Some hybrid owners may be satisfied with 50 mpg. But a new breed is working on 100 miles per gallon or more. CalCars, a Palo Alto-based non-profit group of entrepreneurs, environmentalists and engineers, is tinkering with and lobbying for new technology that will add batteries to a typical Toyota Prius, tweaking the electrical system, so that the car can be plugged into a normal wall socket and run longer on batteries before needing to kick in its gasoline engine. Result: 100 mpg, and a big step in curing the nation’s oil addiction, smog and global warming problems, they say. Currently, about a dozen people have already converted their Priuses, including one pioneer in Marin County. Engineering students at UC-Davis are now converting pickup trucks to plug-in hybrids. At first, Toyota and other big automakers were definitely not on board. Toyota said the conversions would void Prius warranties. But now, GM has begun its own research and says it may have a plug-in hybrid for sale by 2009. Meanwhile, the Palo Alto tinkerers have found a new use for plug-in hybrids: as power plants. Under a scheme they call V2G, or “Vehicle to Grid,” plug-in hybrids could be plugged in and their voltage could provide electricity to your home during peak usage times, or in a blackout. The mind races.
“San Francisco Bay Debris and Plug-In Hybrids” (episode #102) airs tonight on QUEST at 7:30pm on KQED 9, and KQED HD, Comcast 709. (full schedule)
To see & discuss all the photos from our voyage aboard the Raccoon, go to the Plug-In Hybrid cars – KQED QUEST Set on Flickr.
You may also view the entire Plug-in Hybrid Cars segment online.
Gabriela Quirsó is a Segment Producer for KQED-TV, and is the producer for this segment.