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New Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) Based on the Prius Introduced

Valence Technology, a developer of large-format Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, and EnergyCS, a developer of integration control systems, are introducing a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) concept car based on a 2004 Toyota Prius.

To be shown at the 21st Worldwide International Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition (EVS 21) in Monaco next week, the PHEV uses Valence’s phosphate-based Lithium-ion battery system.

As designed and programmed, the Prius has a driver-selectable EV (electric vehicle) drive mode. When toggled, EV mode turns off the combustion engine and the Prius functions as an all electric vehicle—particularly good for starting up and neighborhood travel. The default EV driving mode can be used for about one mile with a maximum speed of about 34 mph. EV mode is not currently activated for Priuses bound for the US, although it is on models in Japan and Asia.

In its stock EV mode, however, the Prius is not very satisfying. The battery pack wasn’t selected with extended EV operation in mind, and, more critically, the vehicle can’t plug in to recharge the batteries. Staying far away from a plug-in was part of Toyota’s planning, and remains part of the marketing for the car. Toyota took special care especially during the roll out of this version of the Prius to point out that it did NOT plug in.

The California Cars Initiative (CalCars), a non-profit startup dedicated to jump-starting the market for plug-in hybrids (PHEV), has also been working on building a prototype Prius (the Prius+) capable of functioning as a plug-in hybrid and running in full EV (electric vehicle) mode for longer distances than possible with the original Toyota equipment. (Earlier post.)

With a more capable battery pack extending EV operation of the car, the Valence/EnergyCS prototype delivers up to 180 mpg for an average commute of 50–60 miles per day. The vehicle will also be part of the Monte-Carlo Fuel Cell & Hybrid Rallye on April 2.

The Valence batteries use a phosphate-based cathode material rather than the cobalt-oxide used in traditional Li-ion cells. Phosphates are stable in overcharge or short circuit conditions and have the ability to withstand high temperatures without decomposing. When abuse does occur, phosphates are not prone to thermal runaway and will not burn.

In addition to being more stable and safer, the the phosphate-based batteries offer better longevity and discharge than their cobalt-oxide counterparts.



John McConnell

I'm sure this has been looked into somewhere (maybe here), but I wonder about the pollution created by charging a car with electricity in comparison to burning the fuel directly in the car. It's not like when you plug it in suddenly you are not creating carbon dioxide, unless you are on 100% renewable system for your power. And also, with a SULEV, the power you are using is probably not as clean as what the car uses.

Bruce Kinzey

Of course the fact that one COULD power such a vehicle with 100% renewable electricity is one of its attractive features. Or hydro or nuclear, which would at least avoid emissions issues. I did a quick back of the envelope calculation using CalCar's 250 Whr/mi electricity consumption estimate (for running on pure electric) and DOE data for national average carbon dioxide emissions per end-use kWh consumed and came up with 0.356 lb CO2/mi from the Prius Plus. This compares with an average emission from a standard Prius getting 45 mpg of 0.489 lb CO2/mi. It would appear the plug-in is superior even in our current fossil-heavy electric scenario. Plus, central power plants offer the option of sequestering carbon, if we ever decided to go that route.


Great analysis, Bruce. I'd add that one option I think we'll see a lot in the coming years is people in the suburbs who drive a PHEV installing solar panels on the roof of their garage so they'll be able to get some portion of their battery top-off from a 100% green source.

I think there will be a lot of this kind of synergy in our future--people combining technological advances in two or more areas to reduce their burden and reliance on the existing infrastructure.

John McConnell

I think the PHEV is a fantastic idea, and I agree that at least one has the option of 100% renewable power for their car with a PHEV. It's nice to know that even with our current power use this would still be better, and then to know if I wanted to, I could install solar panels for my car --- an option I definitely don't have now!

Theodore Tso

Another problem that I'd be concerned about is the number of complete charge cycles that LiOn batteries can support --- and the environmental costs of disposing of the LiOn batteries after they wear out. Is paying several thousand dollars for the Valence batteries, only to have them wear out and need replacing within a few years really cost-effective? Or responsible environmentally?


