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AQMD Contracts for 30 More Plug-in Hybrid Conversions from Quantum and Hymotion

The Board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District in California approved a $2.6-million contract for the conversion of 20 Ford Escape Hybrids and 10 Toyota Priuses to plug-ins.

Five complete proposals from vendors were received, subsequently reviewed, and scored by a panel of outside experts. AQMD selected Quantum Technologies for the conversion of the Escape hybrids, and Hymotion for the Prius conversions.

AQMD has been sponsoring plug-in conversions for a number of years. In July 2006, AQMD staff hosted a forum and technical roundtable with invited experts from DOE, NREL, Sandia, CARB, Johnson Controls, SCE, EPRI, and EnergyCS.

One major result of this technical roundtable was consensus by the panel members that early demonstrations are needed to provide real-world data as feedback for the technology providers to improve the battery specifications, energy management systems, and packaging.

This project is to conduct this early demonstration using converted commercially available hybrid electric vehicles in sufficient numbers to provide a wide array of driving cycles, expose a large number of users to PHEV technology, and establish statistically significant data for feedback to the battery manufacturer.

AQMD will work with interested fleets to develop the demonstration program at up to 15 sites. Depending on performance under these proposed contracts and value to AQMD, funding for additional vehicles may be requested.

The five vendors responding to the RFP were: Quantum; Hymotion; EnergyCS; E Drive; and Electro Energy. The RFP identified 100 possible points for the technical score and 20 possible points for the cost score. Within the 20 points for cost, 10 points were for the lowest cost in terms of absolute dollars, with additional points assigned based on the level of cost share.

Of the five complete proposals received, and based on the scoring presented below, proposals from Electro Energy, EnergyCS, and E Drive were ranked as not technically qualified since the average technical scores were below the required 80 points.

Scoring for the Different PHEV Proposals
QuantumHymotionE DriveEnergy CSElectro Energy
Technical criteria
100 pts max, 80 min
85.33 82 77.83 72.33 52.17
20 pts max
19 14 n/a n/a n/a
Other factors
15 pts max
5 10 n/a n/a n/a
Total 109.33 106 n/a n/a n/a



This is a great way to get a new technology to market that much faster. Way to go AQMD.

It would be interesting to know exactly why the other 3 vendors were ranked "as not technically qualified ".

I would agree that the Hymotion is a very elegent design, but are the other 3 really that bad?

Kyle Dansie


What? No 5 year study first? I must be getting cynical. Governments can do something if there is political will to do so.


That's $86,666 per vehicle. WTF? I thought these conversions on a onesy, twosy basis were going from 10 to 15 k. Clearly, there must be some other support services being provided or this cost just demonstrates the absurdity of PHEV conversion.


Looking at the AQMD site, it appears the battery packs + installation cost is $11,900 per Prius. The rest of the budget $$ goes to other aspects of the project. (The FAQ on the Hymotion site mentions a target retail price of $9500 installed for a Prius.)


Neil the contract is for more than just the conversion. If you read the artical carefully It is also for Pr and R&d. Paid for by us taxpayers of course.


"According to a U.S. Department of Energy report released in December, plug-in hybrids are expected to cost $6,000 to $10,000 above the price of a normal car (see U.S. Could Plug In Most Cars)."
- Give the plug in hybrids a $6000 tax credit and put a $6000 tax on gas guzzelers and you eliminate that contrived argument. Where there's awill there's a way!


At $9,500 per installation, it'll take ~150k miles with gas at $3 a gallon for the install to pay itself off. Everything after that is money in the consumer's pocket. I'd say it's cheap insurance considering where gas prices are likely headed.

Rafael Seidl

yesplease -

I'm trying to figure out how you got to your numbers, ignoring real interest rate for a moment:

delta_$ = $9500
d = 150,000 mi
p = $3/gal

delta_BSFC = delta_$ / (d*p) = 1/47.4 gal/mi

Assuming BSFC_0 = 1/40 gal/mi for the unmodified car, the PHEV would have to deliver

BSFC = BSFC_0 - delta_BSFC = 1/256 gal/mi

In other words, your effective fuel economy would have to shoot up to 256 MPG. And of course, that's not even counting the price of electricity.



Even assuming your calculations were correct, would the battery have been replaced by the time one reached 150,000 miles or shortly thereafter. That sort of break even point is hardly comforting. Most consumers would have traded in their auto long before the break even point was reached. Also, wouldn't there be a certain amount of degradation during that time frame?

