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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Kits Turn Any Car Into a Plug-in Hybrid

Soon drivers will be able to get at least double the gas mileage of a Toyota Prius hybrid, thanks to a spate of new aftermarket kits that convert any car into a plug-in electric vehicle. But they’ll have to pay upwards of $10,000 to do so.
Auto manufacturers are at least a year or two away from launching the next generation of hybrids, called plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), that recharge by plugging into a wall outlet. But battery companies are ready to start selling aftermarket kits within the next few months that convert hybrids, and in some cases regular vehicles, into plug-in electric cars.
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A123Systems, an automotive technology company and battery supplier based in Watertown, Mass., is now taking orders on its website for a Hymotion L5 conversion kit, which turns a Toyota Prius into a plug-in electric car. The kit works with Prius model years 2004 through 2008 and adds a special, range-extending lithium-ion battery to the Prius' existing drivetrain.
Using A123’s plug-in system, the Prius, which normally runs only short distances at slow speeds on electric power alone, will have added battery power to extend its electric-only range and boost gas mileage to more than 100 miles per gallon. The Prius normally gets an estimated 46 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Even if electricity costs as much as 15 cents per kilowatt hour, fully charging the 5 kilowatt-hour battery to run up to 40 miles would cost less than a dollar.
The Hymotion L5 kit, due this fall, costs $9,995 plus a $400 destination fee and includes a three-year warranty and installation at an authorized dealer. Buyers must put down a $1,000 deposit on A123's website and the company schedules a date to install the kit at one of the dealers, which currently include Westboro Toyota in Boston, Fitzgerald Toyota in Washington, D.C., Denny Hecker Automotive Group in Minneapolis, Minn., Toyota of Hollywood in Los Angeles, Green Gears/Pat's Garage in San Francisco, and Green Car Company in Seattle. A123 expects to add more authorized dealers.
In late August, Poulsen Hybrid, based in Shelton, Conn., and run by Ulrik Poulsen, CEO of Bridgeport Magnetics, plans to offer a $7,000 conversion kit that turns any conventional car into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle by mounting small electric motors onto the rear wheels. The Poulsen system also uses a lithium-ion battery pack and will double a car's gas mileage, says Poulsen, the system's creator. The company hasn’t released data on how far the system will go on a single charge, but charging it would also cost less than a dollar, he says.

From Forbes Autos - For Full Story



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