What's the difference between a Prius and a hacked Prius?

I saw a note of a "battery only" feature on European Prius hybrid in the Oct. 23rd edition of U.S. News and World Report's letters to the editor. One of the magazine's readers, Richard Rosenbaum, wrote in to ask why this feature, which allows the Prius to move solely on electric power, wasn't included in American versions of the world's most popular hybrid. I've never taken a ride in a European Prius, and I wanted to find out more about this button.

Turns out this EV button is standard on Asian and European Priuses. It's also available to American drivers if you're willing to hack into your Prius' wiring. Treehugger helps you figure out how. Once activated, the EV-only mode lets you drive up to 34 miles an hour off of the battery's power. The benefit is that the gasoline motor doesn't start up, and starting up is when emissions are highest. Since you're draining the battery in EV-only mode, it's really only useful when you want to move the Prius a really short distance (alternate side of the street parking, anyone?). If you want to hack your hybrid, you can read all the details in this PDF.

[Source: U.S. News and World Report, Treehugger]

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