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.”