Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, has built what he says is the world’s first hybrid electric car using a Stirling engine. He’s built a two seat hatchback prototype, called the 2008 DEKA Revolt, using a recycled version of the Ford Think – an electric car that Ford last built in 2000. The plug-in Revolt can go about 60 miles on a single charge of its lithium battery.
The Revolt also carries a Stirling engine in its trunk, which is used to power things like the defroster, the heater, and other features that would nomally drain the battery. This way, the battery is used almost exclusively to move the car. The Stirling engine can also recharge the battery if the battery runs low. A Stirling engine is an extremely efficient engine, also known as a closed-cycle regenerative heat engine. While many companies have tried to develop Stirling engines for propulsion, nobody has really figured out how to make it work. By using it strictly to power the electrical features in the car and to recharge the battery, rather than movement, perhaps Mr. Kamen has come up with a propulsion related use for the Stirling. His Stirling engine can use any type of fuel, from biodiesel to gasoline to natural gas, and its a very clean burning engine.
Mr. Kamen says that right now he does not know how much the DEKA Revolt will cost, but his goal is to make it affordable for the average consumer. He hopes to have it in production within two years.