Coleman University Students Build a Hybrid-electric Mini Moke

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Side view of Mini MokeSmall, yellow and from the 60’s. A car like this may not seem to catch a lot of attention, but that is not the case with this specific Mini Moke. The car, a project worked on by students from Coleman University, is making an impression.

Electric and hybrid vehicles have been a rising trend for many years. EVs are sustainable, reliable and economical. And, in states like California, they are especially big; since the government incentivizes the purchase of electrical vehicles with discounts, tax breaks and rebates.

Staying in tune with this trend, students from Coleman University built a hybrid-electric, 4WD Mini Moke – the first four-wheel drive plug-in hybrid electric Moke ever made in California – with mentorship from members of the Electric and Networked Vehicle Institute (ENVI), located on Coleman University campus.

Mini Moke on displayThe hybrid-electric Mini Moke was displayed at Electric Vehicle Day on September 17 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. EV Day in San Diego is the premier event for energy conscious vehicle owners and EV enthusiasts. The event was part of the National Drive Electric Week celebration. And, the achievement is being praised not only by the proud participants, but also by the media. The San Diego Business Journal showcased the yellow hybrid-electric Mini Moke in an October 10 special report about sustainability.


“Students from Coleman University built a hybrid-electric, 4WD Mini Moke – the first four-wheel drive plug-in hybrid electric Moke ever made in California – with mentorship from members of the Electric and Networked Vehicle Institute (ENVI).”

The Mini Moke has a long history. At first, British Motors Corporation (BMC) released the original Mini Moke for military purposes, in the late 1950’s. The gasoline-powered off-road vehicle was designed to be light and small, so it could be dropped by parachutes at war zones. The car wasn’t well received by the British Army; its small wheels were not a good fit for its off-road goal. Afterwards, BMC tried to release it as a low-cost option of a small car for civilians, however it was also unsuccessful. Even though the Mini Moke had an unfortunate beginning, the car eventually achieved success, being now used on beach areas and resorts around the world. But the car stopped being produced in 1993.

The students started the Mini Moke project after a client, an Encinitas resident, provided them with it and asked them to build an electric vehicle that could drive 20 miles round trip. The client’s main purpose was to be able to take his daughter to school and back every day.

They accepted the challenge and worked with ENVI mentors to adapt the gasoline-powered vehicle to an electric system. They installed new batteries, an electric motor and other necessary electronics in order to make the car function properly. And they found a smart way to make everything fit, even with the small space they had available. The new batteries are located under the running boards and the electric motor is under the seats.
Mini Moke in the shop

Front dashboard of Mini Moke


“The students started the Mini Moke project after a client, an Encintas resident, asked them to build an electric vehicle that could drive 20 miles round trip.”

According to Dr. James Burns, ENVI founder and Executive Vice-President at TransPower, a market leader in adapting battery-electric technologies to Class-8 trucks and busses, this project is important because it shows the strength of the student/mentor dynamic and also, it has a sense of community. “This collaboration focuses on the Moke because it is a community-sponsored team approach to designing and building complex products. It promotes electric vehicle learning and interest in the community, it has a public demonstration as a goal, and it results in the first of its kind 4WD plug-in hybrid with between 15 and 25 miles of range in EV mode,” says Dr. Burns.


“This collaboration focuses on the Moke because it is a community-sponsored team approach to designing and building complex products. It promotes electric vehicle learning and interest in the community.” – Dr. James Burns, ENVI founder.

The uniqueness of the 4WD plug-in hybrid Mini Moke and its colorful bodywork helped to make the car a success. And it proves that even the most unexpected gasoline-powered vehicle can be adapted to an electrical system.

ENVI is a volunteer-led organization located on the Coleman University campus. It is a place where engineering, mathematics, computer science, and other technology focused areas students get together to do experiential complex projects and practice what they are learning. ENVI meetings take place on Saturday and some weeknights. But repowering vehicles is not the only project the ENVI students have. They are currently working with flying drones, autonomous underwater vehicles and ground vehicles development. Their projects go where their curiosity and imagination takes them. Making ENVI a place to learn and experiment.


“ENVI students are currently working with flying drones, autonomous underwater vehicles and ground vehicles development. Their projects go where their curiosity and imagination takes them.”

This hands-on approach translates to an impressive resume for the students. It is a practical way to show potential employees the work they have done and how they have mastered new trends while tackling innovative projects. This kind of experience can increase the chance of employment at big companies. At ENVI, teams are always working on new, short-term projects, usually 6-12 weeks in duration.

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