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Modified Prius gets up to 180 Miles Per Gallon 907

Posted by timothy
from the oh-what-I-wouldn't-give-for-that-in-my-subaru dept.
shupp writes "The NY Times (free reg. required) reports in that some folks are not content with the no-plug-in rule that both Honda and Toyota endorse. By modifying a Prius so that it can be plugged in, Ron Gremban of CalCars states 'I've gotten anywhere from 65 to over 100 miles per gallon'. The article also reports that '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 mpg, and can travel more than 30 miles on battery power.'"
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Modified Prius gets up to 180 Miles Per Gallon

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  • The secret? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:03PM (#12122226)
    They've secretly replaced the gas with Folgers crystals. Let's see if they notice.
  • by PoprocksCk (756380) <poprocks@gmail.org> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:04PM (#12122231) Homepage Journal
    "By modifying a Prius so that it can be plugged in...

    The 180 miles per gallon must be some extremely tough-to-calculate average since a car that's plugged in can only go as far as the power cord (unless they got a really , really, really long power cord ;-)
  • Misleadning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quixote (154172) * on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:04PM (#12122233) Homepage Journal
    they claim their Prius gets up to 180 mpg,

    This is misleading. Is it 180mpg sustained? On a 10gal tank of gas, will it go 1800 miles??

    Obviously not. Adding extra batteries and charging them up will let the car initially give better "mileage"; heck, in the first 20-30 miles it may give infinite mpg because it is not burning any fuel. But the true measure of mpg is sustained travel over a long distance under somewhat realistic conditions (like city driving or highway driving).

  • by SuperficialRhyme (731757) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:05PM (#12122241) Homepage
    I'm not trying to bash what these guys have done - but isn't plugging it in and then looking at MPG very decieving?

    On the other hand, it would be interesting to see how the $/mile stack up to see whether or not a plugged in prius can be more efficient in terms of cost.
    • Words words words.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by fm6 (162816) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:16PM (#12122326) Homepage Journal
      As usual, the Slashdot headline is misleading -- this time, because it's taken out of context. Here's the precise claim in the article:
      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.
      In other words, the improved milage comes from better batteries, not from plugging the car in.

      Still, it's a claim to be approached cautiously. Perhaps improved batteries can improve hybrid milage -- but by a factor of 3? In any case, the "up to" is a hint that this is one of those meaningless "gee whiz" statistics, as with "The IQ of Slashdot users is as high as 300."

      • If they can be charged more rapidly you can store a lot more of the power rather than just dumping it into a resistor when you do regenerative braking - or, of course, by engaging the friction brake. This last has to be done at the end of the braking process regardless, but the point is that if you can charge the battery faster you save a lot of otherwise-wasted energy. Haven't RTFA though.
      • by TheBurrito (767042) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:40PM (#12122510)
        "The IQ of Slashdot users is as high as 300.
        Maybe if you add them all up.
    • by rossifer (581396) * on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:18PM (#12122335) Journal
      isn't plugging it in and then looking at MPG very decieving?

      Exactly. They're taking advantage of a second energy supply and only claiming the cost of the first.

      In order to normalize the figures, you need a common divisor. As you suggested, money sounds like a good idea to me. I use 91 octane from the station around the corner in my Honda Nighthawk motorcycle. I get about 45mpg. The price I pay is $2.61/gal (California!), which comes to about 6 cents spent on fuel per mile travelled. If you're getting 60mpg, you're at about 4.5 cents per mile.

      We need one other number to compare these modified Prius's: the change in size of the energy bill. We could get by with off-peak rates from the CPUC and a miles/kWh figure for the Prius when only using battery power.

      Anyone?

      Regards,
      Ross
    • Approximate Figures (Score:4, Informative)

      by daviddennis (10926) <david@amazing.com> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @10:06PM (#12123497) Homepage
      I did a bit of research and found out roughly what it would cost.

