Coming Soon: Affordable Plug-In Hybrid Conversion Kits

For a car class numbering less than 200 worldwide, plug-in hybrids are
sure generating a lot of attention, including a Brookings Institution conference
yesterday where Toyota’s Bill Reinert added a note of caution to the
rosy predictions of plug-in hybrids right around the corner. Today, the Department of Energy announced a $30 million grant to Ford, General
Motors and General Electric. The DOE’s goal is to commercialize plug-in hybrids by 2016. If you can’t wait that long, a recent
announcement may be encouraging: Hymotion will soon be offering a plug-in hybrid
conversion kit
for less than $10,000.

Now called A123 Hymotion—reflecting its purchase by battery maker A123 Systems—the company launched its new L5 Plug-In Conversion Module. This supplements the Prius’s stock 1.3-kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery pack with a 5-kWh pack based on A123′s iron nanophosphate lithium ion cells.

Interestingly, the six initial installers include four Toyota dealerships. They’re in Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC—the non-dealership installers are Green Gears in San Francisco, and Green Car Company in Seattle. You still have to order the module through the Hymotion website, but Prius owners who want to expand their full-electric running time and juice it up from the wall socket at night can now benefit from one-stop shopping. It’s a “very significant” announcement, said Felix Kramer of plug-in advocacy group Calcars. “Considering a dealer’s main allegiance is to the company, it’s pretty colossal.”


  • kent beuchert

    Toyota’s Bill Reinert is proof that Toyota execs are every bit as stupid as their recent about faces would suggest. And yesterday Bill lied thru his teeth, claiming the Chevy Volt (which Toyota had insisted for more than a year was impossible to build) would obtain 100 MPG. Sorry, Bill, but DOT stats clearly demonstrate that a car like the VOLT will achieve at least 350 MPG while commuting, which accounts for over 50% of all mileage. Bill Reinert needs to take a vacation from his main iterest these days – convincing the public that the Volt (which can avoid 10 times more gasoline and
    carbon emissions than its rival, the Toyota Prius) is a fantasy. Funny, the day before other Toyota execs anounced a plug-in
    project. Do any Toyota execs ever listen to the others, including their own bosses, before they stick their feet firmly in their mouths? Amateur hour at Toyota’s executive suite.

  • steved28

    Why not just make the car with this battery from the get go? That would avoid you paying $$$ for the NiMH battery, only to throw it away. This would place a PHEV on the market for (perhaps) less than $30K.

  • Old Man Crowder

    I have the pleasure of driving a converted Prius at the moment. The battery pack is a 2nd generation prototype from Hymotion and so far it’s been great. A few minor glitches, but nothing that can’t be easily corrected.

    It’s an absolute joy to drive, silent as all hell and I haven’t had to put gas in it for about 3 months!

    I suppose the biggest drawback is that I have a hard time fitting my smug grin into the Prius.

  • Anonymous

    So because the big 3 are allowed to ignore the signs of the market and continued to sell SUVs we get to bail them out with “grants”. I’d prefer that the CEOs of each of those 3 forfeit 10 million apiece to get their own companies back to profitability. We shouldn’t be asked to pay for their incompetence.

    Better yet, why not give that 30 million to the guys at CalCars who have been hawking this plug-in stuff for the last 10 years while everyone else scoffed.

  • Bryce

    Hey Kent, those comments you left look very similar to something I saw in a comment on gm-volt.com. O, and Mr. Anonymous, I would say that it is Toyota that is lagging behind and looking backwards when they bad mouth plug-in-hybrids while while GM has sunk the hugest amount of effort they ever have into any car to save us gas. :) Plus. those 2mode hybrid systems have been in development for years and they have only just come to fruition. So they knew what was coming, (the big three) they just got started about 5 years later and will bounce back soon enough.

  • Jo Mama

    Bryce – Wasn’t GM the one that killed the EV-1? That’s what I thought. By the time the Volt comes out, Toyota will have sold $2MM Prius’. I for one do not own one but I would sure like the plugin. From the CalCars.org have done and others, the Prius is certainly ahead of GM, Ford and Chrysler by years. The only reason GM developed the Volt is because they already figured out Toyota had the jump on the them in sales. With gas now hovering around $4.50 per gallon, Toyota’s execs look like Stars for pushing the hybrid. GM is trying to save it’s ass because the bug trucks aren’t selling and are dropping in value.

  • billyk24

    the Prius is certainly ahead of GM, Ford and Chrysler by years.