At these prices, I am not sure that one could ever justify the upgrade economically. And remember, the baseline is the Prius or other hybrid cars not a car with just an ICE engine. For the Prius, this means the starting point is a mpg approaching 50. In addition, the next generation Prius is supposed to significantly beat the current Prius in economy.

So, we are left with justifying this based upon savings in carbon emissions. I would like to see an analysis that showed that over, say, 100,000 miles.

I am all for erring on the side of the environment when it comes to spending money on auto, houses, PV, whatever. After all, I own a Prius. However, when faced with an additional expenditure, it is often prudent to think what environmental benefits one could get with an alterntive use of that money. Insulating one's house, for example, would be a much better investment than spending an extra $10,000 on a plug in.

For the sake of discussion, let's start with the claimed mileage of a plug in Prius of 100 mpg. Your mileage may vary, but we have to start somewhere. Let's also assume that the current Prius gets 50 mpg.

The standard Prius consumes 240 gallons of gas per year at 50 mpg and 12,000 miles. 12,000/50=240.

At $2.50 per gallon, that's 240*2.50= $600.

The gas for the 100 mpg vehicle would be half that or $300 for a $300 savings.

But we must pay for electricity. Let's say that 6,000 of those miles could be attributable to the purchased electricity input.

The Prius gets 2.5 miles per kw (if you have better numbers, plug these in). At a very conservative $.08 per kw, that means the electricity costs $.032 per mile. At 6,000 miles, that $192.

Therefore, our net annual savings is $300-$192 or $108. The break even point at a $10,000 delta charge is $10,000/$108 or 52 plus years.

As I said, the assumed kw cost is conservative. On the other hand, one could easily project much higher gasoline costs, even up to $5 per gallon going forward. But that still doesn't give you anything like a reasonable pay off time.

One could also change the result significantly by assuming that all miles were driven in electric mode. But the break even time would still be absurd or $10,000/300 or 33 plus years.

I think the plug in starts to make sense if you can get the marginal cost down to about $2000. But that is barring any significant improvements in the current Prius. As I said, significant improvements seem to be in the works.

And btw, if all miles were driven in electric mode, what would be the point of a plug in hybrid?


Well, all these figures are great, but least not forget, most people hold on to their cars for three years and then sell them to someone who buys it used. Are you telling me that your giving your car away, or do you plan on recouping some money when you sell the car? Then your return on investment figures no longer hold water. But then who ever said a car was an investment?

Harvey D.

$86 000 per vehicle does not make much sense. There must be more to it. It must include the price of the original hybrid vehicles ++++. Otherwise, who can afford a Toyota Prius PHEV at $86 000.

Equivalent high performance lithium battery packs for the 3000 Chinese BEV garbage trucks was reported at $3333.33 each.

Mass production Chinese battery pack price should drop to between $1000 and $1500 within two years.

Control units + chargers cost should be equivalent and follow the same downward curve, when mass produced in China.

Todays price for conversion materials should not be much above $6666.66.

Current low volume installation cost + normal profit margin would be another $3333.33 to $5333.33 for a toal of about $10K to $12K per PHEV conversion. (Excluding the price of the original hybrid vehicles)

Engineer out of the Box

You can't accurately calculate the payoff period without knowing the average trip length for the vehicle. If most of the trips were in electric-only (something like a 30-40 mile range), you could nearly eliminate your fuel bill. On the other hand, if a pluggin hybrid is used for a daily 70 mi (ea/way) commute, it'd hardly be worth the extra expense. I seem to recall that something like 80% of the trips taken in cars in the US are less than 20 miles. . .if that is correct, that'd make a pluggin-based transportation system a huge leap in our quest for energy independence.


While it is true that the payoff period will vary depending upon how the car is driven, it is also clear that even under the most optimistic assumptions, even assuming no gas is ever used, the payback period is way beyond the lifetime of the car. As I said, lower the conversion to abouit $2,000 and the upgrade might make sense.

Frankly, I would rather just have a BEV as a second or third car for commuting or short trips and forget all the expenses associated with the ICE, including maintenance.

Unless we have some major breathroughs, a converted Prius, for example, will not make sense.


It's seems to me that PHEV is the technology leader for reasons beyond the aspect of payback for early applications. Initial application of any technology will cost more.

The real proof of PHEV superiority is its multi-faceted advantage. The battery pack is a portable power supply, invaluable in an emergency. The PHEV is a means to monitor household electricity consumption and conservation. Public Power is almost assured as more people invest in PHEVs and rooftop photovoltiac systems. Mount the batteries low on the vehicle frame and they improve stability and handling, a safety factor that should reduce accidents and save lives.

