Hybrids? Some Opt To Go All-Electric

While activists, experimenters and university researchers pursue goal of electric vehicle, the auto industry seems little inclined to follow their lead.

Published: 27-Jan-2005

N class=text>Not long after Dan Kroushl got his new 2004 Toyota Prius, he began to wonder about the mysterious button on the dash. It didn't seem to have any function. Didn't boost the turbo or engage an ejector seat. In online discussions with other Prius enthusiasts, Mr. Kroushl soon discovered the button did have a hidden function: It could turn the gasoline-electric hybrid into an all-electric car - for a mile or so on limited battery power.

This "stealth mode" button works fine in Japan and Europe where it's handy for drivers to roll politely about densely packed subdivisions in the early morning and late evening. But the button has been disconnected for North America's Priuses.

Now, scores of Prius owners in the United States are activating the button on their own - despite company warnings that altering the car will void its warranty.

Some drivers, including Kroushl, are going even further: adding battery capacity - and a plug. The hoped for result: a high-tech commuting car that plugs into a socket at night and gets amazing gas mileage the next day.

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