This is a lot more ingenious than it sounds.
Given Tesla's resounding success, one may assume that the automaker produces perfect electric cars. This has been proven to be false, but the company is constantly working to improve its products and continually promises new and exciting innovations. As understanding of electric powertrains grows, others have looked to improve Tesla's products too, including a tuner that has recently boosted the Model 3 to over 543 horsepower.
But high-speed performance is not something that Tesla really lacks. Despite its best efforts, the company is still shunned by many who fear that its products do not offer enough electric range. With that in mind, a company called Obrist Powertrain put an engine into a Model 3 last year, and now it's done the same with a Model Y.
Bigger batteries are not always the answer for EVs. They add weight and complexity and can increase the requirements of the cooling system of the car. Thus, cost increases. Obrist thinks there's a better solution, and that is its HyperHybrid range extender as seen at the Munich motor show. As with the Model 3 from last year, the internal combustion engine is a tiny generator that never powers the wheels. What makes this particularly impressive is that it's called a "Zero Vibration Generator," meaning that it will be almost imperceptible when running. Obrist says it's even smoother than a V12. The technology is being pitched to carmakers who may license it to use smaller batteries in their vehicles. Best of all, this upgrade would cost around $2,400, a tiny fraction of the $14,000 cost of average electric systems.
A few options have been developed by Frank Obrist's company, with one producing 134 horsepower and another offering up to 268 hp. The one fitted to the Model Y here is a 1.0-liter two-cylinder with a small electric motor and a much smaller battery than that originally fitted to the Model Y. According to Obrist, this results in fuel consumption of just 118 mpg. This would make EVs much more attractive, both in terms of range and cost, with the Model 3 capable of running for an astonishing 621 miles with a full tank of fuel.
Naturally, there is still a downside - the emissions of the generator. But Obrist claims that the engine only ever runs in its peak range and is thus far cleaner than a conventional motor. And if synthetic fuel technology is perfected, emissions could drop to zero. Now it just remains to be seen if this technology will gain widespread appeal to OEMs.