UK Project Looks to Maximize Use of Range Extenders in Electric Vehicles


In the UK, De Montfort University’s Department of Technology is leading a $604,000 study (partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund) aimed at advancing range extenders.

BMW i3 w/o REx

BMW i3 w/o REx

Joining the University is CENEX, the Centre of Excellence for low carbon and fuel cell technologies.

Dr. Eric Goodyer of De Montfort University says this in regards to the study:

 “Electric vehicles are now an established technology, and available from many major vehicle manufacturers.  They are of particular value in urban environments, and are supported by a growing infrastructure of charging points.”

“However, their perceived lack of range is holding back market penetration for travellers who make long journeys. This is where Range Extenders can make a major contribution.”

“Existing techniques consist of little more than a traditionally powered motor that is used to recharge the vehicle’s primary drive battery pack.”

Chevy Volt Range Extender

Chevy Volt Range Extender

“They can add literally 100s of miles to the vehicle’s range, but are little more than a simplistic battery charger that cuts in when the battery is getting low. This research project will examine more fuel efficient means of delivering range extension.”

The study will focus on three main points:

  • The vehicle’s performance will be modeled to develop a battery charge algorithm that minimizes fuel use.
  • Artificial intelligence will be explored to determine how it can be used to manage the range extender
  • The study will determine which type of fuel (gas, diesel or hydrogen) should be used in range extenders.

The end goal is to advance the range extender beyond what we see in use today.  The researchers believe that the drop-in gas engines used today are perhaps not the right choice for range-extending operation.  The team of researcher hope to determine what’s the optimal engine/generator for range-extending duties.

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12 Comments on "UK Project Looks to Maximize Use of Range Extenders in Electric Vehicles"

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As somebody who owns a Leaf and a Volt, considering replacing the Leaf with a BMW i3 REX… I’m definitely a believer in range extenders. I definitely hope more research is put into them, making them smaller and cheaper and run on a variety of different fuels.


David – how much range you feel you would need to not want a range extender? Just curious. Thanks.

I have a FFE and am thinking about it.

I’m just waiting for a car that gets 100% or so of it’s ass kickin’ performance from the grid, or maybe the brakes too.

I’m just waiting for a car that gets 100% or so of it’s ass kickin’ performance from the grid, or maybe the brakes too. If it’s an EV when you’re not in the mood, that’d be great too. Sorry, put the wrong name on the last post.

I hate grants like this. Paddy cake inept professor getting big money for bogus project.
My local uni just got the equivalent of 2 million dollars to increase the efficiency of batteries in collaboration with a douche BMS company.
Anyone who is even remotely competent in the field can tell you that a BMS can’t do jack about the efficiency of a battery which means the project is a total waste.
In 2009 the same group got 2.5m to ‘develop electric car technology for the future’. It was a 3 year project. Exactly nothing came of it yet they were given 2 million more.
Numbskull1 giving big money to numbskull2. How it’s possible to be that stupid is an eternal mystery to me.

Idiocracy is based on a true story. It’s got electrolytes.

this study is only a 6000,000$ contract.
That’s not so bad.
maybe they will accomplish something.

I hope they find in favour of a 200cc Turbo Rotary engine running on LPG that lives just behind the rear numberplate as a removable unit.

Forget battery swaps, rent a range extender for the weekend, don’t bother lugging round a genset the rest of the time.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

I’m quite fond of free-piston linear engines if you’re gonna go with combustion engines. Perhaps integrate a turbo into the intake and a steam/ferrofluid reclaimer for exhaust heat.

Better yet, stack ’em so that you can run only the ones you need for the performance you want.

I also like the free piston generator because it has exceptional yield and is very compact in the same time.

Another interesting contender would be a thermoacoustic generator because there is no moving part and also because it can double as an airco unit.

Having recently read the UK review of the i3 REX where they found they were speed limited on the motorway with the range extender running, it is obvious that this type of system needs some artificial intelligence to decide when to turn on the REX based on destination, topography, route and current state of charge. Chevrolet avoided this issue by putting a relatively large ICE in the Volt and Ampera.

I don’t know why a grant to a university is needed for this. Automakers just need to step up and do this kind of obvious optimization.