You are currently browsing articles tagged Prius.

2009 Plug-In Prius

Good gas mileage, good cause–yup, it’s a good green car! The Green Car Company, which is based in Seattle, is auctioning off a 2009 Prius they’ve converted to be a plug-in using A123’s Hymotion plug-in kit. Proceeds from the eBay sale, which ends November 9, 2008, benefit Plug In America, a group working to shift consumers from gasoline- to electric-powered cars.

The Hymotion kit used in this particular Prius includes state-of-the-tech lithium-ion batteries and has been installed by certified technicians, so Toyota’s warranty is still in effect, according to Plug In America. The new battery pack has its own three-year warranty.

The dark blue car is on display all this week at the Seattle Auto Show for those who want to see it for themselves. The auction site says the new owner will be able to get 100-150 mpg and run on solely on electricity for up to 40 miles. The Prius is fully loaded, and the Green Car Company is throwing in a bunch of extras on top, including classes, shock upgrades, and heavy-duty extension cords for recharges.

This post is short, but important for anyone who’s got a Prius that they love: Toyota announced last week that it has dropped the price of replacement batteries for its popular hybrid sedan by 10%.

Replacements for the first-generation Prius, built from 2000-2003, can be replaced for $2,229, while second-generation Priuses built from 2004-2008 can get fresh power for $2,588. This, according to Automotive News, will benefit drivers who’ve passed the 10-year/150,000-mile or 8-year/100,000-mile warranty period.

This is good news for folks who like to hang onto a car and drive it into the ground. When the Prius first became available, the longevity of its battery packs was a source of concern. This has turned out to be less of a problem than anyone anticipated, and as time has gone on, prices of nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries have come down.

There are two giants in the DIY auto-repair world: Chilton and Haynes. And now, for the very brave home mechanic, these two publishers have repair manuals for the Toyota Prius, 2001-2008.

Haynes offers the tradtional paper-bound book that, if you’ve ever pulled a tranny, you’ve undoubtedly seen before. (If you thought that example involved cross-dressing, do not attempt to fix your Prius. Ever.) For about $25, it covers everything from routine maintenance to emissions controls and wiring diagrams, with photos and step-by-step instructions for every procedure.

Chilton has gone all 21st-century on us with its new web site Twenty bucks will get you online access to the how-tos for maintenance and repair, with photos and illustrations to guide you through the process. This is the excuse you’ve been waiting for to hook up a wireless router in the garage and plug in your old laptop. You might want to get one of those plastic keyboard covers first.

Be warned, Prius owners: you must have a mechanical bone in your body — preferably dozens of them — to follow along with the more advanced techniques in either repair manual. But curious beginners with a reasonable understanding of how a car works should be able to start with the maintenance and work their way up to master home Prius mechanic.

Honda Insight ConceptHonda has been promising to unveil its new hybrid all week, and today, they’ve done it: the company is resurrecting its original hybrid, the Insight, which died a small death only two years ago. The new version will be a five-door, five-passenger hatchback like the Prius, with a similar starting price in the low $20,000s.

The new car looks more like a Civic or hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity and less like the old Insight, with its covered rear wheels and flat Kamm tail. Though the original only sold 17,000 units between 1999 and 2006, it was the first car to break the 70 mpg barrier. Honda expects the new Insight to sell much better, to the tune of 200,000 cars worldwide, half of which will end up in American driveways. The concept will debut at the Paris auto show, October 4-19, 2008, and be available in U.S. showrooms by April 2009.

Honda already has a hybrid version of the Civic, but the Insight will be smaller and lighter. The company also has plans to add a hybrid Fit to the lineup sometime in the future, along with a sporty hybrid based on the CR-Z.

Staffers at The Boston Globe recently put five Toyota Prius hybrids to the test in the Great Prius Mileage-athon. They had to drive from friendly territory — a Whole Foods — to enemy territory — a Hummer dealership — from an old-school, F1-style standing start in the parking lot. Best gas mileage wins.

As narrator and Globe columnist Alex Beam puts it in the video, “You don’t get there very fast, but you feel better about getting there.” I hope he felt great at the finish line — he was the race’s biggest loser, at just over 50 mpg. To see the winner, take a 3-minute coffee break and watch the video. It’s no Michael Phelps, but it’s inspiring nonetheless.

