Plugging Plug-In Conversions
By Bill Moore
Kim Adelman's electric, plug-in Prius is, admittedly, a work in progress. You can tell that from the makeshift tie-down straps holding the car's extra nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries in place and the open bundles of wire snaking through the cargo compartment.
The Prius' cornflower yellow and mint green paint scheme, however, is gorgeous.
It was the Toyota hybrid's stunning exterior that attracted me to car, which Adelman had cunningly parked just off the street to the entrance of Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. I had to get a photo of it and that's when I ran into the owner and founder of Plug-In Conversions, based in San Diego, California. I had first met him at the premier of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" in LA in 2006. He was chatting with Chelsea Sexton, who has herself become a celebrity of sort after appearing in Chris Paine's highly successful documentary about the tragic fate of GM's EV1 electric car.
After taking me for a short drive down the street and back, I got Adelman to talk on camera about how he became involved with the grid-recharged hybrid car movement, which he describes as a "vortex" into which he was inexorably pulled, in large part because of an email announcement he came across from a battery maker in Colorado.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the interview is Adelman's admission that having 25-40 miles of EV-only driving range, which requires a significant investment in very expensive lithium batteries, isn't nearly as important as he originally thought it would be. While his personal car, which is the test bed for his conversion kit, has an electric-only driving range (at speeds below 35 mph) of up to 25 miles, he has discovered that a smaller battery can still deliver dramatic improvements in fuel economy. He estimates that even a car with just 8 miles electric-only range will get the equivalent of 100 mpg for the first 16 miles. And assuming you can recharge the car during the day for the drive back home at night, you can achieve the same fuel efficiency as a car with a larger, more costly battery pack.
This is why he is planning on offer three different conversion options, each with a successively larger battery pack with the lowest priced model (8 mile EV-range) targeted to cost $8000 installed, a process that will be done at the owner's location in just one day.
It's a bold scheme, but Adelman concludes it's critically needed because he sees the world caught in a "planetary emergency" requiring bold action; of which plug-in conversions can be an important tool to reducing oil dependence and ultimately greenhouse gas emissions.
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