University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team Uses Ethanol to Extend Vehicle Range

The University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) is converting a stock 2013 Chevrolet Malibu into an plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. UWAFT’s powertrain employs two TM4 electric motors to power the front and rear wheels, providing a combined 281 HP. The motors use power from an 18.9kWh A123 lithium-ion battery pack.  When the battery pack is depleted, the vehicle can be plugged into a wall socket to recharge. For longer trips where charging may be inconvenient or unavailable, the vehicle utilizes an engine and generator to create electricity for the TM4 motors and recharge the A123 battery pack.

The UWAFT team working on the ethanol hybrid powertrain

The UWAFT team working on the ethanol hybrid powertrain

The vehicle uses a modified 2.4L General Motors engine that runs on E85 Ethanol to power its TM4 electric generator. To make this possible, UWAFT had to make a number of changes to the stock Chevrolet Malibu:

  • First, a custom fuel tank was designed and fabricated out of stainless steel. This was necessary because ethanol can break down conventional fiberglass and plastic fuel tanks.
  • Second, UWAFT designed and built a custom aluminum transfer case that connects the engine to the generator using a belt drive. This transfer case covers the belt drive while also acting as a structural mount for the engine and generator.
  • Finally, UWAFT had to completely redesign the layout of the engine compartment. This redesign included rotating the engine 180 degrees, designing custom mounting brackets for the front powertrain components and completing extensive analysis to ensure that the safety of the stock vehicle was not compromised by these new components.

By using ethanol as a secondary energy source, UWAFT will be able to extend the range of their hybrid electric Chevrolet Malibu to over 300 miles. Additionally, the vehicle’s use of bio-ethanol – which can be produced from corn, sugarcane and more – will reduce its carbon footprint.