      It turns out that electricity is extremely cheap per unit of energy. According to these folks [electroauto.com], it takes about .4kw per mile of driving. That's about 400 watts, or 1-2 large rooms worth of light bulbs. I believe these figures to be correct because I've seen some similar ones elsewhere.

      The national average for electricity is around $ 0.10 per kwh, so this is a phenomenally cheap way to power a car. If we wanted to go 100 miles in a purely electric car, it would take 40 kwh, or $0.40.

      I rented a Dodge Neon recently and got only 20mpg from it. (It must have had an old or badly tuned engine). Going 100 miles in the Neon would have taken 5 gallons of gas, at about $ 2.50 a gallon. That's $12.50! Even if I could get the peak mileage of non-hybrid cars, or 40mpg, that's still over $6 to run the car the same number of miles electricity would power for $ 0.40. Even if electric rates doubled, electricity would still be phenomenally cheaper than gas.

      So why haven't electric cars taken over the world? Because often you need to go further than the charge range in a day. When I went to Sacramento a year or so ago to visit the Capitol, I decided to try renting an electric car. All it had to do was go about 20 miles, the round trip to and from the Capitol. With extra excursions to find parking and the like, I barely got there and back successfully. On the other hand, I had completely free "fuel". The rental company didn't account for it in any way, because it was, truly, too cheap to meter.

      So it seems clear that if you can squeeze a big enough battery into the Prius, you could have the best of both worlds: The economy of having a purely electric car, combined with the "get home" ability of the gas engine.

      I should briefly address a specious argument against this idea which seems to have gotten wide currency. Once we Californians got through our tiresome power crisis, we thought that anything that plugged in was Bad. Well, true, during the day when we run hefty air conditioners and the like. But once we've cooled down, demand for power plummets and there is no problem at all with plugging in something like an electric car. In fact, the power companies dearly want this to ramp up demand and enable expensive power plants to run at a higher duty cycle.

      Once you express this idea in terms of costs, it becomes, well, pretty obviously a brainy scheme. I wonder why Toyota wants to shut it down, since it seems like a wonderful idea for everyone involved, and really, an amazing PR coup for Toyota.

      Hope this helps.

      D
  • this is stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:06PM (#12122253)
    It's idiotic to give a "miles per gallon" figure when you don't include the cost of producing the electricity you use to recharge the battery.
  • by Brigadier (12956) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:08PM (#12122261)

    This reminds me of the tuner shops like shelby and such setting new standards for then detroit.
    well with gas at $2.45 a gallon (southern cali) news like this is welcomed. I can't wait for the day when tuner shops specialize in modifying hybrids for longer range. the new ford cotsworth 80 mpg woot woot
  • About bloody time! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by koreth (409849) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:09PM (#12122268)
    The "no plug in" rule was always a big turnoff for me when I thought about whether my next car would be a Prius (or some other hybrid.) I have a bunch of solar cells on the roof of my house generating power, so during the summer, if I can plug my car in, it's like getting free fuel.

    Well, okay, "free" in the sense that I've already paid for the solar setup -- but with oil prices rising, I suspect charging a car from my solar cells would make them pay for themselves a couple years ahead of schedule.

    • Plugging in might not be the advantage everyone thinks. How much electricity does it take to charge the car? Are electricity rates cheap enough so that it makes more sense to plug in the car, versus just fill up?

      So if it costs $20 worth of electricity to get all that extra 'mileage per gallon', but only $15 worth of gasoline to get the extra distance, wouldn't it make more sense just to fuel?

      The point of a hybrid is simply to get more out of the energy we put in. The problem isn't combustion engines; its
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:09PM (#12122273)
    I've RTFA, but what is missing is the real cost per mile of getting that 180 mpg, when the cost of the electricity is factored in. Electricity isn't free, and the efficency of the batteries to store it isn't that great either. So it would be important to give a break down in cost per mile, not MPG. Also, the articles do mention that it costs even more to outfit a hybred to be able to do this (along with the already premium cost of a hybred). So an even better figure would be cost per mile with these extra costs factored in over the expected life of the car and/or batteries.

