LOS ANGELES — A year or so ago, a few tinkerers and maverick garages were converting hybrid vehicles to plug-in hybrids. Today, demand has built such conversions into a cottage industry.
At least three companies at last week's Electric Vehicle Symposium 23 were offering to boost the Toyota Prius' mileage from 45 mpg to a claimed 100 or more.
Plug-in hybrids extend the electric range of regular hybrids by using banks of powerful batteries to store electricity from ordinary household outlets. The cars then drive farther on electric power without using their gasoline engines any more than an ordinary hybrid would. Many claims of plug-in mileage, however, do not include the fuel used to generate electricity for the power grid.
OEMtek Inc., of Milpitas, Calif., says it can upgrade a Prius by supplementing Toyota's original nickel-metal hydride battery with a lithium phosphate battery pack made by Valence Technology Inc. OEMtek says the upgrade boosts the Prius' fuel economy to more than 100 mpg.