Availability of Plug-in Hybrids

Shopping for Plug-in Hybrids

If you’re excited enough about plug-in hybrids to start shopping for one, you may need to reset your expectations. Despite all the media attention about plug-in hybrids—also known as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or PHEVs—it’s still not yet possible for an individual consumer to buy one, and only a few have gone to fleets or government agencies.

Toyota, the current leader in hybrids, is saying that it will produce a few demonstration plug-ins by 2010, but those will not be available to the public. General Motors got a lot buzz for its PHEV concept, the Chevrolet Volt, at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, and has plans for a plug-in version of the Saturn Vue Green Line—but the company’s target dates for putting those vehicles on sale are somewhat fluid. And while DaimlerChrysler has a small fleet of PHEV prototypes, they are built on a large van platform more suitable as a delivery vehicle than for the average family’s daily jaunts to work, the supermarket, or soccer practice.

To Our Own Devices

For the moment, if you have your heart set on owning a PHEV, you won’t be headed to the local dealership. You’ll have to build it yourself, or get someone else to do it for you. Sound crazy? Maybe, but already there are dozens of PHEVs on the road in North America, and a few more are built each month. Except for the do-it-yourself conversions, all of these vehicles are in the hands of institutions, such as electric utilities, local governments, and air quality management districts.

Like any heavily modified car, the first PHEVs are expensive, can have reliability issues, and have not been crash-tested in their modified form. But their owners enjoy exceptionally high gas mileage, greater all-electric range, and the privilege of being automotive pioneers.

Most of today’s PHEVs start with a stock, late-model (2004-2007) Toyota Prius. Larger battery packs are added, either supplementing the existing battery or replacing it entirely. The extra energy from these batteries allows these conversions to drive longer in all-electric mode, although they are still subject to the “rules” of the Prius drivetrain. For example, hard acceleration, speeds above 34 MPH, or use of climate controls brings the gasoline engine on. Even with the engine on, however, Prius-based PHEVs still achieve higher mileage—about double that of a conventional Prius—because the extra electricity can be blended in more frequently than in a standard Prius.

Today’s PHEVs vary widely in performance. Why? The answer is in the amount of energy they can store on-board the vehicle:

  • Current Prius-based PHEVs store between two and seven times the energy stored in a standard Prius battery. Overall, Prius-based PHEVs average between 65 and 95 MPG, with periods of driving at well over 100 MPG.

The more energy in the battery pack, the further the vehicle can go in all electric-mode, and the longer it can “boost” MPG on the highway. Storing more energy isn’t just a matter of putting in a bigger battery—the type of battery is also important since each battery chemistry has different characteristics.

I Want My PHEV

Still itching to have your own plug-in hybrid? The list of companies offering plug-in conversions, kits, or related services is growing everyday. Many are focused on building vehicles for government agencies and other fleets, but some are now taking orders. We’ll continue to add to this list as learn about new companies. Send us a note, if you hear of a new conversion company, and we’ll add it to the list. Because the sand is shifting so quickly, you’ll need to do your own leg work in terms of getting an exact price, turnaround time, and technical specs.

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  • Rudolf

    Please Calcars! Lead-acid! and that weight for just 10 miles further.


  • Indio

    Why not have a NiMH kit that’s halfway in price between the Pba and LiIon kits?

  • Rohit

    These PHEV conversion companies need to expand rapidly so that car companies see to huge market for PHEVs. Car companies say there is no market but people say there is no company offering the product (PHEVs).

  • Catch 22

    Clearly anyone who adds $25K to a $25K car that will end up with a 25-mile range has too much time and money. This is not a realistic proof vehicle. Batteries are one of the most environmentally-unfriendly creations on our planet. See article below.


  • langjie

    if i were rich enough to pay 25,000 for a prius and anotehr 25,000 for a lithium battery, i’d rather dish out another 40,000 and get the tesla

  • John Grabber

    Nickel Metal Hydride batteries remain the ONLY battery that can be safely disposed of at your local landfill. 🙂

  • Joseph M.

    I want to have the choice of plugging my car in. I would use the plug. I don’t understand why Toyota is not putting a plug on the Hybrid now, and let people plug-in if they want to. it’s simple, fill up at some remote station(not interested), or fill up at home plugging in(very interested). See, a no brainer.Why still no plug? Talk about conspiracy, geeeeze. helloooo. And I don’t want to hear the batteries are not ready yet. we have over 500,000 Prius on the road, with Nickel Metal Hydride Battery technology, just add more batteries, and a plug.

