Justin over at Treehugger.com recently wrote about a standard Mini One which was converted into a stunning gas-electric hybrid by the British engineering firm PML. Instead of implementing a complex, parallel drivetrain system that splits power between electricity and gas, this little rocket's wheels are only driven off it's electric motors. There's one in each wheel. The small internal combustion engine only comes to life when the batteries need recharging. Since it's a plug-in hybrid, that shouldn't happen all that often.
The benefits that PML claims their in-wheel drive technology has are as follows:
- It's adaptable to other chassis
- It eliminates the need for gearing and a mechanical drivetrain
- It allows more space inside the car
But aren't hub motors bad? It seems as though every automotive engineer would tell you that overall weight reduction is important, but reducing unsprung weight is paramount in a high performance car. For those of you unfamiliar with the technical sections in the back of your favorite car magazines, unsprung weight is comprised from the parts of your car that aren't supported by the suspension (wheels, tires, the suspension itself and the parts directly bolted to them). It's quite simply a high-performance faux pas. Given the circumstances, I think I could overlook it just this once.