    And before the eco-kooks chime in that it's electric and so cleaner, it's not. The article point out that 60% of the country's electricity comes from burning dirtier coal. Much like hydrogen powered cars really just shift the polution to a very wasteful and poluting production of hydrogen away from the car, the plug in car talked about here may not be bringing any real benefit. We need real numbers to know if it is, and they are not given.

    • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:14PM (#12122305)
      "The article point out that 60% of the country's electricity comes from burning dirtier coal"

      So? You have limited emissions to a very few sources, instead of having to worry about tens of thousands of catalytic converters and pollution control systems. It is a lot easier to deal with one or very few sources.

      • by Xrikcus (207545) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:22PM (#12122376)
        Not only fewer souces, but more efficient sources. Also sources running on a more plentiful fuel.
      • millions of cars switching to electricity would have a tremendous impact on the current electric plants. in fact, there would have to be one on every block to support the kind of transfer of power source you are talking about. so much for switching the emissions to NIMBY. thinking the current system could support that massive switchover is just silly. the northeast was taken down by a tree limb. what happens when everybody's car depends on it ?
  • by lp-habu (734825) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:10PM (#12122276)
    What is the cost of the energy required to charge the batteries?
    What is the cost of disposing of the batteries once they have become unusable (which they will)?
    How much additional energy (regardless of source) is consumed by hauling the substantial extra weight of the batteries?
    Are the people who are doing this also pressing for more nuclear energy plants?
  • Plug in.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by doormat (63648) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:12PM (#12122288) Homepage Journal
    In TFA, it said the price of adding plug-in tech was $3,000 to a hybrid vehicle. However, to recoup that $3,000 would require you to save about 1,300 gallons of gas (at 2.25/gal). If you were getting 50MPG, and bumped it up to 100MPG, you'd have to drive at least 130,000 miles to recoup it - and that doesnt even count the fact that you'd be spending money on electricity, that would only increase the amount of miles driven.

    It can help in other ways, perhaps the power plant where you are getting the electricity from is cleaner burning (or nuclear) than your car, and it reduces overall air pollution.
    • Re:Plug in.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChrisMaple (607946)
      The NYT claim that plug-in technology would add $2000 to $3000 to the cost of a hybrid car is pure BS. We're talking about a battery charger here, only slightly more sophisticated than the $60 charger available retail at places like AutoZone. Figure another $30 for beefier components and a heatsink, $10 for an easily accessed connector, and you're done.
    • Re:Plug in.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Petrox (525639)
      That $3000 figure for the cost of the batteries is also a bit misleading--TFA took some effort to point out that the cost of both the batteries and the hybrid engine declines rapidly with mass production. If the car companies and consumers got behind this technology it could become quite affordable

      The relative lack of innovation in car power plant and energy technology over the last 100 years is really a dark spot on the auto industry IMHO--that we're still burning that much fossil fuel to get individuals
    • Re:Plug in.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RabidMonkey (30447) <canadaboy@gmail.c3.1415926om minus pi> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @08:23PM (#12122822) Homepage
      This is the same argument I use with my current car - a TDI (Turbo-Direct-Injection) Dieel Jetta.

      It costs about $1,800 more to get the Diesel. I've started keeping track of my KM travelled and how much it costs vs. a gasoline car and so far I've saved myself $126.42 with my diesel ... in 1 month. At that rate, I'll have paid off the difference in 14.3 months.

      But, even better and more important to me is that I'm using less fuel, and using less fuel more efficiently, which is producing less pollutants and emissions. Not to mention the fact that making diesel uses less energy (less refining needed) than gasoline.

      So, even though it costs more money to buy a diesel, I was willing (And continue to be willing) to pay a little more to make a little less pollution.