  • John Grabber

    Have never understood how all of us have isues that concern us or just simply make us angry, but we continue on paying fuel prices that we all know are ripping us off. We continue to burn planet harming fossill fuel when we all know there are alternatives. We buy products that are packaged in material that weighs more than the product itself and will end up in a landfill visible for thousands of years.
    What is wrong with us all? When do we learn? When do we care?
    I am sick of the self serving people who will argue global warming issues until their last breath. Surely to god is there not a single brain cell in their head that can produce enough thought to realize that man and his industry and transportation are affecting global balance. How do we unite for change and fairness. Can we unite, or do we continue to kick at each other for profit, greed and envy. Easter long weekend coming and fossil fuel will rise 10 cents in price. Give me a break. I know there is hope as there are many good people fighting this madness thought pattern which has been a fat ugly and slimy comfort to individuals, corporations, and governments for many years.
    Wake the will of the people and let the rest go on in their hummers wearing their baby seal clubbed fur coat from the attached garage to the underground parking lot. My Prius makes a difference. I make a difference! The planet has a new friend and his name is Al Gore!!!

  • Aero

    it does not cost no10-25k for batteries they are there to gouge you and make you pay more so they can make more dirty money.

  • notanengineer

    could a university engineering dept experiment with creating a parking lot equipt with solar collection panels and outlets to plug in Hybrids while parked on campus? In return for free power the users could provide data for research!

  • Moondog

    O.k. folks, I think we all realize we need plug-in hybrids if we care to rid ouselves of our middle eastern nut-job problems. So why is it that it’s taking automakers so long to produce one? After 10 years of limited imports from OPEC, the whole region would be almost insignificant to the U.S. Fact is, we import 54% of our energy from outside our borders, and by 2010 that number will probably exceed 70%. As far as cost goes, it’s a bunch of Hoey – we need a good old fashioned “Gubment Subsidy” to defray the cost of the batteries, just like we give to our farmer friends. I’ve never been much of a political guy, but why are our elected officials not doing more to solve our crisis? C’mon guys (and gals), let’s “git-er-done”. I personnaly think we need to focus our efforts on developing more hydropower and solar power, cleaning up our coal fired power plant processes (for the short term), and expanding our renewable liquid fuel sources, like cellulosic ethanol.

  • GOK

    “…have not been crash-tested in their modified form.” concerns me a little bit for an ever day car loaded with extra batteries it wasn’t designed for. Personal injury aside if one of these conversion is done badly and then has a bad accident. The PR could be detrimental to the PHEV movement. Because the News never leads with “Idiot modified car incorrectly lead to death…” they would lead with “PHEV fries childern in back seat…”.

    Just a thought.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    I like your idea of putting solar collection panel over parking spots in parking lots. It does not, however, require much engineering, certainly not from hot-shot university engineering researchers. It simply requires people who own parking lots to want to do it and for (parking lot and car) owners to be willing to pay to put them up.

  • “Catch 22,” Oh, here we go again

    “Clearly anyone who adds $25K to a $25K car that will end up with a 25-mile range has too much time and money. This is not a realistic proof vehicle. Batteries are one of the most environmentally-unfriendly creations on our planet. See article below.


    Ding Ding, someone has quoted that crap article again…

  • Halo9x

    Have a little faith, God made the Earth much better than you give Him credit for. As for Al Gore, he is an idiot! Drill here, drill more, pay less!

  • toes

    Halo9x: Hahaha, Hilarious … you were joking right? If not: Enough with the fairy tales already. Good fiction does not qualify as science. Drill here, continue to increase the oil industries profits … perfect alternate technologies and make it competitive for them. End the dependence on and addiction to oil.

  • Jef

    The reason for non-internal combustion engines is obvious – to conserve our nonrenewable energy sources and make the most of our renewable ones. Most internal combustion engines only use 20% of the energy in the nonrenewable source. Pretty poor idea I’d say.

    I personnaly am not scientifically convinced that global warming is definitely caused by man’s activities. The science of the global warming alarmists is based on extrapolated data (something you just shouldn’t do if you are trying to make an argument that cannot be unravelled). I am convinced however, that we are using up our fossil fuels at an alarming rate, and that the physical and financial security of our country is suffering for it.

    What we need to do is start driving smaller plug in hybrid and preferably full electric cars that use regenerative braking to minimize energy used in transportation. Insulating our homes and using programmable thermostats will help as well.

    If you want a fight, call people names. If you want to succeed, make logical arguments!

  • m. welker

    update this crap!! w/this kind of technology,these types of websites have to be updated every 6 months…there’s all kinds of outdated info out there…btw, what do people w/ no garages do if they want a plug-in hybrid?