Hybrid Car Hackers Ignore No-Plug-In Rule

Just about the time Honda, Ford and Toyota convince Americans they don't need to plug-in their hybrids, along comes a cadre of electric car advocates and neoconservatives who think plugging in is the answer to America's oil import problem.

Published: 02-Apr-2005

DETROIT, April 1 - Ron Gremban and Felix Kramer have modified a Toyota Prius so it can be plugged into a wall outlet.

This does not make Toyota happy. The company has spent millions of dollars persuading people that hybrid electric cars like the Prius never need to be plugged in and work just like normal cars. So has Honda, which even ran a commercial that showed a guy wandering around his Civic hybrid fruitlessly searching for a plug.

But the idea of making hybrid cars that have the option of being plugged in is supported by a diverse group of interests, from neoconservatives who support greater fuel efficiency to utilities salivating at the chance to supplant oil with electricity. If you were able to plug a hybrid in overnight, you could potentially use a lot less gas by cruising for long stretches on battery power only. But unlike purely electric cars, which take hours to charge and need frequent recharging, you would not have to plug in if you did not want to.
 
"I've gotten anywhere from 65 to over 100 miles per gallon," said Mr. Gremban, an engineer at CalCars, a small nonprofit group based in Palo Alto, Calif. He gets 40 to 45 miles per gallon driving his normal Prius. And EnergyCS, a small company that has collaborated with CalCars, has modified another Prius with more sophisticated batteries; they claim their Prius gets up to 180 m.p.g. and can travel more than 30 miles on battery power.

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