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We'll start with the numbers: $1,995 will get you a 2 kWh plug-in battery pack for your second-generation Toyota Prius; $2,995 will get you a 4 kWh pack (the installation feel and the $95 delivery charge are extra). For your two or three grand, you can reach "the holy grail of achieving 100 mpg."

These are the promises of Enginer, a collaborative venture between Automation Tech Inc. from the U.S. and the Australian-Chinese-owned company Worldlink-China Co. Ltd., in a new press release. If true, then Enginer has a serious competitor to the Hymotion Prius PHEV conversion kit (which costs around $9,999 for a 5 kWh pack). We're not ready to sign up for one of these Enginer packs quite yet, though, even if they are participating in the Automotive X Prize. We'd like to see more numbers, something a little more detailed than Automation Tech's president Jack Chen saying, "With this system, we can improve the Prius' fuel efficiency by 40-100%." We like the idea of a cheaper hybrid conversion kit, especially one that the company says could be used in other vehicles like the Ford Escape, but we've heard all sorts of big promises before.

We're also skeptical of this line in the Enginer press release (read the whole thing after the jump):
If the Enginer system is installed in a new vehicle at a dealer, it will also qualify for the tax credit under the recently passed Recovery Act. The credit that applies gives the purchaser a $2500 tax credit from the federal government.
Last time we looked, the government wasn't big into promoting plug-in conversions. We're not sure where this $2,500 number comes from.

[Source: Enginer]

PRESS RELEASE:

Michigan Firm Develops Lower-Price Plug-in Prius Kit

SYNOPSIS: 2 kWh version costs $1995 and a 4 kWh version sells for $2995

Troy, MI – While the big auto companies are still trying to bring to market the high mileage vehicles that the public is clamoring for, a small Troy company, joint ventured with Australian-Chinese owned manufacturers has already achieved the holy grail of achieving 100 mpg. The highly touted GM Volt, which is expected to come to market in 2010, has a rumored cost of $40,000 and will reportedly go 40 miles before needing to have its batteries recharged. Enginer has created the best of both worlds by using a hybrid and adding advanced battery technology, increasing range dramatically. The battery conversion from Enginer comes in two versions, a 2 kWh version which costs $1995 and a 4 kWh version which sells for $2995. At these prices the payback period is about two to five years. Competitors' units cost from $12-14,000.

Jack Chen, President of Automation Tech, Enginer's exclusive distributor in North America says, "With this system, we can improve the Prius' fuel efficiency by 40-100%." Chen says the system can also be used in other hybrid vehicles and the company is seeking to work with the big auto companies to have their technology installed at the factory, instead of as an add-on. Automation Tech is also developing other energy saving technologies which offer exceptional opportunities for investors in these times of rising costs for energy and high demand for innovative solutions.

According to the Enginer web site the system is much simpler and less intrusive than competitors' products. it doesn't alter original vehicle's control algorithm and design specification and can be installed by a professional installer in 2-4 hours and by a do-it-yourselfer in about 8 hours. With many experts saying that we have reached peak oil, oil prices will continue to rise, and having a vehicle that can get up to 100 mpg will help Americans afford to keep driving, even with high gas prices. There are already over 1 million hybrids on the road and by using plug-in conversion kits, such as those offered by Automation Tech, Inc, consumers can start realizing the benefits of a plug-in hybrid without waiting for the major manufacturers to bring their products to market.

If the Enginer system is installed in a new vehicle at a dealer, it will also qualify for the tax credit under the recently passed Recovery Act. The credit that applies gives the purchaser a $2500 tax credit from the federal government.
Enginer is also looking for auto dealers to serve as installation locations and business partners to help in either product distribution or speeding their overall expansion
.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 14 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      My understanding was that the Prius electric motor/generator unit still shuts off at 30 mph or 41 mph... so unless the majority of your commute is under those speeds, how does adding a larger battery pack improve mileage?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Prius motor/generator does not "shut off" at any speed,* it is simply the case that it is not sized to propel the car on its own in situations which demand higher power output. i.e. driving quickly on level ground or up a slight hill, or even slowly up a steep hill.

        *I have seen, for example, the car maintaining 55 mph on electric only over many miles. The secret, though, was that the road happened to have a mild downgrade over that distance. As soon as the ground was level again, or the driver requests significant acceleration, on comes the ICE.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I bought a 2kwh system. Gotta say, it sucked. It worked "ok" for the first three months. Even then, it was not simple to keep it all electric under 30mph (can't put your foot down) and at typical secondary road commuting at 30-50mph and very proficient and patient hyper-miler skills I only got +20mpg at best. (80mpg vs 60). After 3 months, the batteries lost balance and a cell went bad. I tried manually re-balancing 3x, but the damage was done and it wouldn't stay balanced. I didn't bother trying to get a refund, I had had enough.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hi,

      At the very least, this should lower the cost of replacement stock Prius batteries (which are 1.3kWh, IIRC). For the same approximate cost, you can get this 4kWh set up -- and triple your current EV mode range.

