Last year, GM stirred up a lot of chatter when it proclaimed that the Chevy Volt could get 230 MPG. The number wasn't based on any actual test drive, but on a theoretical mileage estimate using a proposed EPA drive cycle. Now 230 miles per gallon is nothing to sneeze at, but it pales compared to what EV World's personal plug-in Prius achieved this weekend during an 11-mile test drive here in Nebraska.
The story begins last October, 2009 when Plug In Conversions Corporation converted EV World publisher Bill and Judy Moore's 2009 Toyota Prius to a blended-mode plug-in hybrid. Replacing the 1.3kW Toyota NiMH battery pack with a 6.1 kW Gold Peak battery of the same chemistry, the car now has an electric driving range of up to 30 km (20 miles), compared to the standard Prius' 2-3 km. PICC's software made it possible to switch modes from normal hybrid, to three stages of blended mode (short, medium, long), and all-electric. However, you had to connect a laptop computer to the car's canbus and use a Java-based program to make the switch, which was pretty inconvenient.
The upgrade this weekend eliminates the need to connect the computer. Now the car has three separate buttons to enable the switch,which can be done while driving and is completely transparent. Besides changing modes on the fly, you can also reset any computer codes that might be generated. PICC's Kim Adelman and Mike Dibble also implemented several software upgrades and replaced the original accessory battery charger with a more robust model. The entire upgrade took approximately 4 hours. While in Omaha, they performed a similar upgrade to OPPD's Prius, which they converted about a year ago.
In order to test the car, EV World's publisher and his wife, along with Adelman and Dibble took the car for a drive along the identical route that Mrs. Moore drives daily to her job at Omaha Steaks, a round trip of 11 miles. Part of the objective of the test was to demonstrate how to use EV-mode and PHEV-mode buttons to achieve top fuel economy, as is explained in the above video.
Basically, by starting the car in EV-mode and briefly switching to PHEV-mode once the car is traveling at higher speeds, you can dramatically improve its overall fuel economy. In this test, we achieved an astounding 583 miles per gallon, using this new procedure, a number verified by our laptop computer.
Adelman says that he has one more upgrade that he is planning to his system: porting the PICC display that is currently on the laptop over to the Prius' built in display screen, so that you'll be able to regularly check the state of the battery and trip mileage, among other data points, without having to connect a laptop. That upgrade should be coming later this year. Once that's done, Adelman is confident that PICC will have the most sophisticated plug-in conversion kit on the market. PICC is also developing a lithium-based pack that could deliver up to 50 miles of EV-range, making it more than competitive with the Chevy Volt and even the Fisker Karma.
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