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Nilar Stars at CMP's Boston TechMash Do-It-Yourself Conversion Sept 19-20
Sep 11, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Our next conversion project, next week, will put the spotlight on what's possible with advanced nickel-metal hydride batteries as we convert a car in two days at Boston's Hynes Convention Center for thousands of electrical engineers. It includes a few other new technical solutions. Here are background and details.

CalCars' conversions are all strategic:

  • as advocacy, to build awareness and support for PHEVs;
  • as technology projects, to showcase what's possible with mostly off-the-shelf components.
  • as partnerships, to help companies demonstrate and launch their solutions.

It's now three years since we built our first "PRIUS+" conversion, with lead-acid batteries, in Ron Gremban's garage in Corte Madera. Since then, several companies have gone into the after-market conversion business, mostly focusing on lithium-cobalt or lithium-phosphate batteries.

At the same time, we've long pointed out that carmakers could get started making "good enough" PHEVs using nickel-metal hydride batteries. This technology powers all of today's hybrids and electric vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4-EV -- some of which have logged over 100,000 miles. (Thermal safety issues are minimal; chief concerns are cost of nickel and battery weight.) In Spring 2006, we worked with Electro Energy Inc. to demonstrate its bi-polar nickel-metal hydride batteries, Recently, Toyota, deciding that ili-ion batteries were not ready for the next version of the Prius, and eager to prove some interest in evaluating PHEVs, has decided to build a few PHEVs with Ni-MH. Its solution -- essentially adding a second battery like the one now in the Prius, discharging it more deeply and increasing the EV-only mode limit to 62 miles per hour -- leads to a vehicle with 8-9 miles of electric-only range.

CalCars' latest conversion will use more advanced nickel-metal hydride batteries from Nilar, founded seven years ago in Sweden with facilities in Boulder, Colorado. Nilar's engineering designs and membrane technology improve Ni-MH energy density and reduce costs. See and the press info below.

At the same time as we've been partnering with battery companies, we continue to seee the value of spreading conversion technologies. Many institutions and individuals have been frustrated at the continued difficulty in getting cars converted -- after three years, there are fewer than 100 vehicles worldwide. (See­where-phevs-are.html for a chronology and a map that lags the list a bit.) Of course, the more cars out there, the more people will appreciate their value and will work to create the conditions for mass-production by carmakers.

We began our original PRIUS+ project as an "open source" effort, where most or all of the intellectual property would be freely available, and where a global community of engineers and inventors would participate in refining the solutions. In fall 2005, along with the Electric Auto Association, we started the Plug-In Hybrid Special Interest Group to broaden the participation and reach of conversions. The goal has been to enable any owner of a 2004 or later Prius, Ford Escape or some other vehicles to be able to get free instructions, help acquiring components and ways either to find a volunteer partner with high-voltage experience for a "DIY" (Do-It Yourself) conversion, or pay an individual or company to convert a car based on our open source designs.

Progress in this volunteer project has been slow, but it has led to our two MakerFaire conversions and a scattering of others. (We'll convert another car with lead-acid batteries at the MakeFaire in Austin in October.) See­wiki/­User:Rgremban/­2007_08_01-PriusPlus_Project_Update for Ron's August update and appeal for more volunteers, and­wiki/­Template:PriusPlus-Doc_Process for the latest version of the documentation.

In Boston, these two strands -- new batteries and new open source
designs -- come together in several ways.

First, we have the sponsorship of CMP Technology, which is part of an international publishing company that has increasingly been interested in this subject. Last spring at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, CMP sponsored a "Prius teardown" so engineers could see what's in a hybrid. This year, the teardowns­esc/­boston/­teardowns continue with an iPhone clone, a Vectrix electric scooter and a Nike Triax Elite. And now CMP goes one step further, highlighting what we call "green-tuning" of the Prius. CMP has generously agreed to donate the converted car to CalCars.

The company is sponsoring CalCars' team (from Northern and Southern CA, Texas and Illinois) to travel to Boston to convert a car in front of an audience of thousands of electrical engineers on Sept 19-20.

Second, the conference, attended by so many capable engineers, may allow us to extend the opportunities for more engineers to make design contributions by adopting project management techniques pioneered by open source software projects like Linux, gnu and Mozilla.

