Avoiding the high price of gas

An outfit in Los Angeles plans to turn a Toyota Prius into even less of a gas guzzler.

If you are getting tired of the high price of gasoline, own a Toyota Prius and are fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles, next year you will get a chance to reduce the costs associated with running the beast.

All thanks to Edrive Systems who have produced a commercially available plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) retrofit system for the vehicle that could bring its fuel consumption to 200 mpg, depending on your driving style and how far your travel.

Installations of the EDrive system are currently being done on a demonstration basis only. But the company is planning to establish a production facility for the system, and once it has, will set pricing and a production schedule for the system. But the cost of conversion is likely to be under $12,000 and the systems will be installed in customer’s vehicles by trained personnel at another outfit – LA-based Clean-Tech.

The EDrive system itself replaces the existing Prius NiMH battery and Toyota battery control computer with a larger Valence Saphion lithium-ion battery and a proprietary battery monitoring and control system developed by Energy CS.

The system allows the Prius to be charged at home using a standard 110/120V home outlet. With the larger battery, the Prius can run in electric only ‘EV’ mode at lower speeds or when less power is needed.

The result is EV driving and electrically boosted gasoline driving for the first 50 to 60 miles with a gasoline efficiency of 100 to 150mpg. After the 50-60 mile ‘boosted’ range, the vehicle performs just like a standard Prius until it is plugged in again.

After a nightly re-charge, the vehicle can be driven in EV mode until the vehicle speed exceeds 34mph. At this point the engine starts to warm up the emission control system. After the emission system is warmed up, the Prius will use the gasoline engine whenever higher speeds or power levels are needed, but will always (for the first 50-60 miles) inject electricity to reduce gasoline consumption.

The EDrive system was designed for use with a 1kW charger with the intent of slow charging the battery at night when spare electricity is most available on the grid. Unlike an electric vehicle that might need additional charging during the day, a plug-in hybrid can still be driven as a gasoline hybrid after the battery is depleted (50-60 miles into the day). EDrive is not planning to offer higher speed charging as it shouldn’t be needed and would only increase the system cost.

Testing indicates that the Valence batteries should last 6 to 8 years in an EDrive equipped Prius, with the possibility of 10 or more years being likely. Depending on how the ‘end of life’ is defined, the battery may last the life of the vehicle.

Following the roll-out of the commercial EDrive system for Prius, EDrive aims to bring the technology to other ‘full-hybrid’ vehicles such as the Ford Escape hybrid, Lexus 400h and Toyota Highlander hybrids.