    REALLY?

    Toyota has yet to announce a date when John and Jane Doe can purchase a PHEV Prius. GM has stated December 2010. Ford currently has a PHEV Escape (twenty more this year) out in the real world for testing. Toyota has announced a limited number (couple hundred) of PHEV Prius for real world LEASE and FLEET ONLY testing in this country in 2010.

  • Karkus

    The announcements of new technology are all about marketing and whether you’re leading or trying to catch up. GM has to announce the Volt years ahead of time to keep people interested (since they dissed hybrid for while and are now behind). By overpromising on the Volt, they can keep the idealistic fans from buying a Toyota (while they keep driving their gas guzzlers). Of course there have been delays and price increases along the way. And if they do deliver a Volt on time with specs and price as originally promised (I hope they can, but am skeptical), then there will be long waiting lists for it.

    Toyota never seems to hype their new hybrids way ahead of time. Maybe that’s because if they hype their new hybrids too much, people might stop buying their current hybrids. It’s a fine line when your mission is to make money. Also, market leaders tend to act conservative, while upstarts need to yell to be noticed.
    Also, as long as PHEVs and EVs continue to be plagued by hot air and delays, Toyota doesn’t have to worry much. So what if someone makes a few hundred or even a few thousand EVs or PHEV conversion kits. That won’t even put a dent in their 300,000+ yearly hybrid sales. They’re supply limited anyway. I wish one of these startups could deliver on it’s big talk and deliver, so that Toyota would be forced into action.

  • Black Ice

    I’m glad to see DOE finally admits they are sleeping with the big 3 by giving them 30 million dollars in grants!

  • Sparky1

    You have got to be friggin kidding right?

    The big US 2.8 told Toyota to go screw themselves re: the SuperCar project. Toyota proceeds to sell 1Million Prius since 2001. Best GM can do is announce a 38K sport cope Volt in 2010?

    Anyone see a problem here? US auto sales are tanking as gas prices rise, and DOE is dishing out 30 million to the US 2.8? How much do you suppose the big 2.8 CEOs pulled in over the last few years?

    I find it infuriating that the US 2.8 don’t have a better grip on reality.

  • Tom

    Really? Were bashing on Toyota when the Volt was announced long ago and yet nothing has appeared on the show room? I hope the volt becomes a reality but at the moment its just a dream that will be fullfilled by anyone other than GM. Have they perfected a car that doesn’t have trouble starting within a year of rolling off the show room floor yet?

  • Anonymous

    I think the next generation Prius, able to go 7 miles in EV mode will be a perfect fit for dealer installed L5 conversions. The AER should be close to 20 miles total even if driven at 60+MPH.

  • dakotatycoon

    Bill Reinert knows damn well just how good the plug-in are. Toyota just CAN’T build them. And it’s not because they don’t want to. Fact is lithium just isn’t ready for prime time. And Chevron through it’s cobysis subsidiary along with ECD has NiMH sowed up tight. The entire reason for Cobysis exitance was to stop Toyota from getting the 95Ah NiMH battery packs panasonic was supplying. If not for the lawsuits, we would have BEV NOW. Thanks a lot Stan Ovanonski, and texaco, and Chevron, and Cobysis, and GM, and …….? There certainly is enough greed to spread the blame around.
    But stop the arguing about possibilites and technology. It IS Possible, just not profitable. Here is somthing to think about. The patents on NiMH run out in 2014. Might be a moot point by then but ………………………

  • Bryce

    Mr. Jo-mama, GM did not kill the EV1, market forces did. It was just a sorry excuse for a vehicle at that time. The pricing made it impossible for anyone below a 6 figure income to get it. O, and GM already has test mules going for the Volt that can do the 40 mile range. You ca check it out at gm-volt.com. THe site is not run by GM, but some fellow who hunts down GM execs and project heads and bleads them dry for information on the project. At this point, the only questions that really remain on the volt are:

    1. How much will it cost?

    2. What will it look like? (there were some changes from the initial momdel shown to make it more aerodynamic, and it should be shown in a few months)

  • Gandalf

    China will own GM before the VOLT sees the market place. Chrysler will be gone(so much for lifetime warranty).

    If the US Gov. used the $30 million to subsidize the purchase of the plug-in L-Ion technology which is now sold for $10,000, it would yield much more oil/gas savings than giving it to Detroit laggards who will come up with something less several years later.

