Imagine if you could convert your regular gas car into a plug-in car with off-the-shelf components? Maybe you can! That orange thing in the picture is a battery back up you charge by plugging it in. You can recharge your battery with the cigarette lighter in your car. Plug in the the back up battery, attach the battery to an inverter adapter, then the adapter to the car's cigarette lighter and viola; you have a plug-in car. The alternator uses gas to charge the battery. If you charge your battery from the plug, you will save gas. It's just that simple.
However, the battery is only used to provide starting power and power accessories when the engine is off. When the engine is running the alternator provides the primary power to drive accessories, fuel pumps, ignition, lights and pretty much everything else electrical. So you won't see much gas saving unless you like to run your lights with the engine off. For this to be really useful, car makers would have to add plug-in capability, more batteries and develop a mechanism to cycle the alternator when the battery state of charge gets low.
OK, this isn't exactly Cal Cars but we thought our readers might be interested in our little idea before we begin to tinker with it in the garage. Would you go through the trouble of plugging in your car just to save a little gas and have your accessories like the car radio powered from the cleaner power grid? Tell us ideas you might have in comments. We would love to hear them. Again, we don't advise you try this. We really don't know if something bad will happen. We just want your advice on the idea of a mild plug-in car.
(Fellow AutoblogGreen blogger Sam Abuelsamid contributed to this article.)