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Plugged-In Hybrid Tantalizes Car Buffs

A Southland company comes up with a system that lets Toyota's Prius burn even less gasoline by connecting it to a regular electrical socket.

By John O'Dell
Times Staff Writer

June 25, 2005

Toyota Motor Corp. boasts that its hot-selling Prius gasoline-electric hybrid doesn't have to be plugged in.

But a growing number of hybrid buffs interested in further boosting the car's fuel economy are asking, "Why not?"

By replacing the Prius' batteries with a more powerful array and recharging it using a standard electric outlet at home, engineers have enabled the hybrid to get more than 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.

"We want to get people thinking of [plug-ins] as a real alternative" in the country's long-term energy plan, said Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars.org, an advocacy group in Palo Alto.

The idea of plug-in hybrids is generating a lot of buzz in energy circles because of the work of a start-up Monrovia firm, Energy Control Systems Engineering. The firm bought a Prius and converted it with its own system.

Co-owner Greg Hanssen now tools around Southern California in the bright blue plug-in Prius prototype. The car can deliver 150 to 180 mpg for up to 35 miles of low-speed, around-town driving and can average 70 to 100 mpg on longer trips at higher speeds.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District recently gave the company $130,000 to convert four Priuses to plug-ins that will be tested in several car fleets.

In a standard Prius, a battery pack is charged by the vehicle's own gasoline engine and with electricity produced by the brakes. The car's all-electric mode is fairly limited because the Prius uses its gas engine except at very low speeds. Most owners get 45 to 55 mpg.

However, Energy Control Systems' design tricks the Prius' computer into thinking its batteries are always fully charged, so it uses the electric motor to try to drain them before switching on the gas engine.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-p ... -headlines
 

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OC Prius Club - Plug in Prius is todays speaker

Gregg Hanssen, from this LA Times writeup- is todays speaker at the OC Prius Club meeting at noon at Hof's Hut, 18850 Douglas Drive,Irvine,CA
(949) 752-7155
Noon- parking lot. about 1ish into the restuarant to eat and see Gregg talk.

OCprius.com
 

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That is an interesting article, and I am glad that imaginative people are extending what we know about the potential of hybrids. But personally, I would never retrofit such a modification from an aftermarket source.
 

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Does not sound logical from an economic standpoint. At $12,000 for the retrofit you would have to save 6,000 additional gallons of gasoline at a nominal $2.00 a gallon (I know $2 is low this minute, but there is also a time value of money on that $12k so let's call it even). If we assume an average Prius averages about 50 mpg that would mean you would have to drive over 300,000 miles to break even. Don't think many will keep their car for 300K miles.
 

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kirby said:
Does not sound logical from an economic standpoint. At $12,000 for the retrofit you would have to save 6,000 additional gallons of gasoline at a nominal $2.00 a gallon (I know $2 is low this minute, but there is also a time value of money on that $12k so let's call it even). If we assume an average Prius averages about 50 mpg that would mean you would have to drive over 300,000 miles to break even. Don't think many will keep their car for 300K miles.
You also need to factor in the INCREASED HOUSE ELECTRIC BILL. So your savings won't likely come until much later than your 300,000 mile break-even point.

Unless you're plugging into your neighbor's electric supply.
 

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I wonder that people are not looking into the following scheme:

1. Add a 2nd battery pack, of convenient voltage/capacity but with overall voltage something less that the 201 V of the Prius' pack.

2. Arrange to charge the new pack from the utility mains using an external charger, usually to be kept where the car is parked overnight.

3. The new pack's output to connect to the Prius' battery via a "boost converter" incorporating "constant current" output at an appropriate level.

4. The new pack's output-converter to monitor the state of charge of the Prius' pack, either by monitoring its voltage, if appropriate, or by a connection--perhaps via a wirless link for convenience--to the Prius' data bus. When & if the indication is of full Prius-charge, the added pack ceases delivering current to the Prius' battery.

5. Install and utilize the Prius' "EV only" mode when it is desired to fully make use of the added battery capacity.

The primary advantage of this scheme is that it retains a totally unmodified Prius except for the (readily concealable) connection to the Prius' battery pack and the (also readily concealable) connection to the data bus if required. I say "readily concealable", of course, to facilitate evasion of any warranty contentions resulting from modification.
 

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...and a P.S. to my posting of a few minutes ago: If really clever, one will design the electronics so that it will perform both tasks: charging from the mains at night and charging the Prius' battery while driving. Just throw a switch from Run to Charge, plug it in, & go to bed happy.

I should think--really off-hand, of course!--that such an add-on might be had for just a few $thousand.

KCH
 
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