Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Prius Plus

I attended the San Francisco chapter meeting of the Electric Vehicle Association for a talk and demo of the Prius plus. This is a project being promoted by the California Cars Initiative in the hopes of persuading Toyota to add an extra battery pack option to their stock Prius that can then be plugged in for additional juice to the electric motor. This would allow driving around town in electric only "stealth mode" if driving 30 miles per hour or less on flat terrain.
We took a spin around the block using only the electric motor. Then when we were climbing a really steep hill the gas engine kicked in, but if we were in the flats we could have gone about 10 miles before running out of juice (at which point the gas engine would take over again). Ron Gremban, the engineer on the project, explained how he bypassed the car's computer in order to have it work in electric only mode. There is an unmarked button on the dashboard that is for the purpose of using eletric only mode. It is not activated on cars sold in the U.S. but it is in Japan and elsewhere.

He showed us the 18 electric bicycle batteries that make up the extra battery pack in his Prius. They were connected with pieces of copper tubing that had been flattened and bent to fit. The whole pack fits nicely in the storage space area of the Prius. I'm not sure how you get the spare tire out though. Felix Kramer in the picture on the left is the founder of the California Cars Initiative.