Three men in a hybrid
It’s possible for a good mechanic to add an el ectric drivetrain to any car … well almost
“… SO the diff ratio is basically one to one, which gives us a theoretical top speed of 230 km/h, not calculating the rolling circumference of the tyres of c ourse …”
This was Jens Denk, his baby blues redrimmed after he had spent three nights building the world’s first hybrid Daewoo Matis 4x4, using a forklift motor, motorcycle sprockets, an old Corolla rear axle, bits of a Gelandewagen’s exhaust, and f our madeinSA batteries from Battery Centre.
The b atteries were c onnected in parallel, the forklift motor was whining away and the enormous sprocket was a blur of t eeth. If w e were not so tir ed and dirt y, this w ould have been the highfive moment. Instead, happy smiles cracked our oily faces.
Mine snapped shut suddenl y. “Did y ou jus t sa y t wo HUNDRED and thirt y!?
“Well, that’s the theory ; in practice it w ould be a lot slo wer,” said Denk.
Under the oil, my face was pallid. No way was I going to drive my Matiz faster than e ven 100 km/h over the flat surf ace of H akskeen P an. One windblown sand riffle hitting those tiny front wheels askew and the first thing t o flash thr ough m y mind would be the lit tle car’s t ail light s.
It turns out I need not hvae feared, but that knowledge came only a day later on the fir st t est run.
Technical challenges to surmount had alr eady made us a da y lat e f or the annual K alahari Speed W eek, which no w ur gently w aited at the end of a 1 7hour road trip p ast the sunset. M eanwhile ther e w as the lastrush jobs, sealing the lid vero the rear motor against the dust, refitting the back seats and adding the activation lever with its little “nuclear button” r ed cap .
The fir st t est run w as a disas ter — the bolts on the sprocket touched a side, making a noise bet ween the rolling echo of an explosion and one about to happen. “IT JUST NEEDS A LITTLE ADJUSTMENT!” shouted Denk o ver the r acket.
The “little adjustment” was first tried with a f ootlong t yre le ver, which was discarded as too short. At the end, a twometre long nyala did the job .
The second test run was a beauty — right up t o the point w here the bridging wire on the f orklift motor started to melt, filling the car with acrid smoke. “Still t oo thin,” mut tered Denk. The thir d t est run sho wed ther e lurks a genius at Denk’s Motors. The old f orklift mot or spinning at t op revs, the lit tle D aewoo w hispered along, a smaller spr ocket making less ambitious speed, but giving the batteries a r ange of at leas t 40 km.
This would be more than enough for our recordattempt at the Speed Week and g ood for anyone driving less than 40 km a dya in the ciyt commute.
The hybrid Matiz was eager on tar roads, but laden to the roof line with camping g ear and t ools, it s thr eecylinder engine was never going to cover the 1 700 km to Hakskeen Pan in time t o make the r acing.
My suggestion to hook up the Matiz on an A frame w as dismis sed. “What’s the point of building a car that you have to tow?,” asked Denk.
A pile of “not r eally ne cessary stuff ” formed on the floor, comprising of the w eekend’s food, cooking gear, clothes, guitar and tent, but still the little car hunkered too low when three men added their weight to that of the f our, deepc ycle b atteries.
“She ain’ t g onna, ain’ t g onna make it fr om Maritzburra t o Mier, to Meehirr,” sang Armand v an Aswegen, the guitar/cameraman roped in t o film this his toric moment in Watch this sp ace Witness Wheels edit or Al wyn Viljoen will ne xt point the no se of his madeinMaritzburr a hybrid t o f ollow the tr acks o f former Witness edit or Hor ace Rose, who in 1904 dr ove a lit tle 25 km/h, f ourhorsepower Orient Buckbo ard “eastwards t owards the horiz on wher e the dawn mar ched gl oriously”, t o make the fir st c ar journe y be tween Pie termaritzburg and Durban. Viljoen’s journey will be the first in a hybrid t o celebrate 110 y ears o f tr ansport his tory, made fr esh e very w eek in Wheels. transport his tory.
The troubadour was right. Our attempt to set a speed r ecord on the pan near the distant Mier had failed.
But it had failed heroically and in the process, proved that it is possible for a g ood mechanic w orking on a journalist’s budget to add an electric drivetrain to any car, so as t o avoid using fuel during the w eek’s c ommute; and still have a longrange engine f or visit s o ver weekends.
Apart fr om t aking the running costs of a t ypical car do wn fr om about R1, 50 per kilometr e t o le ss than 40c/km jus t in fuel, electric drivetrains have fewer moving parts, allowing its owners to amortise the initial outlay of about R20000 with service c osts sa ved. * F or mor e de tails on ins talling a hybrid engine in y our c ar, email y our que stions t o email@example.com.
Ashley W ebb marv els as Jens Denk pr epares t o mak e ‘ a lit tle adjus tment’ t o the body w ork o f the the w orld’s fir st hybrid D aewoo Matiz 4x4, which he had almo st singl ehandeldly buil t o ver thr ee night s.
If bo th driv etrains o f the hybrid shoul d f ail, Jens Denk sho ws the l eg po wer o f pl an C.