    As ever, the entrenched interests who have dragged their feet are getting the money, rather than the technologies which can help the American people save money now.

  • Bryce

    THis 10k after market upgrade kit wouldnt save people money. Once u add that on to the 22k price tag of a prius or similar hybrid, and then add installation costs, this thing is upward towards 40k.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Kent, I think you’ve got it right.

    Bryce, you’ve drunk too much of the kool-aid. GM leased out every single EV1 they made and had a long waiting list despite the fact that they tried to discourage us from even trying to get one.

    And for the rest of you, I hope you realize that the after-market PHEV conversion for the Prius will only do about 35 mph in all electric mode. After that, the ICE kicks in. This is also likely to be the same whenever Toyota finally releases a factory PHEV Prius.
    The Volt, if it ever is produced, will go full speed on electrons alone.

  • Bryce

    But how much did it cost to rent the thing?

  • Armand

    All of you slamming Toyota for not having a PHEV Pruis, etc…and propping up the big 3?

    AT LEAST TOYOTA HAS A PRIUS..and HAS HAD ONE for the last 6+ years. While Toyota was selling the Prius, GM was selling Hummers, Ford was selling Excursions, and Dodge/Chrysler were selling pieces of crap like the RAM and Durangos.

    Some of you need to get your heads out of your collective asses and stop supporting the US industry for being as stupid, greedy, and blind as any other poorly run corporation. For years, they’ve sold us substandard piles of garbage of dated TRUCK chassises and you lot are applauding them.

    Suddenly that now GM is JUST NOW starting to consider alternative energy vehicles, you have your panties wet and think all needs to be forgiven. While Toyota comes out with it’s THIRD generation Prius and Honda pumps out numerous hybrids, GM is still trying to push HUGE 6000lb pieces of sh*t down people’s throats by offering mild hybrid version and their lame 2 mode hybrid versions. Well done.

    You criticize Toyota for having limited PHEV hybrids…what…do you honestly think the VOLT will be widespread and available to everyone?

    Keep dreaming….stop daydreaming and looking that that stupid American flag.

  • Baltimore Prius Owner

    Noz,
    I think you hit the nail on the head. I agree with your post 100% (except the part about the American flag). The big three have been sitting on their *sses far too long for us to forgive them. I’m actually quite surprised that Bob Lutz still has a job.

  • AP

    It cracks me up to see people complain about $30 million in corporate welfare while extolling the virtues of Toyota. How many billions of dollars has the Japanese government spent over the last 30 years buying US Treasury bills to keep their yen cheap, and make their cars cheap to US customers? Enough that they are one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) holders of our debt. They put this debt on the back of their taxpayers to sell you cheaper cars.

    Basically what you are saying is that it’s OK for taxpayers in other countries to subsidize you, as an American consumer, and give their products but that you are not willing to do the same for our auto industry, giving Toyota an unfair advantage.

    This is selfish and short-sighted. If people continue to think like you and use a double standard to judge our own corporations more harshly, we will get what we deserve in the long run: fewer jobs and higher prices if Toyota manages to put the Big 3 out of business (they aren’t doing this to be nice, and they don’t employ many Americans per car built here).

    Keep reading and spreading the PR and fluff the media reports, and soon the US will be a third-world country serving burgers to each other.

  • Armand

    AP…

    So who put the gun to American’s heads and told them to sell US Treasury bills? Little green men?

    Regardless of what they do, they make better cars….can’t swallow that? Tough.

    Stop blaming everyone else but yourselves. They were smarter, you weren’t…period. Maybe you guys can solve your woes by bombing Japan again? Seems to work with every other country you can’t win over.

  • Armand

    Also, it seems to me that when capitalism doesn’t go the way of the Americans, you lot are a real bitter bunch.

    Perhaps now you have a taste of how nasty it is to be a country on the end of the American stick…sucks to be you.

  • AP

    Noz,

    Please re-read the post. What I’m describing is not capitalism, it’s socialism. Other countries are using corporate welfare – and Americans don’t mind if, as consumers, we benefit in the short term. However, when our government does the same, we complain.

    That said, I wouldn’t trade living in America for anywhere else (it doesn’t “suck to be me”). I just wish we’d learn better from our mistakes and see the whole picture. We become environmentalists only when oil is expensive, then swear it off and blame the car companies (for “forcing us” to buy big cars) and oil companies. When oil drops, we fall back into the same trap. We evidently have ADD as a society. A much higher fuel tax is the only way to stop this cycle, but when times are good, we forget it will ever happen again – just wait.

