Idea for Electric Vehicle Retrofit for Existing Non-electric Cars
I read somewhere the greatest amount of energy is spent moving a vehicle from an absolute dead stop. Once a car gets rolling most of the hardest work is done. For example, it only takes 7hp to keep the average car moving at 55mph.
If that's the case, I would pay to have JUST one of my four tires to be a Michelin Active Wheel.
This one Active Wheel would be used to get the car moving from 0mph to 7mph. After that, I can put my transmission in 2nd gear and take over the acceleration from there forward. And, instead of a ton of batteries, perhaps just 1 deep cycle car battery could be dedicated to this task.
Quite an old concept, why didn't it catch on? I think every car should have a small low voltage electric assistance of some kind, just for as you say, getting the car moving. They would be ideal in high traffic bumper to bumper situations too, everyone with thier engines off just creeping along slowly. Idling engines is what causes high fuel consumption and emissions to rise. As it would be such low power, it could be charged via brake kinetics and/or a solar roof.
You should be able to pull away in 2nd in yours, most modern cars can. When I'm in a gear skipping mood, I'll start in 2nd, skip to 4th then 5th so I'm only changing gear twice. They actually started recommending this in the UK driving test now.
It takes the same amount of energy to get the vehicle moving, no matter what the source of the energy. Recharging a battery from braking energy is exactly what hybrids do. As far as skipping gears, all you are doing is demonstrating that most cars have more gears than they need. Starting from rest in first will produce less slipping of the clutch than starting in higher gears, but if you really want you can probably start from rest in top gear. It just takes more care. One of the best selling cars of all time, the Ford Model T, only had two gears.
The hang up for what the OP describes is the battery. Some car models with auto start/stop systems experience premature battery death just from the extra turning over of the engine. Actually getting the entire car moving will draw more juice. A second 12 volt battery just isn't going to cut it.
We might see some low cost 48-volt mild hybrid systems coming to market soon, but the extra cost and potential lost space for the battery pack are still hurdles to wide spread adoption.