Lithium-ion batteries appear to be moving from lithium cobalt oxide (expensive and subject to thermal runaway) to lithium iron phosphate electrodes; the graphite electrodes are moving to lithium titanium oxide.  All these materials appear inexpensive and environmentally benign, and probably recyclable too.

Toshiba claims 1% degradation over 1000 cycles for their new lithium-ion cell, and the charge and discharge rates are incredible.  Even if it's ten times that bad in the field, you'd probably wear out the car before you wore out the battery.

Last, it looks like it's been cheaper to run a car on solar energy than on gasoline for a while now.  My analysis from last year found that solar electricity at 20 cents/kWh was cheaper than feeding $2.20/gallon gasoline to a 35 MPG car.


I believe Valence Technology is the only company offering lithium iron phosphate batteries. Since Valence's sales are only slightly more than nil, I don't think its quite accurate to say lithium ion batteries are moving to phosphate cathodes.

The Prius conversion to PHEV by Energy CS using Valence batteries cost $15K for the batteries alone. Potential fuel cost savings amount to a few hundred $ per year. Payback period approaches 40 years. Batteries wear out in what, 2-3 years, at most?

Clearly not an economic proposition.


Valence's LiFePO4 batteries may be expensive now, but any small-volume product is expensive.  Will they stay that way?  That seems doubtful; getting rid of the costly cobalt component of conventional Li-ion is worth a fair amount, and once volumes start climbing costs will head down.

In sufficient volume, goods are made for small multiples of their materials costs.  Iron is literally pennies a pound, and a car would only need a few tens of pounds of cathode material.  Titanium dioxide is mighty cheap too.  Those things cost a pretty penny today, but (to coin a phrase) the floor's the limit.


Wind electricity is close to taking off-at that point phev's pollution levels go _WAY_ down.

Alex Terrell

I did some analysis here

It's a shame that the focus for PHEVs is California. In the UK, we pay over $6 for a gallon of petrol (85p per litre). In contrast, night time electricity is some 2.7p per KWhr.


Why doesn't anyone talk about the big business and Government orgy that dictates what we drive? Bush can't let Toyota sell a plugin car in America, his oil pals will kill him.

Toyota said electricity companies have an agenda...who thought that up? It is obviously the only excuse they could find when they were told not to sell an "EV mode" capable car here.


Why doesn't anyone talk about the big business and Government orgy that dictates what we drive? Bush can't let Toyota sell a plugin car in America, his oil pals will kill him.

Toyota said electricity companies have an agenda...who thought that up? It is obviously the only excuse they could find when they were told not to sell an "EV mode" capable car here.

Greg T

One thing about the difference between burning gas in cars compared to using electricity made at a power plant. Oil used in electrical generation in the US only amounts to 2% of all the fuels used. So why do we need so much oil? I would say for fuel for vehicles. One of our problems is dependence on other countries for oil, particularly Arab countries. So eliminated the #1 need for oil cures that problem. Then there is pollution. Again I think autos etc, burning oil based fuel is the biggest cause. 51% of our electrical energy comes from coal though. But efforts to make less polluting coal powerplants are in the works. GE just got a contract from the DOE to make a better coal fired PP. It will involve a powerfull solidoxide fuel cell. Don't ask me how.


I live in Utah and see almost every day how much solar energy is being wasted. I would love to reacharge my car from a solar panel.

Nick Lento

Any economic analysis that discredits this technology because the miniscule current run of batteries is "expensive" is absurd/irrational at best.

The tech for these batteries will only get cheaper and more efficient as it gets refined and as economic incentives/efficiencies of scale/mass production take hold.

Again, to project future mass production costs at the current price levels is obviously wrong.

Look at what has happened to the prices of massive LED/Plasma displays over the last 5 years as they've sold more and more units. I dare say 5 years from now CRTs will be virtualy extinct, and nice 50" LEDs will cost 700 bucks (adjusted for inflation ;-).

If the USA had real leadership in the field of ecologically sustainable transportation, we would be subsidizing the rapid expansion of this technology with the aim of virtually getting rid of internal combustion vehicles all together.

I see no practical reason why half of the US's consumer automobile fleet can't be at 100MPG or better within 10 years.

