Dr. Charles Perry’s newest patent, which is pending, potentially could save America 120 million gallons of fuel daily.
The invention has several names – wheel hub motor, Plug-in Hybrid Retrofit Kit or “Machine for Augmentation, Storage and Conservation of Vehicle Motive Energy (the one submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office) – and it recently gained statewide notoriety.
The Plug-in Hybrid received the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation’s first-place award of $50,000 in the semi-annual series of grants designed to help Tennessee inventors take their innovations from the lab to the marketplace.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Perry, an electrical engineer and holder of the Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The award was tops among 15 proposals from institutions around the state, including Oak Ridge Laboratories, K-12 (a spin off of Oak Ridge), St. Jude Research Center, Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation and Tennessee Board of Regents universities.
Additionally, Palmer Labs LLC of Reston, Va., has made an oral agreement to match the $50K grant, Perry said.
“We are excited to support the work being done by Dr. Perry and his team at MTSU,” said Dr. Miles Palmer, president of Palmer Labs. “This technology will be a key element in Palmer Labs’ plan to help transform our nation’s transportation infrastructure.” The goal is to have Palmer Labs commercialize the invention.
“We’ve been trying to get money for two years,” Perry said. “We’ve been working with Dr. Mike Allen’s office (dean of MTSU’s College of Graduate Studies) and the TBR counsel, Lou Svendsen. Lou was very instrumental in us getting this (matching) grant. He has been our advocate and adviser in how to prepare this grant.”
MTSU will partner with Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tenn., another of the six four-year universities in the TBR system. TTU has agreed to serve as the sub-contractor that will build a prototype device.
“I will be happy to work with you and deliver a product that we will all be proud of,” TTU’s Dr. Ali Alouani, professor of electrical and computer engineering, stated in a memo to Perry.
“We are very pleased to find the electrical engineering expertise we need for this project at another of the Board of Regents schools,” Svendsen said. “We hope that this is the start of many productive collaborations between the world-class researchers found at various TBR institutions.”
“Environmental quality will be enhanced and energy savings will result,” Perry said of the patent application that will reduce carbon emissions.
With 80 percent of Americans driving an average of 28 miles per day in their vehicles, Perry said the wheel hub motor (in hybrid mode) would double drivers’ gas mileage, and that it mainly would be an around-town function, not for highway driving. He said once it becomes mass-produced, the target consumer installation cost would be $3,000 to $5,000.
“Our first goal is to build a demonstration of a working prototype,” Perry said. “Then, working with the state of Tennessee, we’d like to build one dozen to two dozen prototypes. We’d like to put them on state vehicles to get data. Then we’d look at a capital investment. Ultimately, Palmer Labs would like to build a facility that would create 2,000 jobs.”
Working with Perry on the project is Paul Martin III, who is an automotive engineering technology expert. He is the grandson of Paul W. Martin Sr., namesake of MTSU’s University Honors College building, and son of Murray and Paul W. Martin Jr., who, along with his brother, Lee, provided $2 million toward the honors building.
“He is a perfect match,” Perry said of the younger Martin. “He has the right combination of skills. He is an applications guy. He came up with other ways to do things.”
Perry said Martin’s name has been added to the patent.
He added that Tennessee Tech would receive part of the $100,000, but at this point he was not sure how much.
Perry saw 40 patents issued while he spent nearly 30 years working for IBM. The 1966 (B.S.) and 1969 (M.S.) MTSU alumnus returned to his alma mater in 2004.