Coming soon: turn your car into a hybrid

* Battery pack fits in boot of car * Can be recharged from mains or by engine * Improves fuel economy by up to 60%...

Coming soon: turn your car into a hybrid

A UK company has revealed a retro-fit hybrid conversion that can potentially cut exhaust emissions by nearly 40% and improve fuel economy by 60%.

The system, developed by MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association), features a removable battery pack, arranged into three 30kW portable cassettes, that upgrades existing vehicles to hybrids.

The technology is currently being demonstrated on a Skoda Fabia. The vehicle is run as a plug-in hybrid, which means it can charge its batteries using the petrol engine or by removing the battery pack and charging it through the mains.

Two 35kW (50bhp) motors drive the Fabia's rear wheels, while the petrol engine drives the front ones.

MIRA claims the test model returns an average of 64mpg (up from 39mpg), yet its top speed and acceleration are similar to a standard Fabia's.

Derek Charters, MIRA's advanced powertrain manager, said: 'You can obtain electricity from your domestic provider far cheaper and greener than from a car engine, so plug-in hybrids make sense.

'With this project, we've removed the main limitation of the plug-in hybrid by allowing the battery pack to come to the mains, rather than having to park right next to a socket, which is difficult if you live in a terraced house or flat.'

However, MIRA hasn't set a date for putting the technology into production.