motors.

“We now have well over 150 dealers worldwide that are dependent on these motors,” says Hamstra. The company’s WarP, ImPulse, and TransWarP motor products have rescued an Illinois motor manufacturer, whose business repairing forklift motors had drastically declined; production of NetGain’s motors now supports over 100 jobs at the manufacturing facility.

The combination of the electric motors with the EMIS system has provided an affordable hybrid vehicle option for everyone from celebrities to garage mechanics, says Bieschke. While the benefits to fuel economy change depending on the vehicle, motor and battery size, and driving conditions, NetGain’s results from its delivery truck testbed indicated fuel savings of 15–26 percent. The company believes the short-distance, multiple-stop delivery truck market—trucks used by everyone from the U.S. Postal Service to food distributors, over 8.5 million in the United States alone by NetGain’s estimation—represent an ultimate application for the HRS technology. For these vehicles, the general estimated cost of the conversion is $9,000–$10,000, a cost typically paid back through fuel savings within 30–42 months.

“The system employs impressive technology, tapping into the vehicle’s computer and other sensors to apply the appropriate amount of electrical assist,” says David Hrivnak, a Kingsport, Tennessee-based industrial engineer for Eastman Chemical Company. As a personal project, Hrivnak outfitted his Chevrolet Avalanche with NetGain’s EMIS system and TransWarp motor and realized a more than 15-percent improvement in gas mileage. “I have yet to find any other technology that allows someone to make a significant improvement in efficiency for an existing vehicle,” Hrivnak says. The converted hybrid Avalanche also experienced a performance boost, shaving a full halfsecond off its quarter-mile elapsed time.

The current success and potential of NetGain Technologies and NetGain Motors originates with the NASA partnership, Hamstra says. “Without the NASA funding, we would not have NetGain Technologies nor NetGain Motors, and we would not have this HRS technology.”

NetGain’s work with NASA may have started with a dragster, but its benefits have gone far beyond advanced engineering. NetGain donated its original HRS prototype delivery truck to the Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry in Naperville, Illinois, providing fuel savings as the organization delivers food to more than 15,000 individuals in need.

EMIS™ is a trademark of NetGain Technologies LLC. WarP™, ImPulse™, and TransWarP™ are trademarks of NetGain Motors Inc.