There are also building technologies that can reduce the amount of energy required to heat/cool homes by half and better.

Thinfilm, flexible, efficent and cheap solar cells are on the way. There's no reason virtually every free outdoor surface can't be integrated into the local power grid.

It's not even a matter of "becoming free of dependence on middle eastern oil"; hell, we can eventually (certainly by the end of this century!!!) become free of the need to burn hydrocarbons for fuel all together!!!

It's just a matter of the political will; the tech is here and will only get better.

The real obstacles are an entrenched set of industrial/petrochemical interests that don't want to see their profitability or their practical monopoly decline. It's all about maintaining the status quo because it's more comfortable than the perceived risks of change.

Take all the legalized bribery out of politics and incentivise policymakers to simply do what's rational and best for the general population, and this kind of tech becomes implemented on a crash program/Manhattan Project basis.

Capitalism will still make tons of money funding the transformation; but it will be free markets taking real risks and creating real value that make the innovations/profits, not the kind of global soul deadening corrupt monopolisation we now have that stifles anything creative/new as a threat to the status quo.

Hell, our really big challenge will be to develop eco friendly tech to REVERSE the climate change/global warming that the last century of ignorant/wasteful abuse has brought on us.

I didn't intend to write a mini-rant; but if you got the point, you got it.

If you didn't; another ten thousand words probably wouldn't get through, eh?


As fuel prices keep changing and energy reserves keep decreasing, efficient methods of energy conversion and utilization should be used. If overall energy utilization at the national level has the priority, driving a heat pump by an electric motor is not the best method, due to the inefficient conversion of fossil fuel into electricity at the power station. Therefore, engine-driven heat pumps have been preferred using gas engines, diesel engines or gas turbines. The output of the heat pump is expected to be about 65% higher than electrically driven systems, based on the same amount of fuel used. The advantages of these systems are mainly due to local generation of shaft power and providing engine heat that can be usefully employed , by recovering part of the waste energy of the gases and engine coolant. Such systems can operate continuously in comparison with solar systems. In this work, three research investigations, carried out by the author and associates are briefly reviewed. They cover engine-assisted heating and cooling systems both vapor compression and absorption, associated with gas turbine and internal combustion engines. Primary energy was found to be saved by about 50% when using engine-driven heat pumps. The superiority of the gas turbine system was quite clear.This would be a kind of alternative to hybrid engines on strong point of CO2 emission and global warming,don’t you think? All that and some more I have pointed in my dissertation for Thermodynamic analysis of exhaust gas.In case some one interested or may need information for your researches ,you may look into here

Jim Bennie

This boils down to a marketing problem. You don't have to worry about politicians or monopolistic corporations. You do have get the average purchaser to want the vehicle being sold. If we continue to rant and try to force pickup truck buyers into buying a prius or similar domestic, you can expect the same results as in the past. GM, Ford, Chrysler and the government do not manufacture the demand for pickups/SUVs/minivans, people buy what they like.

If we wait for a "perfect" transportation solution we will be waiting for a very long time. Plug in hybrids have their shortcomings, but they are available now and represent a big improvement over gasoline only. Give a pickup truck owner a pickup with a motor and an engine that plugs into the wall at night. He really won't mind that it weighs 400 lbs more. He won't mind plugging it in if it saves him a few bucks everyday. He won't like paying more up front, but if it is marketed as a few bucks extra on the car payment every month and a few bucks less in gas it will work. Same goes for the soccer mom with her minivan. Incremental change will work, force won't.

The pure electric vehicle for the masses is a pipe dream at this point in time. If you can get people to use a little electricity for transportation now, you have a very good chance of getting them to use more later.

Paul Wang

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Paul Wang


The most interesting and viable fully electric vehicle i have seen so far for me is the electric GPR a replica race derbi. It has superb acceleration and a respectable top speed of 45-65 mph(you specify, higher top speed gives less acceleration and range). With all the possible options it has an output of about 27 electric horsepower and a practical range of 20 miles with very hard riding and up to 40 miles with very catious riding.With all the possible features it costs around 7000$-8000$ US. I want it.

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