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Grid-chargeable plugin Toyota Prius hybrid

Based on the pioneering work of UC Davis professor Andy Frank, the marketing efforts of Felix Kramer and the engineering efforts of EPRI, grid-chargeable hybrids like the one developed by Energy CS are beginning to get serious attention from both the media and policy makers, if not car companies. This stock 2004 Toyota Prius is powered by 9kW lithium ion batteries developed by Valence. Greg Hanssen is on the left. Peter Nortman is standing on the right. Kneeling is Valence engineering representative, Mark Kohler. This car is now on its way to Monaco for EVS 21.

Meet the World's First 150 MPG Plug-In Prius

From-the-field interview with Energy CS principals Greg Hanssen and Peter Nortman on their 150 mpg plug-in Toyota Prius

By EV World

Okay... so as to not confuse you any more than you might already be, Energy CS' plug-in Toyota Prius gets between 120-180 miles per gallon equivalvent for the first 50-60 miles of the day. After that, it drops back to the standard Prius 50 mpg average.

So, how's that work, you ask?

Simple. For the first 50-60 miles, it runs mainly on electricity stored in its brand new, 9kWh Valence U-Charge Lithium-ion Saphion battery pack. The gasoline engine runs so seldom that you would effectively get the equivalent of up to 120 mpg under normal driving conditions using a combination of EV mode driving and electrically assisted gasoline engine driving. With less aggressive driving (and thus lighter use of the gasoline engine) gasoline consumption can be as low as 180mpg.

Of course, you can drive as far as you like in the normal Prius gasoline-electric hybrid mode, but then you drop back to the still very respectable 50 mpg.

In practical terms, since most people drive only about 25-40 miles a day, you'd use more electric power than the normal Prius. In effect, your energy would come from the power grid and you'd pay for your "fuel" through your electric power bill instead of to the oil company.

Starting to get the picture? See why environmentalists, electric utilities and all those national security wonks in Washington, D.C. are so excited about the plug-in hybrid concept? It's an idea whose time has come, though, as you might expect, carmakers are less than enthusiastic about it, arguing that its impractical and too expensive.

What can't be argued is that the technology now exists to make it happen and there are small research programs cropping up all over America. I happen to luck out while in Los Angeles in the end of February and got to see one of those projects just before the car was shipped to Europe for EVS 21, this one created by a small engineering shop located in the foothills, in the heart of Monrovia. That firm is Energy CS, headed by my old friend Greg Hanssen and his partner Peter Nortman. They've taken a stock 2004 Toyota Prius gasoline-electric hybrid, removed the 1.3kWh NiMH battery pack, installed a 9kWh Valence U-Charge pack powered by the Austin, Texas company's Saphion lithium-ion battery chemistry.

Editor's note: We recorded an extensive interview with Valence executives the week before travelling to LA. That interview will air in the near future.

In this "from-the-field" interview, Greg Hanssen and his partner Peter Nortman explain the origin of the project, whose spiritual 'godfather' is Felix Kramer with CalCars. Hanssen, who is, to my knowledge at least, the only person to drive a GM EV1 electric car across America twice (recharging at my house on one occasion), does most of the talking in this MP3 audio 'podcast'. Hanssen had just driven the car back from the California EPA office where it had been undergoing preliminary testing most of the day. Within hours, the Energy CS crew would be preparing the car for a cross-country trip to Jacksonville, Florida and a 'date' with a freighter bound for France.

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