Third, joining the CalCars team are two just-launching companies that will offer conversion services and components and support DIY converters using the EAA-PHEV designs:

  • Plug In Conversions of Poway, CA has already partnered with Nilar to convert a PHEV. Beginning first quarter 2008 it will offer PHEV systems priced from $8,000 for a PHEV-8 with a range of 8 EV-only miles, to $15,000 for a PHEV-24.
  • Plug-In Supply of Petaluma (website to come by Sept. 19 at ) expects to provide wiring harnesses, and has refined, customized for different batteries, is putting in the public domain and will sell CalCars' design for a "tilt-up" battery box that allows access to the spare tire.

To register for the conference (reduced rates end Sept 14):­esc/­boston/­registration

NOTES ON CONVERSION: because the car was used for the Embedded Systems teardown, we want to thank hybrid specialist Carolyn Coquillette of San Francisco's new Luscious Garage for helping to rebuild the car so it can be converted. When it returns to California, some final dashboard and electronic components will be added and repaired so it can take on its new life as a PHEV. And at that point we will also determine the feasibility of adding additional batteries to bring the expected low-speed electric-only range from 14 miles to 20.

See the Green Car Congress story, followed by over 50 comments, at­2007/­09/­public-conversi.html

CMP PRESS RELEASE­index.php?s=43&item=1775
First East Coast Public Conversion of Plug-In Hybrid Electronic
Vehicle Set for TechMash 2007

Event Combines the Expertise of the CalCar Initiative and the Breakthrough Battery of Nilar; Audience to Learn how to Perform Conversion Themselves

BOSTON, Sept. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- CMP Technology today announced that during the upcoming TechMash 2007 (­techmash) conference in Boston, the East Coast will witness its first public conversion of a Hybrid vehicle into a Plug-in Hybrid Electronic Vehicle (PHEV). Combining the expertise of the California Cars Initiative (CalCars) with Nilar, providers of a breakthrough Nickel Metal Hydride Battery (NiMH), TechMash attendees will witness a live conversion of a Toyota Prius hybrid into a PHEV (­wiki/­Main_Page).

The live conversion will detail how: -- A PHEV combines the advantages of both hybrid and electric vehicles, with the added ability to plug in at night, using local electricity for short daily trips, but also retaining long distance range from the existing gasoline or diesel engine. -- To do the conversion yourself, beating auto manufacturers by several years, based on freely available open source designs that can be broadly adopted by Toyota Prius owners who want a PHEV today. -- Nilar's NiMH battery, which employs a revolutionary membrane design, demonstrates the continuing high potential of NiMH at a time when much of the focus is on lithium battery technologies whose limitations continue to be a reason for the delay in production of PHEVs. -- Using Nilar's NiMH battery simplifies the pack integration process from a mechanical and controls perspective.

The live conversion will take place September 19th and 20th during TechMash's Embedded Systems Conference. For information and to register for the show visit­esc/­boston/­overview. You can also join the live discussion and see a preview of the Prius teardown here­group.php?gid=3084711916

About CalCars Initiative The California Cars Initiative ( is a Palo Alto-based nonprofit startup of entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers promoting 100+MPG plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Somewhat uniquely, CalCars is itself a hybrid, focusing both on public policy and technology development, and harnessing buyer demand to help commercialize PHEVs. CalCars builds demand among highly receptive markets to encourage auto makers to produce 100+MPG "no-sacrifices" high-performance, clean plug-in hybrid cars. For more information visit­.

About Nilar Nilar was founded in 2000, with production and R&D facilities located in Denver, Colorado. Nilar has taken the approach of analyzing common failure modes of traditional battery design and manufacturing and has developed robust solutions that are remarkable simplifications in design and production technique. Using the company's vast knowledge and experience in industrial and military battery development, Nilar has introduced a Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery with the company's patented Membrane Technology that enables performance breakthroughs in energy and power density and simplification in pack integration and control. For more information visit­.

About CMP CMP Technology is a marketing solutions company serving the technology industry. Through its market-leading portfolio of trusted information brands, CMP has earned the confidence of more technology professionals than any other media company. As a result, CMP is the premier provider of access, insight and actionable programs designed to connect sellers and buyers in ways that yield superior return on investment. CMP Technology is a subsidiary of United Business Media (­), a global provider of news distribution and specialist information services with a market capitalization of more than $3 billion.

About TechMash CMP Technology will celebrate the spirit of collaboration and combined brain power at TechMash Boston 2007. TechMash 2007 will include The Embedded Systems Conference; the industry's largest international embedded technical conference and exhibition, Software Development Best Practices; a strategic forum for senior software developers, RFID World Boston, focused on security, privacy and authentication issues for the community that is using, building, leveraging, and driving radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, Near Field Communications(NFC); focused on the next wave in connectivity and commerce.

CONTACT: See original press release

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