  • AP

    Noz,

    You’ll notice also that nearly everything you said, I also said. I’m not blaming other countries for our problems. I’m blaming the American government’s deficit spending (which puts the Treasury Bills on the market) and our government’s lack of will in keeping other countries from manipulating their currencies for trade advantage. When a Japanese company has a $1000 advantage in exchange rate, they can either sell their cars cheaper and force American companies to match and go without profits, or add $1000 in features and sell for the same price, giving the customer a bargain. Either makes life a lot easier for them and saps the life out of the domestics.

    I’m afraid we’ve gotten our economy into a vicious cycle: bring in more cheap imports to fight inflation, which devalues the dollar and reduces American jobs, which makes inflation worse, etc.

    We are paying for our own lack of economic or energy planning.

  • Noz

    AP:

    I apologize ahead of time if I misread your comments. I didn’t mean to jump on you but I just feel that many here are trying to blame others for their own gluttony, waste, and selfishness.

    I have traveled extensively around the world and while I live here in the US currently, I wouldn’t hesitate to leave under the right circumstances. Given that I have family here and have vested years of my life here, it’s not as easy as 1-2-3 to just pack up and move as many might tell me to do…even if the desire is overwhelming for me at times.

    People live better in other places, they are ahead of the times compared to here. Their quality of life in a social sense is just more fulfilling…perhaps because in other places the interaction with people is more…it’s more socially oriented.

    Everytime I leave and come back, I realize how sheltered and backwards people are here and backwards the way of life is here. It’s no coincidence that many wealthy people who perhaps make their money here choose to spend their times elsewhere.

    This of course is a very personal opinion…I’m not asking anyone to agree or disagree with me. It is what it is for every individual.

    That said, what you are saying is correct. We are to blame and no one else. Americans are criticizing the Chinese for being gross polluters now…how dare we do so given what a pathetic record we have…NOT TO MENTION the fact that GM and Ford are shoving cars down Chinese people’s throats faster than they can swallow….isn’t that just pathetic?

    I’m tired of living in such a mindless society. It’s nice to be somewhere where at least the general consensus of people is more responsible and peace-loving. I’m tired of living in a country where everything is driven by war.

  • Shines

    Kent – nice try – By the time Chevy delivers the Volt – Toyota will have a vehicle just as efficient. If not, well then good for Chevy and GM. Of course the quality and reliablility of Toyotas is unsurpassed. I doubt the Volt will be able to match the Prius’s.
    Steve and BillyK – when Toyota can assure the quality, reliability and fuel savings to produce a phev they will. I can’t believe people are complaining because Toyota is not mass producing what noone else is mass producing.
    As far as giving $30 mill to the big 3 to help with research.. $30 million is really small change when you look at the size of the industry. I think the big 3 should be given some credit for trying. Hopefully they’ll make the transition before it’s too late.
    Still the facts are: today Toyota is totally outselling everybody as far as hybrids go. I don’t think they are going to lose their grip anytime soon. If you want to wait ’till 2010 to get a Volt that’s OK with me (I don’t own a hybrid yet BTW). It is June 2008 and gas is $4.40 a gal here in the Seattle area…

  • MilwaukeeT

    Bryce – The 10K for the upgrade INCLUDES labor!

    People pay for things on cars all the time which have NO pay back period – think leather seats, sunroof, stereos, etc. For me it isn’t about payback anyway. It’s about smiling ear to ear as I drive past gas stations for 4.25 a gallon, knowing I’m sticking it to the oil companies, the big three AND polluting the environment a lot less.

    Priceless…..

  • Jonathan Nelson

    GM used to be the World’s #1 company. But when it comes down to it, they are only worrying about their bottom line. They make alot of money selling replacement parts for their vehicles. If you build an excellent hybrid with low maintenance requirements, they cannot make money through the back door of parts and upkeep. Gas prices are really going to have to go higher to convince these “hardheaded knuckleheads” that in order to stay in business you need to have adapted “yesterday”. They are waaaayyy behind on the hybrid train to Georgia. Just look at the cheesy mileage between the hybrid Chevy Malibu and the normal Chevy Malibu….Come on GM, the technology exsits now, build the freakin’ Volt now!!!

  • jmbrendel

    We’ve ordered a new 2009 Ford Escape hybrid (looking forward to getting 32 mpg combined instead of my current 20 :) We won’t buy a Prius until they’re assembled in the USA. Will these conversion kits work on an Escape?

