EchoDrive: The Hybrid Dream Now a Reality

Mohit Nayak | February 7, 2013 | 0 Comments

This post brought to you by Echo Automotive. All opinions are 100% mine.


Every day, environmental awareness grows steadily. With global warming, declining natural resources and rising costs, being ‘eco-friendly’ has become a necessity; from the food you eat, to the clothes you wear, to the way you travel. Fuel prices continue to surge, and are a major cause for concern for everyone. The need to go green often conflicts with our unwillingness to compromise on the lifestyles we’ve become so used to. We don’t want to pollute the environment, but we can’t think of giving up our driving obligations either. Hybrid vehicles are the answer – They run on electricity, but use gas when needed. However, buying a new hybrid is a costly affair. Another option is converting your current vehicle to a hybrid. For large-scale fleet operators especially, the current conversion costs mean that the time taken to recover these costs could quite easily exceed the lifespan of the vehicles, making such conversion a pipe dream. And that’s where EchoDrive™ comes in.

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EchoDrive™ is a revolutionary cost-reduction solution from start-up Echo Automotive (ECAU). It allows a hybrid drive to be retrofitted to a commercial vehicle, converting it into a fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid. EchoDrive™ can practically double the fuel efficiency of an ordinary gasoline or diesel vehicle, while still retaining its full functionality. As a result, the 500000+ fleet operators that EchoDrive™ is targeting can be guaranteed a return on investment in just two to three years. Considering that the major fleet operators spend millions of dollars in fuel bills, the kind of breakthrough that this technology represents is mind-blowing.

EchoDrive™ makes use of three main components:

·         A system controller

·         A high-efficiency electric motor

·         A modular battery pack of Lithium Ion batteries that can be plugged into any standard electrical outlet

The battery pack being modular can be scaled according to the power requirements of the vehicle it is fitted to. Energy stored in the batteries is applied to the electric motor, which reduces the load on the engine, thereby improving the fuel efficiency. Energy is also regenerated while braking, providing an extra boost. The system controller decides when, and how much assistance to provide to the engine, based on the engine performance.  Since the EchoDrive™ retrofit can be added to a vehicle’s existing drivetrain without having to replace or remove any stock part, it significantly reduces the cost of conversion. An EchoDrive™ retrofit would be around 5 times cheaper compared to those offered by its competitors.

EchoDrive™ isn’t the only product from Echo Automotive. As part of its “EchoSolutions”, ECAU’s capabilities include:

·         Aerodynamic and lightweight vehicle design along with simulation and analysis

·         Propulsion systems including motors, controllers and batteries along with simulation and analysis

·         Development, engineering and launch of complete vehicles

·         Hybrid conversions

·         Energy storage through battery modules and battery management systems

With experts in hybrid conversion, clean technology and sustainability, ECAU also provides consulting services to help companies incorporate new transportation technologies.

EchoDrive™ is the result of years of R&D and is already at its fourth iteration, and finally ready for marketing. The low conversion cost isn’t the only notable advantage that makes EchoDrive™ such an attractive option. It can rapidly scale up due to the minimalistic components. A large variety of vehicles can be retrofitted with this technology overnight. The size of the components makes them portable as well, so vehicles can be quickly serviced. And probably the best feature aside from the cost: Being a hybrid, in the event of a component failure, the vehicle can still run on its stock gas/diesel drivetrain.

The benefits of such technology are not just economic, but more importantly, environmental.  Considering that around 100 million vehicles are used by fleet operators alone around the country, switching to hybrid cars would mean a significant drop in demand for gas and diesel. This drop in demand would in turn translate to a drop in vehicular emissions as well. The reduced demand would also hopefully give some respite to oil mining operations, and preserve the ecosystems that are destroyed as a result of these operations.

EchoDrive™ has broken the cost barriers that prevented other hybrid retrofits from becoming a reality. The success of EchoDrive™ can spur innovation among competitors to produce similar technology at reasonable costs. These are realistic possibilities, but they will require time. Still, it’s a start. And a bright start at that. The wheels have been set in motion, so to speak. It might sound cliched, but it can’t be helped. The future really is now.

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