The state of Florida came up with a good way to spend its DOE stimulus money ($500,000), but only one company (A123Systems) will be the beneficiary. The state is offering $5,000 rebates to Toyota Prius owners to convert their plain-jane hybrids into plug-ins using that company’s Hymotion conversion kits. The rebate just about cuts in half the cost of the 5-kwh lithium-ion-phosphate battery pack kits. A123’s Hymotion kits are the only ones to comply with the Florida legislation, says Edmunds, though others do exist.
In a further, shall we say, “restraint of trade,” the kits can be installed at only one West Palm Beach car dealer. Wonder what the DOE thinks about that—but, hey, A123 says “the converted Prius is capable of providing an all-electric range of up to 40 miles at speeds up to 35 miles an hour.”
A start-up company composed of ex-Tesla engineers and called ALTe is also specializing in plug-in conversions, but is targeting fleet owners of trucks and cabs. First customers, they hope, will be New York City cabs, and there are some 13,000 of them.
The idea is to retrofit existing taxis, like Ford Crown Vic gas hogs, with powertrain conversions costing about $25,000. The new-old car will then get an average 41 mpg and run 40 miles on a single charge. Like so many such electric ventures, their business plan makes a kind of weird sense if they can confront the huge challenges ahead.
Detroit is getting ready for its big auto show next week, and several sites, including egmCarTech, are highlighting the many green vehicles to be shown. Among these are the Honda CR-Z hybrid coupe, over which much ink has been spilled, and now some fuzzy photos (right) taken from a video are making the rounds. Toyota and VW will also show new hybrid concepts, as will China’s BYD, plus Fiat (the 500 Electric), Ford (Focus), and Chevy (Aveo).
Rumors abound that Porsche will run its 911 GT3 R in a race-spec hybrid at Nürburgring in May. Stuttgart hasn’t yet confirmed anything, but perhaps, as Autoblog reports, “the automaker will use the knowledge it gleans from the ‘Ring race to campaign a GT3 hybrid in the 2011 ALMS season, with a possible running at the 24 Hours of Le Mans the same year.” Now that would be a really interesting development. One wonders what the benefits of hybridizing would specifically be in long-distance, full-out racing.
Finally, another set of crazy Germans—uhh, Bavarians, namely the RUF boys, speed tuners extraordinaire, in Pfaffenhausen, of all places—recently announced the RUF Stormster, an all-electric version of the Cayenne S, and showed it at Copenhagen at the Climate Change Conference.
The car is in fact no stormer but will get to 100 kph in 10 seconds and go 125 miles on one battery charge. The batteries are made by “Li-Tec Battery GmbH, Europe’s first manufacturer of mass-produced lithium ion battery cells with ceramic storage capacity for automotive applications.” If you happen to have a 400-volt charger on hand, the pack will recharge in one hour! The electric motor is made by Siemens.
Why are German companies taking the lead in creating performance hybrids and electrics? Is the U.S. (excepting Tesla) ever going to get in this game?