• Sep 22nd 2008 at 3:57PM
  • 16
Senator Lamar Alexander has put his money where his energy policy mouth is and shelled out the $10,000 it costs to have a Prius converted by A123 Systems to a plug-in type hybrid. The senator says he gets 30 miles out of the lithium ion battery before the engine is called upon to do some work. Having only a 5 or 6 mile daily commute, Alexander has burned about half a tank a gas since sometime last July which is just a bit less than his former vehicle, a leased Nissan Maxima, would have burned. Of course, his motivation for the innovative installation was not to save money but to illustrate what is possible.

Having worked with the TVA for many years, Alexander is well aware that the rather large Tennessee Valley region has an unused nighttime electricity capacity that is equal to the output of six or seven nuclear plants. He hopes that a lot of that energy can go to power transportation vehicles in the future and help offset imported oil. Although he believes this goal will take 15 to 20 years to achieve, he calculates that if half of our current fleet of cars and trucks had similar capabilities as his shiny black Prius, we could cut our oil imports by 4 to 5 million barrels a day - just about half. This, of course, would be great but we hope it happens a lot sooner than 2028.

[Source: US News and World Report]


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  • 16 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      5-6 miles? Dude should just take the metro every day, just like a vast number of people in Washington, DC. That would show leadership, not spending $10k to convert a prius.



      • 7 Years Ago
      Natural gas would solve that and you can fill that while you charge at your house.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Its Lamar Alexander....Not Alexander Lamar
      • 7 Years Ago
      5 or 6 miles? In all practicality he'd be better off riding a bicycle to work. But this does make a good point - for those of us who live a little farther away, but still less than 40 miles away, we could drive to work without using any gas. And the technology is here right now thanks to A123 and other "Prius-pimping" shops.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Alexander Lamar?

      The Senior Senator from Tennessee's name is Lamar Alexander.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Wow. Thanks for that. I guess I had a bout of dyslexia last night.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hey Senator instead of increasing the trade defecit with Japan and increasing CO2 emmisions (They are not shipped on sail boats) maybe you can pony up some development and manufacturing money so we can have our own made in the US solution! How much would a Tesla cost if we had our own Lion battery manufacturing infrastructure in the US?
      • 7 Years Ago
      So, let me do the math. Prius costs $22,226 and the upgrade costs $10,000 at retail price. The Volt is projected to cost $40,000 and GM is begging for tax incentives. Something doesn't add up. Who's lying around here. I mean, you can get a car that goes 30 miles without any gas, and you can get it for around $32,000? That's insane.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I'm sure the volt does better, but even the upgraded Prius goes all electric up to 35mph for quite a few miles. Not ideal for all speeds, but it does go that way. All this for $10,000 RETAIL! So all this with third party hardware and it still costs less than the Volt. The Volt is way more expensive and GM is begging for tax incentives. That's the crazy part!
        • 7 Years Ago
        @meme

        Well, another difference is that you can buy a Prius and convert it with a Hymotion kit, whereas the Volt might be produced in 2011, so your comparison is really hypothetical.

        It certainly will be interesting as the market changes. Imagine, if you will, a 2013 Consumers Union comparison of a BYD, Toyota, Nissan and GM plug-in, assuming for the moment that all of those names still abound.

        @Richard

        You're asking if a GM bailout makes sense when, as Dennis Kuchinik, succinctly described the proposed, near trillion dollar Wall Street bailout: "Their profit are their profits and their losses are our losses."
        • 7 Years Ago
        He isn't doing it to save money, he's doing it to prove it works, and to help reduce our dependence on imported oil. Hmm, actually helping the country, sounds kinda patriotic, doesn't it?

        He is using this upgrade, as it is available now, but it isn't quite optimum. A Toyota designed plug-in hybrid would have a much higher EV only speed and better performance and would probably cost a bit less, too.

        I'm really looking forwards to the plug-in revolution.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Here's what doesn't add up: the Prius, even converted, doesn't have any zero emissions range. It doesn't have a big enough engine to go over 35mph on electric alone.

        Here's the A123 conversion:

        http://www.a123systems.com/hymotion/products/N5_range_extender

        It says 100mpg for 30-40 miles, it doesn't list any practical zero emissions range.

        Maybe he does under 35mph on his way to work?
        • 7 Years Ago
        The upgraded Prius is nothing close to the capabilities of the Volt. In the Volt, 90% of your trips use zero gasoline, and the rest get 48mpg. In the plug-in Prius, 80% of your trips get 100mpg, and the others get 46mpg. Hence, you use many times more gasoline with the Prius.

        Not comparable.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well, having only burned a half-tank of gas since July is great, but gas eventually goes sour. All this talk of 30- and 40-mile range vehicles on plug-in power is great, but if you leave the gas sitting in the tank for a long time, it will go bad. It didn't matter as much when vehicles had engines that displaced more than 300 cubic inches and ran 300+ cfm 4-bbl carbs, but now, with the super-sensitive, high-tech automobiles of today, having a tank full of bad gas can really mess with how well the car runs.
      Even more than that, a car like the Prius uses a fuel bladder, and I imagine adding a can of Sta-bil from Advance Auto Parts or AutoZone might cause the bladder to deteriorate.

      So, +1 for effort, but unless the gas is in a conventional fuel tank with fuel stabilizer added, I don't think it's a good idea to leave fuel in the tank for that long.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Toyota developed the bladder type tank to reduce fuel losses and hydrocarbon vapor emissions, but it also has other benefits.

        The fuel bladder actually prevents the gasoline from going bad! It keeps air, moisture and other contaminants from reaching the gasoline, the light volatiles can't evaporate to leave behind the sticky varnish, and it can't oxidize or accumulate water.

        I suspect GM will probably use something similar for their Volt.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Awesome ! What a good example of a Senator that puts his money where his mouth is.
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