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Old 12-01-2008, 01:45 PM   #1 (permalink)
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PHEV Prius retrofit

I had a chance to attend the SF International Auto Show on Saturday, and spend about 15 minutes watching the CalCars technicians do an on-site live demo, retrofitting a second gen Toyota Prius with their auxilliary plug-in lithium-Ion battery pack. I don't own a Prius, but certainly was impressed.

In a nut shell, the aux system is just that, an addition to Toyota's already very nice computer managed drivetrain. With the addition, you essentially plug in your car, overnight, at work or whatever, and charge the aftermarket LI battery. After you unplug and drive off, you are on electric power only. After 30-40 miles, when the aux battery is depleated, it converts itself over to the OEM system of nickel-hydrid battery and ICE combination drive, as Toyota intended. Kinda cool and it about time <if you ask me>.

Hardware; What a clean installation! Neat package that mounts to the floor under the rear hatch (just rearward of the Toyota battery pack). I didn't catch the weight of the unit, but they were using a cherry picker to instal it and by the way the boom wasn't bouncing much, I'd guess between 200-400lbs. It's got plugs that mate up to the factory harness, I believe an integral charger, high quality mounting brackets, vent tube that mates to the OEM body panel vent making for a professional looking instal.

I also had a chance to talk with a couple of the guys, they were shooting some documentary video so I didn't have a chance to get business cards and names...

key points:
* the claim is 100mpg from your Prius
* Factory instal only, complete turn key operation costs $10k
* Operates as a piggy-back to the OEM system, an "AND" system as opposed to an "OR" system.
* Extends Prius' range 30-40 miles per charge.
* They estimate an owner int he Bay Area would spend $ .70-.85 per charge
* The company says their 3 yr. warranty will cover any damage to the Toyota system that is deemed caused by the aux battery pack system.

On the other side, $10k buys alot of gasoline, add $22k for the cost of a new base Prius and I'd say economics alone would not drive anyone to purchase this unit.


Last edited by metromizer; 12-01-2008 at 02:01 PM..
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Old 12-01-2008, 02:26 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I agree with your final evaluation. I think it's a nice idea but I don't think it's worth the money. Things like the i MiEV should cost about that in USD (after the yen readjusts) when it's available in the US. Retrofits just tend to be more expensive that integrated designs, :/
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Old 12-01-2008, 02:45 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yeah, we had one of these at the Milwaukee Hybrid Group's booth at the Milwaukee Auto Show last winter. It was very cool, but has its limitations. I believe the Prius II's top speed in electric mode is governed at 42 mph. So, that eliminates highway driving which is a biggie IMO.
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Old 12-01-2008, 04:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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novel that they are doing this, but yeah, that price tag is hefty. But really, we can't comment on the price/savings factor because mass market hybrids are still for rich hippies.
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Old 12-01-2008, 05:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MazdaMatt View Post
novel that they are doing this, but yeah, that price tag is hefty. But really, we can't comment on the price/savings factor because mass market hybrids are still for rich hippies.
For today and next year, I completely agree with you. They estimate it costs about $1/gallon equivelent to charge off the grid. A Prius uses ~50mpg and $2/gal gas, the miles driven payoff is 500k miles. Even if you charged the battery for $0.00., you'd need to drive 250k miles. A few months ago ($4/gal gas) 125k miles. I hate to say this but it only starts to get attractive at say, $11/gallon gas, the break even point is 50k miles.

When I used to talk with my grandma, born in 1908, we'd laugh about when she was a young girl growing up in Kentucky, automobiles where incrediably expensive and were veiwed as play toys for the rich, having no practicle use what so ever More-or -ess the samething with computers and cell phones in my lifetime. I hope to see electricity do the same thing one day.
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Old 12-01-2008, 06:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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It's interesting to sit and watch this play out from the sidelines for certain. Everyone here can remember within the last few years when the decision was put between DVD and blu-ray. For a while though it was a toss-up to see who was superior(namely to see if DVD could match), but eventually blu-ray won out.

I'm not certain electricity is really the answer. It has its enormous limitations, as of today.

Batteries are heavy. Even super high-grade Fuel cells(I attend Tennessee Tech and our ChE department makes some of the highest output fuel cells) are much heavier than their gasoline equivalent.
Fuel Cells burn out. Despite the fact the Lead-Acids are heavier and hold less charge than the new counterparts they can last longer and lets face it not many people are very keen on dropping several grand to replace the battery packs every 5 years or so.(talk to your landline phone company, they buy them used repair them trickle charge them all the time and when the power goes dead use it to run the power in your phone lines(some of the batteries are from the 50s)). It's different to run into transmission trouble or engine hiccups at 150,000 miles because those aren't for certain. The batteries going out is.
"ultra-capacitors" don't really exist yet. Alot of people are pushing ideas that say they have the possibility to a path of creating them. . . but all that really means is they think if you drop a billion in their lap they can make one. A billion USD is alot for I think.

