Oct 28, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Rolling Stone issue 986, November 3, 2005, Table of Contents: Wheels '05: Rolling Stone's annual guide to the hottest rides, featuring celebrity road tests with Paul Wall, Hoobastank, Diane Crook, Kristen Bell and Raveonette Sharin Poo PLUS: How to hack your hybrid, the military's new concept truck and Willie Nelson, energy czar.
Section intro: Welcome to the New Automotive Era: Muscle is in, Titanic-size rides are out, and beating the gas pump is all the rage. Small story on p. 74 (second page of section)
How techies are juicing up the Prius
by David Kushner
Like a lot of hybrid owners, Ron Gremban bought a Prius because it's clean and fuel-efficient. But for the San Francisco engineer, getting 45 miles per gallon from the gas-electric car wasn't efficient enough. So he installed 260 pounds of lead-acid batteries underneath his Prius's cargo compartment, replaced the battery-control computer and added a charger to create a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, one of the biggest advances in oil-weaning since, well, the hybrid itself. By night, Gremban charges up the car's battery in a garage outlet. By day, the extra stored energy produces more than 90 miles per gallon. "It's like having a tiny extra fuel tank that gets filled up by charging at one dollar per gallon," says Gremban, a member of the California-based nonprofit group called CalCars, which advocates PHEV technology.
Hybrids get superb mileage because they have a motor/generator that saves energy during braking that's used for acceleration, allowing the engine to run more efficiently. But the extra battery juice of hacked hybrids lets them run on electricity alone at speeds up to 34 mph, reducing gas use even more. So far, only DaimlerChrysler has plans to produce prototype PHEV vehicles for 2006. Meanwhile, hypermilers keep hacking in pursuit of greater gas mileage. "These innovations don't come from the top down," says David West, spokesman for Raser Technologies, a Utah company leading the movement. "This is a revolution from the ground up.
"CAPTION: The control panel of a replacement battery system for the Prius