August 13, 2005

Modified Toyota Prius Gets 250 Miles Per Gallon !!!

This is very encouraging. An electrical engineer has modified his own Toyota Prius and, by doing so, has raised his Milage to 250 Miles per Gallon:
CORTE MADERA, Calif. (AP) - Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign oil is years or even decades away. Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage. It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret - a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the car's high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel. Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car. Like all hybrids, his Prius increases fuel efficiency by harnessing small amounts of electricity generated during braking and coasting. The extra batteries let him store extra power by plugging the car into a wall outlet at his home in this San Francisco suburb - all for about a quarter. He's part of a small but growing movement. "Plug-in" hybrids aren't yet cost-efficient, but some of the dozen known experimental models have gotten up to 250 mpg. They have support not only from environmentalists but also from conservative foreign policy hawks who insist Americans fuel terrorism through their gas guzzling.
Others are working on such conversions as well:
Monrovia-based Energy CS has converted two Priuses to get up to 230 mpg by using powerful lithium ion batteries. It is forming a new company, EDrive Systems, that will convert hybrids to plug-ins for about $12,000 starting next year, company vice president Greg Hanssen said.

University of California, Davis engineering professor Andy Frank built a plug-in hybrid from the ground up in 1972 and has since built seven others, one of which gets up to 250 mpg. They were converted from non-hybrids, including a Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Suburban. Frank has spent $150,000 to $250,000 in research costs on each car, but believes automakers could mass-produce them by adding just $6,000 to each vehicle's price tag.
Has the U.S. Auto Industry yet to take note? Well, it looks like they are finally paying attention (although,as usual they are dragging their feet):
So far, DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX) is the only company that has committed to building its own plug-in hybrids, quietly pledging to make up to 40 vans for U.S. companies. But Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) officials who initially frowned on people altering their cars now say they may be able to learn from them. "They're like the hot rodders of yesterday who did everything to soup up their cars. It was all about horsepower and bling-bling, lots of chrome and accessories," said Cindy Knight, a Toyota spokeswoman. "Maybe the hot rodders of tomorrow are the people who want to get in there and see what they can do about increasing fuel economy."...But Toyota and other car companies say they are worried about the cost, convenience and safety of plug-in hybrids - and note that consumers haven't embraced all-electric cars because of the inconvenience of recharging them like giant cell phones. Automakers have spent millions of dollars telling motorists that hybrids don't need to be plugged in, and don't want to confuse the message.
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