By André Reyneke, Managing Director

We have long said the best electric car will be a hydraulic-electric hybrid – and that is what we will prove with Tri-MISER before the end of this year.

An electric-hydraulic hybrid has two key advantages of reducing peak battery charge (and discharge rates) by using “launch assist” and then the further the ability to do better and more efficient regenerative braking. These are the key advantages over conventional electric vehicles

The test mule for Tri-MISER is a VW Polo Vivo. The Volkswagen engine has been removed and replaced with an electric motor, plus a hydraulic unit and a small internal-combustion engine.

Apart from showcasing the versatility and scalability of our technology, we want to put a zero-emissions city car on the road this year. It will have zero emissions in town but will be able to cruise at 120km/h on the open road – and will be able to go faster for short bursts to overtake traffic. In other words, with Tri-MISER you will use no petrol in an urban environment as you can run off the batteries you charged at home. Yet, this will be a car that can drive from Gauteng to Cape Town without having to stop once on the way to recharge its batteries. You will still need to stop for fuel though!

The test mule is currently running on lead-acid batteries but, later, Lithium-ion batteries will also be tested. Although volume and weight are important considerations, cost will also play a role in the final choice of battery type. The lead-acid batteries have the potential for a lower life cycle cost due to the way they are operated (comparatively low charge and discharge rates among the reasons).

In 2017, Norman Grant, my partner and our director of technology and engineering, came back from attending the launch of an electric vehicle. He was frustrated and irritated, because no one seemed to be thinking further than just pure electric propulsion for vehicles, where there were clearly numerous technical gaps in this solution. The MISER system had the ability to be one of the enabling technologies for electric vehicles – rather than an alternative – by enabling lower peak current draws and better regenerative braking modes.

That frustration bore fruit in Norman’s concept for what was to become Tri-MISER. On 31 March 2017 we filed the patent for the technology and we bought a used Polo Vivo and development started.

The development has been a laborious process, because we literally started with a blank canvas. The production model will obviously look different. There will be a different internal-combustion engine, for instance. We used a motorcycle engine that we found was much more powerful than we needed. The test mule’s mounting points for the components were designed for the widest possible variety of placement and type, but the production models will have bespoke mounting points and brackets.

The initial development was slow because Tri-MISER was not a priority at the time. We were developing new installations for MISER-HKS on more truck brands and types. But in April we made it a priority, because the time is now ripe to show MISER® as an enabling technology.

The world is heading towards zero-emissions and electric propulsion, but the factors limiting electric cars are still huge – and very relevant. And not just in South Africa. The issues are also not limited to the availability of recharging points. The load on the batteries at pull-away is huge and batteries have a limited lifespan due to charge/discharge cycles.

Our targeted date for finalisation of proof of concept is the fourth quarter of this year. The next step in the development process will be real-world testing and then we will start on getting Tri-MISER ready for market.