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Plug-in Toyota Prius prototype - Click above for a high-res gallery

The first known instance of a plug-in hybrid car going up in flames occurred on June 7 in Columbia, South Carolina to a 2008 Prius that had been converted to plug-in capability for the Central Electric Power Cooperative. The conversion was performed with a Hybrids-Plus PHEV15 conversion kit that uses an A123 Systems lithium ion battery pack. The incident is still under investigation by Phoenix, Arizona-based Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation. Initial information indicates the fire

Last year, Google made some waves when they announced the RechargeIT project to convert a fleet of Toyota Priuses and Ford Escape hybrids to plug-in capability. The company has just issued their first progress report on the program, and the results may be disappointing for those promoting plug-in conversions. Right now the only way to get a plug-in hybrid is to buy an off-the shelf model like the Prius or Escape and than install a $10-15,000 conversion kit. Unfortunately, as we learned from a re

Earlier this summer Toyota announced plans to start testing some plug-in versions of the Prius in Japan. That announcement was quickly followed by two of the PHEV Priuses coming to California and now the program is hopping another ocean. Following up on the rumors circulating over the weekend, European energy company EDF has struck a deal with Toyota to test some of the plug-in hybrids in France.

I'm just going to assume you've heard that Toyota is testing a plug-in Prius on public roads in Japan. If this has slipped by you, check out the links below. Otherwise, you know that the PHEV uses the standard nickel metal hydride batteries, not new and fancy lithium ion batteries. So, what does the plug-in NiMH give you? BusinessWeek fills us in.

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