100-mpg plug-in hybrids popping up in US

September 10, 2008 by Lisa Zyga, Phys.org weblog
Plug-in hybrid
The Advanced Vehicle Research Center is converting Toyota Priuses into electric plug-in hybrids for a cost of $10,400. Image credit: The Advanced Vehicle Research Center.

Although many people would like to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, most of us have to wait for the large vehicle manufacturers to mass-produce affordable cars that run on alternative power. In the meantime, a handful of smaller companies have begun taking the energy crisis into their own hands. By retrofitting hybrids like the Toyota Prius with a second battery pack, they´re converting these cars into hybrid plug-ins that can recharge from a wall outlet and drive a short commute on all electric power.

A recent article in North Carolina´s The News & Observer has highlighted a Raleigh-based company, Advanced Vehicle Research Center (AVRC), that has four employees and can retrofit a Prius in about four hours for a cost of $10,400. The AVRC is one of eight US companies authorized to install lithium ion batteries manufactured by 23 Systems, a Massachusetts company.

AVRC´s converted Priuses can get from anywhere between 60 and 100 mpg, depending on driving habits, which roughly doubles the gas mileage of a standard Prius. Advanced Energy, a Raleigh nonprofit research organization and one of AVRC´s customers, has even exceeded 200 mpg in a test under optimal conditions.

The conversion process is relatively uncomplicated. The mechanics remove the spare tire in the trunk, and replace it with a 170-pound lithium ion battery pack, like a much larger version of a cell phone battery. A plug from the back of the bumper can be inserted into a conventional wall outlet, where a full charge lasts about 3.5 hours and costs less than 75 cents.

The modified Prius draws from the new battery first, giving the car a range of about 35 miles on all-electric power, making gasoline optional on short commutes. When the battery is depleted, the Prius runs like a standard hybrid, using its gas engine and regenerative braking to charge its nickel metal hydride battery.

According to the Plug-In Hybrid Coalition of the Carolinas, there are about 150 plug-in hybrids on US roads today. Most of the AVRC´s customers have been corporations with large fleets, but they recently made their first conversion for an individual. Their clients include Progress Energy, Duke Energy, the city of Raleigh, and North Carolina State University´s Advanced Transportation Energy Center. These organizations are tracking and sending data on the cars to the Idaho National Laboratory, a federal research institute that is studying plug-in hybrids.

The plug-in modifications aren´t authorized or endorsed by Toyota, which plans to make its own Prius plug-in commercially available in 2010 in the US. Also in 2010, Chevrolet plans to release the Volt (which runs on the same 23 lithium ion battery used by AVRC), which is expected to be more economical than AVRC´s conversions.

The AVRC acknowledges that $10,400 is a hefty price tag for the average driver - AVRC founder and president Richard Dell estimates that it could take 140,000 miles to recover the cost through fuel savings. But the important thing is that they´ve demonstrated that the technology is viable and available right now. "It´s given us more confidence that it´s not a matter of if plug-in vehicles will happen, but when," said Mike Rowand, Duke Energy´s director of advanced customer technologies.

More information: The Advanced Vehicle Research Center

via: The News & Observer

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3 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2008
Here you go, have this.
It's kinda like what this article is suggesting, except doubling it again.
3 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2008
Here you go, have this.
It's kinda like what this article is suggesting, except doubling it again.

I'd rather have a tesla.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2008
Too expensive for the average guy but going in the right direction.
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 10, 2008
Here you go, have this.
It's kinda like what this article is suggesting, except doubling it again.

I'd rather have a tesla.

Me Too!!!
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2008
Take a look at this other article (chart included) which says, "an electric car run[ing] off of today's grid has a much worse emissions story than a hybrid". Here's the link:


1 / 5 (6) Sep 11, 2008
So instead of a big gas bill, I get a big electric bill....big deal.
3 / 5 (8) Sep 11, 2008
So... instead of a huge gas bill, I get a small electric bill.. BIG DEAL!
1.8 / 5 (6) Sep 11, 2008
So... if this company can offer this for around 10K, why is it impossible for Toyota to offer this as a factory installed option????

Oh right... Oil companies... Back pocket...
2 / 5 (2) Sep 12, 2008
If that's the case why does it take 140,000 miles to recover the investment?? Seems pretty pointless and their math is off somewhere, either in the cost to charge or the cost to recoup investment.
3 / 5 (2) Sep 12, 2008
Because... gas really isn't that expensive... $10,000 will buy you 2500 gallons of gas. Then theres the gas you could buy with the energy costs.

We all like to complain about gas costs, but for most people it's still under $3000/year and insurance/other maintainance is far more.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2008
Hybrids are a joke; it is basically the worst of both worlds. All-electric cars have their advantages, but lower fuel costs are not one of them. If you sit down and do the math, your not really saving anything. If they solve the battery problem, one advantage would be that electric components last much longer. Think tune up every 60,000 miles.
3 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2008
Of course, the only reason we have hybrids is because of the slow progress in developing an efficient battery that not only will minimally triple our current range but will not add $10000 to the cost of the vehicle, will not have to be replaced till at least 100,000 miles, will recharge in less than 10 minutes, and won't catch on fire. This is asking for a lot, and we're not close in any of these areas. Perhaps, we should focus on algae based biodiesel on smaller engines fueled with a turbocharger.
not rated yet Sep 15, 2008
The Idaho National Laboratory has a lot of other environmentally friendly projects. The Web site is www.inl.gov but there is also a channel at YouTube.


I would suggest the "Motion to Energy M2E" or "Harvesting the Sun's Energy" videos.
not rated yet May 04, 2009
MealerAMC... No photos yet and no details, but what the heck. Look at the page, save it and come back in a couple months.
We're non EV, non fossil fueled and the MEALER will power your home.

Okay, my commerical is done.
JL Mealer

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