Last but not least, though the batteries provide a limited driving range zero-emission, this encourages short drives, the most important advantage. The PHEV affects growth and development whereby more destinations develop closer to home and community and become accessable without having to drive. Local and regional economies which spring up around this sort of development add further energy conservation.

The PHEV solution is paramount. There are at least a dozen additional major advantages with PHEV.


I should have specified... At roughly 150,000 miles all electric ;). Normally, a Prius getting 45mpg will have used ~150,000/45=~3333.33gallons, and with gas at $3 a gallon, this is ~$10,000. Not including electricity, which could be significant or insignificant depending on context, such as use of a free charging station on one hand, or paying the full rate of ~10 cents per kwh on the other. At the likely off peak time of day rate of ~5 cents per kwh (arb evinformation) and usage of ~200wh/mile, ~150,000 miles should cost ~$1500.

In terms of battery longevity, the 95ah NiMHs in the RAV-4 EV have gone up to 100,000+ miles as of 2003 and are expected to hit 150,000 miles. I saw one a few months ago, so given their use, it's reasonable to assume in three years they've made it to 150,000 miles, maybe even farther? I should take a peak at the odometer next time :)! Anyhoo... My point is that these batteries are nearly a decade old, and perform well enough to likely see ~150,000 miles in a pure EV. I don't see why, a ~decade later, we wouldn't see batteries that perform as well, if not better in these plug-in conversions.

So, depending on the price of gas, payback time is ~150k miles imo, give or take. If gas spikes, then it drops, and vice versa. A driver using the pack for a highway commute won't get the same value as one using it for all urban commuting... Electricity rates may vary... Etc...


You have some cheap electricity available to you yesplease.

If a new PHEV were to cost $25,000 to $30,000 and you get a $6000 tax credit...does that mean we are giving tax benefits to the upper middle class & wealthy for buying a new car? I don't see how any poor or middle class (with children) people would be buying a PHEV unless it were a used model several years old. I can't think of anyone I know who makes less than $50,000/year (with kids and maybe less than $40,000/year without) with a brand new $25,000+ car.


I think it's available to most, it's just that most don't bother with time of day metering. AFAIK some companies set up energy storage devices just to take advantage of off peak rates because they are so cheap. Electricity production follows what's essentially a periodic function, the amplitude of which depends on the season, events, etc... But most of the grid's capacity is idle during the night/early morning, and it gradually increases until it peaks, usually some time during the late afternoon or early evening, then it drops off again... The only problem with the programs is that peak electricity rates are maybe 5 cents above what others pay, but off peak rates are nearly 10 cents below that.
Ideally, the vehicle could have more than enough capacity for the daily commute, and be able to supply some electricity for the home during peak hours, which may result in even more savings for the consumer.


Regarding what's the best option for poor or middle class. An older IDI diesel, hands down. 40-50mpg (maybe 70-80mpg if really concerned about cash), the possibility of very cheap fuel (WVO), and rock solid reliability if maintained seem to be the hallmarks of older diesels... They skyrocketed in price after gas went up past $3 a gallon.


An LA Times article best summed up the benefits of PHEV with its very title, "The 500mpg Solution".


Any advantage of diesel and bio-diesel is only possible in a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. And we shouldn't forget that the best emission reduction is achievable only in the PHEV drivetrain.


Elaine Bergstrom

This is an incredible cost for something that knowledgeable home mechanics are already doing for a couple of hundred dollars. In addition, I understand that a plug-in Prius is already being sold in Australia.

Yep, this is green all right - Green Bucks!

Jack Rosebro

Even lead-acid PHEV conversions cost well over "a couple of hundred bucks", not to mention the many donated hours of labor. And PHEV conversions are well beyond the capabilities of knowledegable home mechanics.

However, there are still a few interesting tidbits to glean from the AQMD announcements: first, some of the money will go toward infrastruture - probably retrofitting some of the disused EV charging facilities around California; second, there's an option on the table for 100 more PHEVs within 18 months (or at least there was), and third: Ford is supporting Quantum on Escape conversions, probably through technical advice. Hymotion is getting support from Aerovironment.

Tom Bowler

I am curious why individual owners of hybrids could not be included in a governmental trial like this if they wished so perhaps they could take advantage of the volume discount that seems to go with buying a large number of conversions as opposed to buying a single conversion and getting hammered on the cost.

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