2008 Toyota PriusToyota announced that it’s changing its plans for which models will be built where, including the popular Prius. The company has a plant under construction in Blue Springs, Mississippi, that was supposed to produce gasoline-powered Highlander SUVs, but with the high demand for low-emissions, fuel-efficient cars, it’s changed its mind. Beginning in 2010, the Prius will be built in America — good news for those who’ve found the recent short supply frustrating.

The Highlander will still be built in the U.S. as well, but at a plant in Indiana. The Tundra pickup truck, which currently rolls off two production lines in the U.S., will be consolidated to one factory in San Antonio, Texas. Toyota has also suspended Tundra and Sequoia production from now until November in response to the drop in truck demand.

The Prius will be the second Toyota hybrid built in the U.S.; Camry Hybrids sold in the U.S. come from a factory in Kentucky. Since the Mississippi plant will be producing the 2010 Prius, we can assume it will be the new, redesigned, 3rd-gen Prius expected to debut in January at the Detroit auto show.

Lotus Engineering\'s Safe & Sound

Lotus Engineering, which I imagine looks like Q’s lab in the James Bond films, has found a solution to the problem of nearly silent electric motors: the Safe & Sound system. The Toyota Prius demonstration car has a speaker attached at the front of the car next to the radiator that emits a “realistic engine sound,” according to the company.

Earlier this year, groups like the National Federation of the Blind pointed out that blind people and their seeing-eye dogs rely on the sound of approaching cars to determine the safety of crossing the street. This spring, a boy on a bike was hit by a Prius, an accident his mother blamed on the silent electric motor (never mind that the car is not equipped with invisibility, like Wonder Woman’s jet). In reaction, people have been searching for a way to make quiet cars safer for pedestrians. One potential solution was the Vibering concept, which would sense hybrid and electric motors and tell the wearer when one is nearby.

Lotus’s system was ironically born from its noise-dampening technologies. Safe & Sound synthesizes the engine sound and varies it depending on speed so people waiting at a crosswalk or walking across a parking lot can hear the approaching vehicle. If it’s a hybrid, and it goes fast enough to engage the gasoline engine, the system automatically shuts off. Also, once the car passes, the sound is no longer heard.

Us Portlanders who follow these things knew this was coming, but it’s still exciting when it actually happens. Portland General Electric officially unveiled its first shiny, new curbside charging station, one of several to be installed over the next couple of months in Portland and Salem.

PGE partnered with local company Shorepower Technologies to build the charging stations, which for now offer free fill-ups to EVs and plug-in hybrids, like the Toyota Prius that happened to be in town this week for a green conference at the art museum.

The chargers have a 220-volt plug tucked inside a nozzle like you’d find at a gasoline filling station, earning the designers points for cleverness. Though there are fewer than 300 electric vehicles registered in Oregon, there are nearly 30,000 regular Priuses. PGE and its partners take Portland’s Prius love to mean that we’re likely to see a surge in EVs and PHEVs in the next decade, and they want to be ready with the infrastructure when it happens.

We were, after all, ranked third in a national listing of “greenest” drivers, after Seattle and Burlington, Vermont. Not to rub it in or anything.

PHEV PriusPlug-In Supply in Petaluma, California, is selling plug-in conversion kits for the Toyota Prius for the low, low price of $4,995. How can they sell it so cheap? First, that’s the price of the kit only, no shipping or installation included; second, they’re using CalCars Open Source Prius+ Technology as the basis of the conversion.

For you do-it-yourselfers and engineers out there, the kit includes lead-acid batteries and the box to hold them, charger, and wire harness. There’s also a switch you can flip to operate your Prius on battery power up to 52 mph — 10 mph higher than an unmodfied Prius. The converted PHEV can then run 10-15 miles on electricity before the gasoline engine kicks in, giving you 100+ mpg. Plug-In Supply even designed the kit to be upgraded to lithium-iron-phosphate batteries for longer range, when they become available.

There are currently only a handful of dealers where you can buy the kit and lug it home, but Plug-In Supply is looking for more. Those nine dealers already on board stretch from California to Florida and New Jersey, though, so you might be able to find one not too far from home.