So unless some form of nuclear battery, small scale nuclear reactor(1MW=1300 HP), formidable battery, new rare-earth metal or alloy is discovered I don't see electricity winning out over a conventional fuel.

If the U.S. went EV today it would just make your home electric bill go up, because the U.S. power grid is more than 10 years from getting mostly off of Coal and onto "free" power supplies.

"Hot, Flat and Crowded" by Thomas Freidman has more research on what would be necessary to go EV than I care to think about.
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Old 12-01-2008, 07:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by theunchosen View Post
It's interesting to sit and watch this play out...I'm not certain electricity is really the answer...
It might be, and it might not, but every time I turn on the news I think "We must get away from dead dynosoar juice". You're still in school, commit to not just 'watching it play out', if you're not headed that way already, get in the game, there's no shortage of interesting and challenging problems to solve to keep a bright mind stimulated and engaged while earning a living.

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. . . but all that really means is they think if you drop a billion in their lap they can make one. A billion USD is alot for I think.
so true, yet we've mapped the human gene that will pay off hundred fold in terms of health benefits.

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Originally Posted by theunchosen View Post
some form of nuclear battery, small scale nuclear reactor
Maybe conventional EV batteries that get 'hot swapped' at roadside e-change stations, like I can exchange my BBQ's propane cylinder. I think if we can come up with cheap<er> energy, more effieciently convert that energy to work, the distribution and storage almost becomes easy.

Maybe nano-technology meets fission reator, embedded into a mode of transportation, a car maybe that I only rent... I don't know, but I have imagined that for years.

Quote:
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If the U.S. went EV today it would just make your home electric bill go up, because the U.S. power grid is more than 10 years from getting mostly off of Coal and onto "free" power supplies.
cheap electricity <if it can be had> is at least 20 years away... but we gotta start now. I just hope the world ecomomy can support the investment, if it can, the payoff will be huge IMO
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:36 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Once again my time crunch has left me(my post) inappropriately dressed.

What I meant was, it's interesting to sit and watch and see ideas come from places that have long since been condemned. As someone else said on another post, "All things are made new again in Japan."

I'm not saying I have any intention of sitting sidelined. I'm actually. . .quite the opposite. For my car I'm working on some CAD models to implement stirling engines to double my FE and HP, and at the same time doing some research with my advisor about the viability of small nuclear reactors in large vehicles. By large vehicle I mean tanks.

To that end it actually looks highly likely it would propel a future MBT. Another department had been working on "portable" nuclear reactors and there CAD design specifications were 15x3 meters(length, diameter) for 100 MW reactor. Design specifications indicate it would weigh in the neighborhood of 500 tonnes. The proposal was to minituarize the reactor to 1/100 scale power. a tank only needs 1,300 HP ish. The power pack would be 2X1.5meters(length, diameter) and could potentially drop 3+ MW(~4,000 HP). The bonus of dropping one in a tank is the armor would already be thick enough to contain the radiation on three sides(beneath, above and rear glacies). It would be a monster of a vehicle, because it would have to be larger but on the same token you could gain HP/ton over the Abrams as well as gain the ability to mount the Avenger's weapon system with unlimited uses.

Keep in mind Oil tankers in the US military are the biggest target in convoys. You could deploy a tank without supply train and avoid substantial numbers in vehicle losses and expenses.

That said, even hot-swapping precharged batteries(and avoiding the charging fuel-station problem) you still have to have large stores of batteries at the stations and they still would have a lower power/weight ratio.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying its stupid or we shouldn't research it. Just saying I don't think its likely at the present moment.

I agree with the 20 year clean energy. But if I low-ball it and say 10. . .not many people are likely to come out and say "I think it will happen sooner."
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Old 12-02-2008, 01:10 PM   #9 (permalink)
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But really, we can't comment on the price/savings factor because mass market hybrids are still for rich hippies.
I don't see how you figure that. After all, a Prius (about as mass-market a hybrid as you can get) with all the options still goes for under $30K, while a Hummer or Escalade starts north of $50K, likewise for your BMWs, Mercedes & Porsches, and the tricked-out "Big Hat, No Cattle" type pickups can easily run into that territory...

Bottom line, if instead of buying one of those, you buy a Prius and pay $10K for the conversion, you'll STILL have $10K or more left in your wallet before you even pump your first tank :-)
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Old 12-02-2008, 01:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Apples and oranges, my friend. A similar SMALL CAR to the prius fully loaded is under 20k. A similar bigass luxury landyaght with a hybrid engine is more expensive than a bigass luxury landyaght that guzzles gas.

Dollar for dollar you get WAY more car for the price of a pruis if you're shopping non-hybrid. Also, the gas-money break-even on a car similar to the pruis is VERY long term. Therefore, the only reason to buy one is that you're a hippie. That's all i'm saying...

btw, I love the term "big hat, no cattle".

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