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Open-Source DIY Plug-in Prius...in a Weekend

The California Cars Initiative (CalCars.org) will publicly convert a Toyota Prius hybrid into a plug-in hybrid during the inaugural Make magazine Maker Faire, April 22-23.

Over two days, CalCars engineers, along with a cadre of volunteers, will build and install a battery pack and make hardware and software adjustments to the stock Toyota Prius. The finished PRIUS+ will drive back to Seattle, Washington after the Faire with a 10-mile low-speed all-electric range in addition to its regular hybrid extended range.

The Maker Faire is to be held at the San Mateo Fairgrounds in San Mateo, California. Information is available at Make magazine.

The project is a dry run for the EAA-PHEV effort that is developing Open Source (non-proprietary) electronic designs, instructions and recommended components so experienced engineers can complete “do-it-yourself” (DIY) conversions on their own.

Along with the two private companies now about to offer after-market installed retrofits (Hymotion and EDrive), this will put some additional plug-in hybrids on the road



Wow! This is really great news for the technically inclined. Open source projects are the way of the future.

Bruk B

Any movement in this direction (demonstration of the ease of creating plug-ins) is positive but in terms of actual practicality I don't believe many average consumers will follow suit as long as this continues to void their warranty. We definitely need to be working the Toyota/OEM angle too.


I guess CalCars realize that with current gas prices there
will only be diehard green enthusiasts to shell out
12K $ for extra 10 miles of all electric range. This is the car setup for doom and gloom situation with oil.
Untill price of gas goes much (MUCH) higher and price of conversion (read battery) goes much lower, unfortunately, there is no bussiness case in here as I see it.


Alex -- You are absolutely correct -- there is no business case here -- but, ya gotta remember that when telephones were first introduced even Alexander Gram Bell (along with a whole bunch of other people) said that there was not much of a business case for phones and that maybe every town in America might have "one" phone! Ten years from now we'll all look back and say a meger 10 miles of low speed electric miles only?? -- what were they thinking back then???


The other thing to consider is $12K reflects no volume discount and no learning curve. Hymotion claims they expect a consumer conversion product in 1-2 years for $5k - if they get enough initial fleet volume to drive pricing. The gap right now is in the battery, and I expect/hope that the gap will close as interest continues to rise.


Look I am following EVs for quite awhile now. BUT, if
all batteries (LIPOs) are produced in China and still can't get cheap I don't know what will make them cheap.
Now imagine if they were produced in USA, what the price tag would be. All these talks about someone planning (hoping) to reduce pricetag on batteries is going on for awhile now, but they are still expensive even using dirt cheap labour. I went to Kokam USA site - producer of LiPos.
3.7v 50Ah battery weighing 1.9kg produced in Korea cost
360 $ plus shipping from Korea to USA. Now, mustiply that by 100 and u get decsent battery pack for EV with weight of 200kg and energy around 20kwh (which should be ok for EV ). That battery pack would cost 36000 $ in Korea. Add BMS(battery managements system) and other components) and u easily
going over 50k $. Average consumer will buy 3year old
Cobalt for under 10K $ and will have 40K$ for gas, now tell me where is the money for investor?
Don't dream guys , be real.


How many KGs of LiPO batteries are sold per year now? Okay, if you need 200 KG for an EV or somewhat less for PHEV, times that by 100,000 PHEV for first year of production and factor in a ramp to 1 million vehicles/year in 5 years, what do you get? Volume. Price drops with volume, something the current use rate doesn't buy because of economy of scale.


cell phones are produced in VOLUMES. How much did that reduce price of LIPOs ? and there are millions of those phones around if not billion. Go on any site selling ionlithium batteries, calculate how many u need and u will
see that price for your EV made of those batteries will be still high. Here u can't use your argument that once in mass production those batteries will be cheap. They ARE in
MASS PRODUCTION (if billion is a mass production).
Be real, don't dream.


The production technology is there to produce Li-Ions at the cheapest price possible.

I don't understand why someone hasn't done it yet.


From the edrive FAQ.


Q10: What is the EV driving range?
A: If you were to limit your speed to 34mph or less, the gas engine may not come on for up to 35miles.

Why is the calcars estimate so anemic? Or is the edrive estimate BS?

Ten miles? Fuhgedaboutit.


Never underestimate...


What is the materials cost for the D-I-Y kit?


The reason that lithium batteries are so expensive is that lithium costs a lot of money. But a lot of that money you get back when you sell the battery as scrap


This DYI project may use lead-acid based cells as the very first calcars plug-in had to minimize the costs. That would explain the range, but since no cost or technology is mentioned it's hard to tell.


Few in the USA seem to be aware of the Zebra battery, which is a great pity. This is the Sodium Nickel Chloride battery used by Mercedes in their electric A Class in 1998. Today, it has 120Wh/kg, 166Wh/l and uses less than a quarter of the nickel per Wh as NiMH. Cost in volume today would be $150/kWh. So we have today a battery with LiIon energy density at one third the volume cost. Alex and others are right - the reality of millions of EVs and PHEVs on the road with NiMH or LiIon batteries is impossible - we will run out of Lithium and Nickel before even a small fraction of the vehicles sold per year can be built. The lithium shortfall is far worse than nickel. Zebra uses much less Nickel than NiMH and can even use just Iron with lower energy density - no shortage at all for 60M EVs per year.

The only drawback is you have to keep the Zebra hot - OK, but that also means good cold weather performance. The other advatages far outweigh this disadvantage.

Please go and check it out. Put a Zebra in your tank!

Felix Kramer

We've made some updates to the page that describes current conversion options at http://www.calcars.org/howtoget.html. Two aftermarket companies conversions expect to sell their installed conversions for $10-$12,000 and $9,500. Because of technical limitations to the Prius's current optimization, all-electric range is possible only up to 35MPH, but the electric motor can contribute at all speeds. We hope the "Advanced Do-It -Yourself" option will come in under $5,000. Our first iterations will be lead-acid, followed, we hope, by better batteries.

We see these conversions as parts of a strategy to motivate and incentivize car-makers to offer PHEV versions of their hybrids, which we think they could do in mass-production volumes at $2-$5,000 more than the price of hybrids.


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