CalCars: The California Cars Initiative

With the success of hybrid vehicles, it was only a matter of time before the techies started tweaking them to make them even greener. Hybrids like Toyota’s Prius are great, but they still get only about 50 mpg. The guys behind this Web site have come up with a clever idea: gas-option plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs. Their idea is to allow a hybrid to function entirely on all-electric mode for local driving and then switch to gas-electric mode for trips out of town. So they’ve equipped a stock ’04 Prius with an additional battery pack that can be plugged in for recharge each night. The result: about 30 miles all-electric per charge, 100 mpg on average and the potential for even better. The auto makers aren’t thrilled by this—they’ve worked hard to sell hybrids as not needing to be plugged in—but as CalCars asks, why not provide the option? Who wouldn’t be willing to plug in the car at night if it doubled mileage and further cut emissions, as long as the hybrid option was available for trips? This slick site comes with photos of the reworked Prius along with links to all kinds of related info, including NPR’s recent feature about CalCars.