A Real Life 100+ MPG Car
May 12, 2006
I've just finished a full afternoon running errands around the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a mostly ordinary day: I drove 42.9 miles, putting me right in-line with the 75% of Americans who drive 40 miles or less daily (50% drive less than 25). I spent about half my time on the highway, the other half making short trips in town. And I did it all in my 2004 Toyota Prius, like a good percentage of my fellow Bay Area drivers.
Oh, and one more thing: I got 137.8 miles per gallon.
I drive a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). A PHEV is much like a regular gas-electric hybrid, only with larger batteries and the ability to recharge from a household outlet. My car, one of only ten plug-in Priuses in the world, fills up from an extension cord every night in my garage.
I don't have to plug it in. If I don't my car behaves just like a standard hybrid, using its gas engine and regenerative braking to constantly recharge the battery. But why wouldn't I plug in? In nine seconds (that's the amount of time it takes me to connect the extension cord to my bumper each night) I can fuel my driving with cleaner, domestic electricity. In nine seconds I get 30 miles of all-electric range every day. In nine seconds I save more than $2 a gallon:
The average national electricity rate is 8.5 cents/kilowatt-hour. My plug-in Prius' capacity of 9kWhr gives me 30 miles of all-electric range. That's 30 miles for $0.77. If you compare this to the standard vehicle average of 25MPG, a plug-in fills up with electricity for 64 cents a gallon. Compared even to a standard Prius' 48MPG it costs just $1.23 a gallon. I haven’t factored in that some areas of the country have off-peak (overnight) rates as low as 4-5 cents per kilowatt-hour, so if you live in one of these areas, I’ll leave that math to you.
I like and promote plug-in hybrids not just for the economic gains. PHEVs also tackle:
1. Global warming: Over 12,000 annual miles, here’s the average vehicle CO2 output: (note that the PHEV numbers are “well-to-wheel,” meaning CO2 from electrical generation is included)
Standard car: 12,000 pounds CO2
Stock Prius: 6,000 pounds CO2
PHEV Prius: 2,000 pounds CO2
These numbers are based on the California grid. Nationally, despite the electric grid being half-coal, the PHEV number is 3,900 pounds, but will only improve as the grid gets cleaner.
2. Jobs: Car makers can make money selling better cars. After-market companies can convert existing hybrids. Also, communities that are so polluted they can't attract (or aren't allowed to build facilities for new businesses) can start reducing dangerous emissions.
3. Oil dependency: I can’t remember the last time I visited a gas station. Over my 42.9 miles today (in which I burned less than a third of a gallon of gas), I used 18% of the gasoline of a normal car and 34% of a stock Prius.
As pointed out in last month’s editorial by Professor Kammen and in the UC Berkeley study, Towards Energy Independence by 2025, plug-in hybrids are a gateway technology to an oil-independent America. You may ask – where does ethanol fit in? Even plug-in hybrids need a fuel source for extended range driving and ethanol can play an important part in reducing our gasoline consumption even further. But is America capable of producing 140 billion gallons of ethanol a year—the amount of gasoline our cars currently use? The short answer is “no.” A study released last year by the Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture stated that a 30% replacement with ethanol would be doable, but a considerable challenge. But we may never need to hit the 30% mark…
Plug-in hybrids are ready today. The technology is here. The batteries are ready. Our domestic power grid can accommodate off-peak charging for tens of millions of PHEVs. And when combined with biofuels, plug-in hybrids can achieve 500MPG of gasoline, effectively eliminating our need for foreign oil. By using ethanol primarily as the "range-extension" fuel (when you need to drive beyond the typical 30-40 miles a day), we can cut our gasoline production needs by 70%. Meanwhile, the electric grid keeps on getting cleaner and cleaner, and we approach completely carbon-free transportation.
Converting my Prius cost $12,000; it was done after-market, by hand, without the benefits of mass production. Current figures estimate that production PHEVs would cost just $2,000-3,000 more than a conventional hybrid. With government and other incentives they could cost even less. What’s left? An automaker to fire up the production lines for this “car of the future”—today.
To see a short, humorous animation on the value of plug-in hybrids, visit www.Bettah.com. By signing the Petition at the end of the animation, your voice will be added to the thousands who support our pursuing a “bettah way” - starting today.
Felix Kramer is the founder of the California Cars Initiative (CalCars.org), a non-profit group of entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and citizens promoting plug-in hybrid cars.
Matt Geissinger from OH
5/12/2006 12:29:29 PM
Why aren't we building these already? Why do we have to ask for them? Build the damn things already!!!
Marvin Cabiness from NJ
5/12/2006 5:51:54 PM
I would be driving one of these cars if they were available to me!!!!
Alonzo Quijada from CA
5/13/2006 12:20:13 AM
Is it possible to convert my 2001 Prius ? And if so where can I do it ?
Felix Kramer from CA
5/13/2006 1:40:57 PM
Matt: That's what calcars.org and ei2025.org are asking all the time. That's why we do what we do, and why you help spread the word!
Marvin/Alonzo: For most people, we need to wait until the car-makers turn them into another mass-production option. Right now there are after-market conversion options for 2004-2006 Priuses only -- see http://www.calcars.org/howtoget.html .
Robin from NM
5/15/2006 11:35:50 AM
Do you know whether Toyota is planning to make these for the general consumer? Or are there places that will do the conversion for us at a bit less than $12,000? I might be able to afford the car, or the conversion, but both is going to be a stretch.
Bill Walker from PA
5/15/2006 5:47:21 PM
Financially advantageous, but environmentally necessary!!!!
Dave Snow from CA
5/15/2006 8:41:08 PM
At nearly $4 per gallon here in California, our next car will be a Prius!! So what if the auto dealers got involved? They could have the vehicles done at the buyers request, this might help to reduce the cost and allow the buyer to use financing for the entire purchase.
Hecate from VA
5/18/2006 11:38:35 AM
Love my hybrid.
Chris from CA
5/18/2006 4:56:57 PM
LA Times (Associated Press) 5/18. Article on scientists urging Congress to fund plug-in hybrid "research" to the tune of $250M. Sounds typical: spend a gazillion dollars to prove out something that already works! We need to take a page from Nike and "Just Do It".
Bill from IL
5/23/2006 5:55:48 PM
When a PHEV is offered to the general public, I'll be one of the first in line. I would hope that the first generation of these cars also have flex fuel (E-85)offered as well. This would bring down the need for imported oil even more, as well as reduced greenhouse gases and benefits for farming in America.
John from MS
5/29/2006 6:10:00 PM
Toyota just started producing Prius in China.
Maybe somebody can convince the Chinese to add batteries to the assembly line ...
Colleen Hinojosa from WI
5/29/2006 7:45:51 PM
Where do you purchase these and is there a wait list?
Chris W from CA
5/30/2006 10:57:43 AM
I believe Felix had his car done by EDrive Systems. Only 10 have been completed to-date. They are hoping to begin taking orders soon.
Walter Mees from CA
5/30/2006 1:25:58 PM
Can this conversion be done to any hybrid, or just to the Prius?
John Davi from CalCars.org from CA
5/30/2006 2:29:41 PM
The conversion options will initially only be for the 2004-2006 Prius, although Hymotion (www.hymotion.com) plans to offer conversions of the Ford Escape Hybrid, too -- first for fleet markets.
We keep track of all potential plug-in purchasing options, usually without all the alliteration, at http://www.calcars.org/howtoget.html
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