|The future of plug-in hybrid cars|
As one might expect, Toyota has some concerns about anyone converting a Prius into a PHEV, but it is watching with interest. "We understand why this is a compelling idea," says Toyota spokesperson Cindy Knight, "but right now we feel like our hybrids offer the best balance between clean emissions, improved fuel economy, and being fun to drive." Knight also noted that installing a PHEV conversion kit would certainly void the Prius's power train warranty and might affect all or part of the basic warranty depending on the changes required during the conversion-kit installation.
Initially, the Edrive kit will be offered for only the second-generation Toyota Prius (2004 model year and newer), although kits may be developed for other hybrid models in the future. Kramer says that hybrid SUVs, such as the Ford Escape Hybrid
, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid
, and the Lexus RX400h
, are good candidates for the conversion kits because of their popularity and the additional space for batteries. In the Prius conversion kit, the lithium-ion battery, which is about triple the size of the original battery, is installed under the carpet of the cargo area. CalCars is considering creating a for-profit company to develop a conversion kit for the Ford Escape.
The larger battery pack in a modified Toyota Prius sits under the carpet of the cargo area.
PHEVs may become one of several choices in the alternative-fuel vehicle segment thanks to some efforts at the federal level. U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) is a fan of PHEVs and put an effort before the Senate to get funding for PHEVs that had flexible fuel capabilities. Flexible-fuel vehicles can run on more than one fuel, such as gasoline or ethanol. By taking flexible-fuel vehicles and converting them to PHEVs, fuel economy for these vehicles could achieve up to the equivalent of 500mpg of gasoline. Obama's proposal was part of the massive energy bill that President Bush signed in August 2005.
In the long run, Kramer says he'd like nothing better than CalCars to be put out of business. "Our biggest goal is to get an automaker to build these vehicles. We'll work with any and all automakers that are interested in bringing plug-in hybrids to market," he says.