AFVI 2008: Green Gears' Pat Cadam talks Hymotion, plug-in Prius conversions

Pat Cadam started Pat's Garage in San Francisco about 25 years ago and worked exclusively on Honda and Acura vehicles at first. In the 1990s, Pat and his mechanics found themselves in an unusual position because they enjoyed working on some of the new-fangled Honda EVs while other people were slightly afraid of them. The Insight, for example, became a shop favorite, soon followed by the Prius. In 2006, Cadam partnered with Nick Rothman and Green Gears to focus even more on eco-vehicles like hybrids (another San Francisco-based shop, Luscious Garage, has a similar mission but adds a woman's touch).

Cadam first heard about the possibility of converting hybrids to plug-in vehicles in his shop about two years ago. He investigated the options and concluded that Hymotion's nearly plug-and-play model would be the best for his garage. A few business meetings later, and Green Garage began doing prototype conversions. The garage has done about 65 conversions in the last 18 months, starting with small government fleets and utility fleets (e.g., Google, Wisconsin Public Power, Austin Energy). Most, but not all, of the vehicles have been Priuses; Green Gears has also done proof-of-concept conversions of Escape hybrids. The data from these test units helped Hymotion launch their $10,000 production Prius conversion packs, which officially began shipping two weeks ago. Green Gears installed the first three production units into Priuses belonging to UC Davis.

Today, each Prius conversion takes around four hours, but Green Gears sets aside a day each time they do one. This is because the mechanics do additional testing with each unit and then spend time on driver education - notifying the new PHEV Prius owner about the 35 mph limit for EV-only mode, for example, and telling them how to maximize fuel use even at highway speeds (hint, it involves lots of coasting). These sessions have led Cadam to prepare an eco-driving course, with tips that people who don't have a plug-in or a PHEV can use, that Green Gears will offer in June.

Cadam says that the onset of official plug-in hybrids coming in the next few years doesn't mean his shop will be out of the conversion or green car business. Like Kim Adelman, Cadam sees OEM PHEVs as just more eco-car to work with, ones that offer a huge possibility for maximizing fuel efficiency.

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