      Reading life after the oil crash really helped change my mentality about fuel and energy use. Shifting my energy use to more electricity and less fossil fuels means that, while I'm still using energy, I'm using a cleaner source of it. A lot of the power in SW Ontario comes from either Hydroelectricty or Nuclear power which is considerably cleaner than burning fossil fuels.

      I guess it all comes down to how much you'd change your lifestyle to help cut back on energy use, and how much of your own money you'd spend to do it.
  • My car... (Score:5, Funny)

    by jdreed1024 (443938) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:13PM (#12122299)
    Obligatory Simpsons [snpp.com] Quote: "My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it!"
    • Re:My car... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by digitalsushi (137809)
      Does anyone else have a father who likes to tell the story about how Detroit's had cars that get 80 mpg since the late 1970s, but never release it for $CONSPIRACY_THEORY reasons? I remember randomly thinking about it one day, how all of a sudden I just didn't believe him, that it didnt make sense, and I think that was the first day I felt like an adult...
    • by Manchot (847225)
      40 rods/hogshead means that you're only getting 0.00231 mpg. That's not too good, IMO.
  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:16PM (#12122325)
    The secret is to only drive downhill.
  • by ToshiroOC (805867) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:18PM (#12122344)
    Even though these cars are using more electrical, they're still getting electricity from a grid largely powered by filthy coal and gas power plants, and through a system that's most likely less efficient than the car's internal power grid. They might be using less gasoline in the car, but in the grander scheme they're creating more pollution by making the power plants burn even more for them.
  • Cost goes UP! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dlakelan (43245) <dlakelan.street-artists@org> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:19PM (#12122353) Homepage
    At approximately 112000 BTU/gallon of gasoline [epa.gov] that's about 33kWh/gal. In California where the prices are about $0.12/kWh electric, it costs you about $4.00/gallon saved. With gas prices at about $2.40 in CA that's about $1.60 extra per gallon saved.

    For those of you who say "fuel savings at any cost" consider that most of the california electricity is generated by burning natural gas, and that there are considerable losses involved in generating and transmitting the electricity.

    Nothing to see here at the moment. Wait until the price of gas goes to $5.00 and then buy some solar panels to charge your car (or at least net-meter your electricity).
    • Re:Cost goes UP! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SagSaw (219314) <slashdot@ m m o s s . o rg> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @09:09PM (#12123126)
      At approximately 112000 BTU/gallon of gasoline that's about 33kWh/gal. In California where the prices are about $0.12/kWh electric, it costs you about $4.00/gallon saved. With gas prices at about $2.40 in CA that's about $1.60 extra per gallon saved.

      One thing you left out is that automotive internal combustion engines typically have an efficiency of somewhere around 20%. I hope that the charger + batteries + electric motor have a better effeciency that than. I'll pull a number out of the air and say that 40% of the energy supplied to the charger will eventually show up in the energy supplied by the output shaft of the motor. Using these numbers, one gallon of gasoline will give you 6.6kWh at the engine output. Using 40% efficiency of the electric system, you need to purchase 16.5kWh of electricity to provide the same 6.6kWh at the motor output. Using your rates, this ends up being about $1.98 for the same amount of energy as produced by a gallon of gasoline in the engine.

      The good news is that not everybody has to pay that much for electricity. Where I live, I only pay about $0.07/kWh. This means that I can buy a gallon's worth of electricity for $1.16, or about half what I paid today for gasoline.

      It gets better, though. The power company could charge a different rate for EV battery charging, with the stipulation (enforced at the meter) that current only be drawn during off-peak hours. Or, they could set-up an 'auction' system where I plug my car in and say how much I'm willing to pay to charge my car tonight. My charger will be supplied with power only when rates drop below my price. If I still have 80% of my range unused, I'd only be willing to pay a low price. If I only have 20% of my range remaining, I'll pay a higher price. If I really need to charge the car now, I'll plug it into a standard outlet.

