Plug-in and Solar Hybrid Modifications
There is currently no commercial plug-in hybrid cars available.
While car makers discourage any modifications by nulling at least part of the warranty, many eager enthusiasts show how it can be done.
According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), half the cars in the U.S. are driven just 25 miles a day or less. "A plug-in vehicle with even a 20-mile range could reduce petroleum fuel consumption by about 60 percent," says Bob Graham, Manager of EPRI's Electric Transmission program. http://www.hymotion.com
Car Makers View:
As the electric car programs have shown, car makers do what they have to, but still prefer to sell gas guzzlers and are happy to shred highly successful electric cars once they do not have to provide them anymore (see EV1).
The objections to plug-in technology they raised for years -- "no one is interested, no one would plug in, the benefits are minimal, it's just shifting the pollution from the tailpipe to the smokestack, there's no demand for these cars" -- still show up occasionally, but are disprooven and by and large history. Car makers still frequently claim that plug-in hybrids are "not yet viable”.
However the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has shown that at current prices the total lifetime cost of a plug-in Hybrid is lower than that of a non-hybrid and not merely lower than that of a conventional hybrid. http://www.epri.com/
Positions of some big Car Makers:
DaimlerChrysler: PHEV prototypes on 15-passenger Sprinter van, no commitment to production.
Ford: "keenly looking" but nothing to announce.
General Motors: intend to produce PHEV of Saturn Vue, no production date.
Honda: "considering developing"
Nissan: adding PHEVs to "development program"
Toyota: "pursuing" plug-in hybrids, but “not viable for years”. Model year 2009 Prius delayed, not likely to be PHEV.
Visionary Vehicles: Malcolm Bricklin (who brought the Subaru and the Yugo to America) plans to bring a series PHEV built in China to the US market in 2009
Even President Bush seems to be more optimistic than the car makers - above, Feb. 23, 2007:
"I firmly believe that the goal I laid out, that Americans will use 20 percent less gasoline over the next 10 years is going to be achieved, and here's living proof of how we're going to get there,"
CalCars believe automakers could sell PHEVs for only $2-$5000 more than current hybrids. http://www.calcars.org
List of aftermarket conversion companies:
www.hybrids-plus.com Boulder CO
www.energycs.com Monrovia, CA
www.hymotion.com Concord, Canada
www.thegreencarco.com: Kirkland, WA
www.oemtek.com: Milpitas, CA
Image on left: Felix Kramer's PHEV charges at night (using cheap off-peak rates); photovoltaic modules on his roof return electricity to the grid in the daytime at a higher rate.
Advanced Do It Yourself Kits
The Electric Auto Association's PHEV group is an open-source project to bring PHEV conversions to '04-07 Prius owners across the country. Our goal is to enable owners to enlist a local electrician /engineer to convert their cars, initially with lead-acid batteries, for under US$6,000 and two person-weeks of time. If you're an engineer or an advanced do-it-yourselfer who is comfortable around high voltage batteries and automotive workshops, you can join the project! www.eaa-phev.org
You won't be able to cross the country in a solar powered Prius, but this type of aftermarket hack is exactly the kind of thing so many of our readers have been asking for. Solar Electrical Vehicles (http://www.solarelectricalvehicles.com/) says their solar panel modifications (made from mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells) for 2004-2006 Prius models will generate 215 watts of renewable energy that charges a 3kW supplemental battery pack that "provides up to 20 miles per day of electric mode driving range and increased fuel economy." SEV says their system qualifies for up to $2,000 worth of Federal renewable energy tax credits which will then make the whole system pay for itself in two or three years. A solar roof for your Prius will cost between $2,000 and $4,000. http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/05/31/putting-a-solar-roof-on-your-prius-go-20-miles-on-battery-powe/
Plug-In Hybrids Are Cleaner - Even when using Electricity from Coal
The "well-to-wheel" emissions of electric vehicles are lower than those from gasoline internal combustion vehicles. California Air Resources Board studies show that battery electric vehicles emit at least 67% lower greenhouse gases than gasoline cars -- even more assuming renewables. A PHEV with only a 20-mile all-electric range is 62% lower http://www.arb.ca.gov/regact/grnhsgas/isor.pdf
Two US government studies have found PHEVs would result in large reductions even on the national grid (50% coal). PHEVs will generally recharge at night using excess power from base load power stations (eg coal) that can't shut down completely -- so they don't add to the peak load. Plus more people are installing rooftop solar photovoltaic systems.
Plug-in hybrids and electric cars will also significantly reduce urban air pollution and smog.
PS: The Fastest Electric Car
The Ohio State University 'Buckeye Bullet', an electric vehicle designed, built, and maintained by OSU students, reached 507 km/h on the 15th October 2004 at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA.