At least a few dozen people around the country have now done one-off conversions of hybrids
like the Toyota Prius
and Ford Escape
to transform them into plug-in vehicles. For those who may not have the hardware hacker gene in their DNA, the first commercially available plug-in conversion kit is now on the market from A123 Systems subsidiary HyMotion. Popular Mechanics Detroit Editor Larry Webster recently had the chance to sample a converted Prius
with the HyMotion kit for a couple of days. The kit consists of a 5 kWh lithium ion battery and associated electronics that are claimed to give the Prius a 30-mile electric range. As Larry found out this isn't exactly true. The pack will give the Prius up to 30 miles of driving before the battery is depleted. However, the Prius is not designed as an electric vehicle
and the 67 hp electric motor is insufficient to let it operate on electrons alone at all speeds. With a very light foot on the gas pedal you can get up up to about 35 mph without the engine. Even at higher speeds, Larry found the engine would occasionally shutoff allowing the car to run on batteries. At lower speeds however, the engine will occasionally start up depending on the driving condition so that 30-mile range is really mixed mode driving. During Larry's time with the Prius he got about 24-25 miles before the lithium battery was depleted. Given the $10,000 price tag of the kit, this looks likes its strictly for the environmentally-minded rather than those trying to save money.
[Source: Popular Mechanics