      One other thing: When it comes to charging a battery, there isn't anything magical about 120/240VAC @ 50/60Hz. It's entirely possible that the power company could provide a seperate, lower quality of service, line for battery charging and simialr uses where the voltage and frequency could vary +/-30% without breaking anything. The same logic means it should be easier to charge your EV from off-grid sources than to power your house from an off-grid source.
  • by failedlogic (627314) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:23PM (#12122394)
    I saw a French research company that is making cars run off of compressed air. Using a Carbon-fibre based compressed air canister, the PSI in the tank is about around 3500 or 3800. There is enough air in the tank to drive about 130 to 180 km @ 60 KM/H.

    This is really interesting. The technology is out now. And, AFAIK, this form of transportation is emmissionless.

    Just as a curiosity, though, why type of hybrid technologies do we have for *airplanes*. Our economy relies so heavily on planes that we need to find alternatives. IANA-Engineer, but I doubt a 747 would run on solar.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Just as a curiosity, though, why type of hybrid technologies do we have for *airplanes*. Our economy relies so heavily on planes that we need to find alternatives. IANA-Engineer, but I doubt a 747 would run on solar.

      You certainly are no engineer. You may not be very bright, either. I did a quick google on '777 seating capacity' to start thinking about your querry. One of the first page links takes me to the following page: http://www.aua.com/at/eng/Austrian/Fleet/boeing+77 7-+200/ [aua.com].

      Wow, that seem
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:32PM (#12122463)
    The book "The Bottomless Well" noted that if you get batteries good enough, meaning light enough and small enough volume, able to travel for a normal day's travel (say 250 miles) & inexpensive enough, to fit in a car that you can potentially drop your cost per mile for power to 10% of that using gasoline today.

    How? Off peak power now at night (when stationary power plants would love to sell you power) is $.03-$.04 per KWHr, versus about $.40/kwhr for gasoline.

    Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALTI) received 2 patents on a way to make Li-ion batteries that charge in minutes and hold 3 times the charge in January 2005, and Fujitsu just announced they will start shipping batteries probably licensed under this patent in 2006.

    All-electric cars are FAR FAR closer to practicality than people think because of these dramatic technology breaththroughs.
    • This sounds like a stock spam.

      First "Altair Nanotechnologies" basically makes specialty powders for surface chemistry applications. Calling this "nanotechnology" is a stretch. What they actually do, as a business, is make titanium dioxide powder, the pigment used in white paint. Read their 10-K filing [10kwizard.com], which is more honest than the press releases they put out.

      Altair claims to be working with the "Energy Storage Research Group" at Rutgers University. That did exist, and, sadly, it's one of the leftov

  • by an_mo (175299) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:47PM (#12122554) Journal
    Can any techie out there explain whether it is more efficient to use a gallon of oil to make gasoline, or to use half a gallon to make gas, use the other 1/2 gallon to make power, transfer this power to the prius, and then drive? I mean even electricity must come from somewhere; for all I know energy dispersion might burn all of the (potential) savings.
    Are hybrid cars saving anything to society? Are they saving any money to the driver?
  • by FelixCalCars (779990) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @08:32PM (#12122888) Homepage
    I urge all readers of these lively threads to view our Fact Sheet, found at http://www.priusplus.org/ [priusplus.org] -- paying special attention to the fact that our MPG results must be combined with the electricity used.
    Also look at the new section at our vehicles page where we document the benefits of PHEVs even when they're recharged from a dirty (coal-fueled) grid.

    We've added a link to this discussion at http://www.calcars.org/kudos.html [calcars.org]

    Felix Kramer, Founder, CalCars
  • by GeorgeMcBay (106610) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @09:21PM (#12123199)
    The power that comes from your electrical outlet isn't magical. It is coming from some other source through the power-grid, so the gas (or worse, it could be coal where they are) is still being burned up and released into the atmosphere and you're probably being even more wasteful than you would if you just put oil in the car because of power leakages at a distance.

    I dislike the oil industry quite a lot, but this sort of thing isn't a solution to our problems at all. Thanks for nothing, fellas!

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