  • William Schubert

    according to this article,

    http://www.wtop.com/?sid=1402326&nid=111

    Published on May 30, 2008, they were definitely set up to make the Prius here, but hadn’t made it official yet.

    I have the Honda Civic Hybrid, which I am pretty sure is assembled at the Honda Plant a few miles down the street in Marysville, Ohio. That was where I bought it.

    Do they have a plug in system for the Civic? Will the next version of the civic get better gas mileage? Can any hybrid handle strong winds like we have here most of the year?

  • G. Bru

    as for the gas fueled vehicles…as soon as I can explore the plug in versions myself it will be at least three or four weeks before a delaership near you has plenty of these Hybrid MOABS on board as many hybrids that GM can make. As for the other major automakers….you should have been after my heart 30 friggin years ago when I was buying the hi-perf parts for my Z/28 over the counter at the local Checy dealer direct from the Chevrolet Power Parts Manual.

    I used to term it as the “Bible”…no pun intended all of you religious goers out there.

    I won’t wait very long for the schematics as this technology shouldn’t be too dificult since the foundation of the Hybrids are already rolling…. :)

    GB

  • dangerous

    This is great and lots of car enthusiast would be happy with this. More mileage and less cost but I hope this will go out to the market as promised. Hybrids can really help us but lots of them got real high cost. Enviro Car is all we need together with the other kind of hybrids and electric cars. Is there any model that have all of these features?

  • Blueracing

    Well said Gandalf!!

  • evmecanicx

    Those of you looking for a more economical plug-in conversion for GEN II cars check out plug in supply company. There are dealers available around the country and installs start at around $6000 and that will get you 10-15FULL EV Miles up to 52MPG or you can run in toyoa hybrid mode with aux. battery and get up to 100MPG average for abut 40miles. Third option is that the car defaults back to O.E. specs and you cruise along at 50MPG or so.

  • Fred Fnord

    While I sympathize with the idea that the Prius is ahead of the pack as far as hybrids go, the fact is that it’s not true as far as FUEL ECONOMY is concerned… and isn’t that what it’s all about, in the end?

    In point of fact, the 1994 Honda Civic hatchback got better mileage than any of the Priuses out there right now do. Both in city driving and in highway.

    So, yeah, the Prius is a neat car. Pity that it isn’t, you know, quite as good as a FAR less complicated one from fifteen years ago.

    -fred

  • Immanuel Atlmann

    Been driving a Prius since 2005., I can remember a coach just laughing his head off., Well despite it all that Prius STILL gets better miles then ANY U.S. cars TODAY, crossing the fingers with Ford, maybe that U.S. auto maker can do it. Since 2005 I have saved a lot of “green” [money], I.m even with considering a plug in conversion and just keeping that Prius, sure would be cheaper then that GM prduct, (Just because GM finally comes out with an overpriced and UNDER PERFORMING CAR compared to just a plain old Prius is not enough). I am patriotic and a veteran and just wish our country could design such a car, but right now, even now and the next few years., I think it is better to just keep and improve my OLD car !!

  • Feroze

    Can Civic have a plug in kit installed at all. It can;’t run in electric only mode so what use will be the plug-in batteries added through the kit. Also if engine and battereis always run simulatenously, then i am sure the motor is too small to push the car itself, espeically at higher speeds, and if forced to do so ….the motor might overload and flash. I am thinking of getting a hybrid civic and installing a plug in kit versus doing the same with a Toyota Prius. I know its possible in Prius since it has an electric only mode and a software bypass to allow the electric only mode to run beyond 40km. But is the same possible for a Civic Hybrid. Secondly, Lets say Electric only not possible in Civic, then is it possible to alter Civics software to change the engine/battery usage ratio…..say engine gives 70% and batt gives 30%, can one change that to 30:70 or 10:90 ?

  • JackC

    Enginer has indeed been selling affordable Plug-In add-on kits for the past two years. The kit starts at under $2000. Options include 2KWH to 8KWH packs. More information is available at http://www.enginer.us

  • DieselPluginHybrid

    Diesel Plug-In Hybrid Electrics are the way to go. The diesel generator is a better power plant, combined with hybrid tech – and plug in charging, 100 MPG is easy. Give it a decent battry charge capacity of 60 miles before recharge and you could drive everyday on Zero gallons of fuel. Get your electricity from solar panels on top of your roof & you have an car that might need some fuel twice a year…