      Sincerely, Neil
      • 6 Years Ago
      A 5kwh system would be good for teenage son/daughter driving to school with no gas allowance.
      • 6 Years Ago
      A 5KWh Hymotion kit is borderline useless. A 2KWh one is utterly useless.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Completely depends on your usage patterns. If your typical usage involves short trips with limited high speed travel, PHEV conversions are great. Even if it's all high-speed driving, if you drain the pack it's basically the same as driving in pure EV mode for about 15 miles.

        There are tons of people cutting their fuel consumption in half or more with the Hymotion kit. I have seen some people going as far as 2-3000 miles before having to fill up their gas tank.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Federal Laws and Incentives Listed below are summaries of all current federal laws, incentives, regulations, and programs related to alternative fuels and vehicles, advanced technologies, or air quality. You can go directly to summaries of: Incentives (24) Laws and Regulations (19) http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/laws/US Programs (14) Incentives Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit Fueling equipment for natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (propane), electricity, E85, or diesel fuel blends containing a minimum of 20% biodiesel installed between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2013, is eligible for a tax credit of 30% of the cost, not to exceed $30,000. Fueling station owners who install qualified equipment at multiple sites are allowed to use the credit towards each location. Consumers who purchased qualified residential fueling equipment prior to December 31, 2013, may receive a tax credit of up to $1,000. Unused credits that qualify as general business tax credits, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), may be carried backward one year and carried forward 20 years. (Reference H.R. 8, 2013, Section 402, and 26 U.S. Code 30C and 38) Point of Contact U.S. Internal Revenue Service Phone: (800) 829-1040 http://www.irs.gov/
      • 6 Years Ago
      Couple comments on the design of the Enginer system.

      Cost is very low because of the simple method used to integrate into the Toyota HSD as well as the inexpensive Lithium batteries used. From the initial user reports, there are some bugs still being worked out, but things look very promising considering the price.

      Most existing PHEV kits tie into the CAN bus of the car and basically fake out the ECU into thinking that the battery is full, then coercing the Prius to run in EV mode. Getting this right requires a good amount of electronics, engineering and testing.

      The Enginer kit instead ties into the system making it look like the car is always in regenerative braking mode, thus charging the stock battery. It aims to keep the stock battery charge at about 75-80% full (8 bars on a stock Prius) which is about 240v. The system is designed be able to push about 12A into the car this way.

      The benefit of integrating this way is that it is very simple. You don't have to fool or trick any of the stock electronics - the stock battery management system remains in full effect, protecting the stock battery.

      The drawback is that this limits your EV-only mode operation. The gas engine will engage more frequently, so this will limit your fuel economy compared to other PHEV kits like Hymotion. Driven carefully, you can still achieve some very impressive fuel economy numbers. There are people over on the PriusChat forums getting about 100mpg in real life.

      The Enginer kit also utilizes a BMS system which equalizes the cells in operation and charging.

      So while the Hymotion-style kit may be better for city-style driving - in the end, overall fuel economy (and electricity usage) will be very similar between the two kits, except in situations where you are travelling within the range of the PHEV pack and the additional EV-mode power of the Hymotion kit keeps you from running the engine.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You have to measure what you buy according to your needs.
      If you assume that you use around 70% of the battery before the engine switches on, and around 4 miles per kwh, then you get around 5 or 6 miles gas free before the engine kicks in on the 2kwh pack and around 14m miles on the 5kwh pack.
      Useless? For some maybe - not for everyone.
      14miles/day would mean that I only had to fill up when I was doing a run - everyday use would be electric.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Just have to keep in mind that the Enginer kit isn't designed to keep the engine from running unless you are keeping speeds low and are very gentle on the throttle.

        What that means is that the battery pack will "last" more miles than other PHEV kits (like Hymotion), but it also means that potentially your fuel consumption will be higher with the Enginer kit compared to the Hymotion kit.

        But also as you say - either way, if you use 1kWh of electricity, that's the same as getting about 4 miles of gas-free operation.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If you live in Bristol, England, where I do, then unless you particularly like speeding from traffic light to traffic light and then having to wait there, or getting a fine of £60 and an endorsement on your license from the numerous speed cameras, then you might as well be light on the throttle.
        I can only think of one stretch of road within around 2 miles of my home where the speed limit goes up to a dizzying 50mph!
        In London average speeds are around 12mph.
        If you fancy going a bit faster then 50miles per gallon or so for a mile will not break the bank.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This sounds good, but may need a changes to the ECU. On the gen3 Prius you can do about 25mph in EV mode, which is nice because it allows for near normal acceleration. The car can achieve about 43mph on battery alone but requires a light touch. If a larger battery pack allowed 5 to 10 or even 20 miles, it would be desirable to use EV mode up to about 45mph.
        • 6 Years Ago
        They are using the same ECU to keep things simple and cheap, AFAIK
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