• Dec 11th 2007 at 12:22PM
  • 9
At the EVS23 show in Anaheim last week, I finally got a chance to talk to Kim Adelman, president of Plug-in Conversions (I missed him at the Santa Monica Alt Car Expo). Adelman offers at-home (or at-work) conversions of your own Prius by adding Nilar battery packs. Plug-in Conversions offers three different battery options - either 2, 4 or 7 kWh. The small system costs around $8,000 and bumps up the mpge rating to around 50-60 with an all-electric range of around eight miles. The 4 kWh system costs $12,500 and gives 16 miles of EV range (although Adelman was able to squeeze 19+ miles from this pack recently). The large 7 kWh pack goes for $15,000 and will move your Prius for 24 miles on electrons and pushes your mpge to 100+.

Adelman is limited by some of the restrictions that Toyota built into the Prius, such as the 34 mph speed limit when running solely on battery power. Should Toyota come out with their own PHEV Prius (which, in current testing, goes 62 mph on batteries), Adelman said, they will give Plug-in Conversions an even more fun vehicle to work with.

The additional packs Adelman uses are Nilar nickel-metal hydride packs. NiMH batteries are the ignored child of the current battery boom - everyone is looking towards lithium technology - but Nilar's Kurt Jensen says their time is not over yet. Jensen was also at the booth and spoke with AutoblogGreen about the Nilar battery technology and some of the patent issues that automakers face when working with nickel-metal hydride batteries. He didn't get into great detail about the intellectual property issues that cover this technology, unfortunately. You can hear Adelman talk about the car here (8 min, 5 MB) and Jensen talk about the batteries here (10 min, 7 MB).

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      "The small system costs around $8,000 "

      Cripes! Have these folks lost their minds?

      Share your car with one person once a week (AKA car pool) and you will have more impact on the environment, CO2, global warming, etc.) than any hybrid will ever have. And think of the nice conversation you get as well!
      • 7 Years Ago
      While the cost is high, I think it is very unrealistic to be making comparisons between the Prius and a modified Plug-in Prius.

      First, these companies are in the business to sell their technology, and saving gasoline is a secondary goal. If it is possible to sell people a 7 kwh pack for $100 and they still make money, they will sell it. The limiting factor right now is the logistics and investment.

      Second, breaking down costs like this is somewhat irrelevant. If cost is the ONLY reason why one buys a car, then why buy a NEW car at all? If saving fuel is the goal, then why buy just compare cars, why not involve other factors like scooters and e-bicycles? The argument can go on with infinite variations.

      The point is that the market for plug-ins is a new frontier. In order to claim your piece of the pie, businesses have to start somewhere. This is not just about modding a Prius for "green creds" but about Nilar wanting to sell their products to a receptive audience.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Who do you contact for a battery replacement for a Prius.
        • 6 Years Ago
        We are talking about Hybrids, the subject is the main battery and yes there are many people at 150,000 miles (per blogs) that find themselves with the main batteries (powering the electric motor) dead. The price has dropped and Toyota is the only one with the programming but not the only one with the battery for the Prius. Again, do you know where a 2001 Prius main power battery (Lithium or NiCad) can be order?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Which battery? There are two batteries in the Prius (plus one in the key fob).

        There is a 12 volt lead acid battery that powers the accessories and the controls, like a standard auto starting battery but smaller. Since it is located in the trunk the replacement must vent through a hose. You can order replacements through a toyota dealer, or from several other suppliers. A Mazda Miata battery can also be used! You shouldn't have to pay over $150, shop around and you could get it for about $100.

        The NiMH main traction battery must be ordered from Toyota, but it is unlikely that it would need replacement unless physically damaged or fully discharged- there are Prius over 10 years old still running fine on their original NiMH batteries. The lead acid battery won't last nearly that long, when you hear of a Prius battery replacement, it most likely will be the 12 volt lead acid that went belly-up.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ok, so let's say you live in California drive your Prius mostly in town or in the burbs, 12000 miles a year. Let's say you manage 50mpg on the stock vehicle. At $3.50 a gallon, you're using 240 gallons/year at cost of $840/year.

      Now let's say you spend an extra $15k for the 7kWh supplemental pack. Let's further assume that your duty cycle is such that you really do end up paying as much as you would without plugging in to the grid but averaging 100MPG, i.e. 120 gal/yr or $420.

      Ignoring net present value considerations and assuming the price of gasoline will not change, you're looking at an ROI horizon of $15000/$420 = 36 years, i.e. three times the vehicle's life expectancy.

      This illustrates why plug-in retrofits are not a scalable solution and therefore, of little value to either the individual or society as a whole. For the $15000, you could equip perhaps 30 cars with a factory-installed option of a stop-start system plus intelligent alternator (cp. BMW efficient dynamics, Citroen C2/3/4 etc) Fuel savings: ~5% in combined-cycle driving.

      Now, lets assume you decide to spend your $15k one a tax-deductible donation to a charity that subsidizes the purchase of new vehicles that feature this option. Let's also say that qualifying models must achieve at least 35MPG combined cycle even without it, the CAFE target the House has voted for in 2020. Your identity will be revealed to benefactors if you so wish.

      In a single year, these 30 vehicles will save roughly 5% * 30 * 12000 / 35 = 514 gallons of fuel, over 4x the amount you would save by upgrading your Prius to 100mpge! The tax deduction (worth ~$4000-5000) more or less compensates you for forgoing your own savings at the pump. The only fly in the ointment is that very few manufacturers currently offer the described option on their vehicles, but that may change before long.

      Now tell me, what would give you greater bragging rights: driving around in a modded Prius that gets 100mpge or philantropy that achieves over 4x the impact?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree with 'Dad', besides the plugin-hype we should not forget where else we can save energy. The principle reduce, reuse, recycle also applies to driving. Lots of emissions could be saved by simply not even taking a car. I know this is not the solution as most of us are in love with cars, and many depend on the car to get to/from work etc. And for those a green car is a good thing. But to be an environmentally responsible person, you do not need a hybrid car...
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Now tell me, what would give you greater bragging rights: driving around in a modded Prius that gets 100mpge or philantropy that achieves over 4x the impact?"

      Drive in the modded hybrid ;-)!!!!!! It is all about image, style over substance of course.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think it's important to note that these people aren't out to save money (although you are right that we should warn pp who are looking to save money to consider other options), nor are they out to continue using gas in their conversions. I think most would want to use their cars as an EV most of the time until practical EVs begin to be avaliable. This high initial cost is also because these are still low volume batteries. These prices can be halved pretty quickly. Look at 5kWh li-ion pack from a123 with cost of $12k, and that's with more expensive nano lithium cells. Then there is the whopping 56kWh pack from Tesla at a cost of $20k (honestly I don't believe it either, but that's what they quote a replacement pack would cost). These are prime examples of "early adopters" who are going to help drive down battery cost until they are feasible for EVs.
      Your calculations assume gas prices never rise and assume that there are start-stop devices avaliable now in the US and assume that charities exist that subsidizes purchases of vehicles with specific specs. In short it amounts to waiting around until these things are implemented. These early adopters are putting money out of their pockets to spur development in automotive battery packs. We are already seeing results with GM pushing for the Volt. The development in battery technology in this rush for PHEVs can only help in making a practical EV a reality.
      Honestly, people can easily blow $10k more on a car for a better badge, or for more performance, or more luxury, and none of those save you any money at all. I don't see the problem with people blowing money for better mileage and better technology in our future.