In a couple years my 1998 Honda Civic will give up the ghost. I’ve been thinking about my next set of wheels and the hybrids look very interesting. But I haven’t been that impressed by their improved mileage compared to small gas only cars like my Civic. Then a few days ago I was surfing around the web and found some sites talking about a new kind of hybrid that can be plugged in to recharge its batteries. They’re claiming 100+ miles/gallon. Now that’s a number to make you take notice.
The basic idea is to take a regular hybrid and add extra battery storage. Designers figure that if they can provide enough electric power for 20-60 miles of driving, that’ll do for most people on most days. On other days, the car would work just like a regular hybrid using a mix of its gas and electric engines.
The Economist has a good article, Plugging Into the Future, describing how these things work and some of the pros and cons. One concern is the stress all these plug-in cars would put on the power grid. But most of the time they’d be plugged in at night when other loads on the grid are lightest. Drawing power from the grid also allows the possible use of renewable sources or cleaner sources to generate the electricity.
Unfortunately, no automaker is currently making a plug-in hybrid. Some Toyota Prius’ have been modified to plug in and other experimental cars have been created. So until the car companies join in, all a person can do is a one-of-a-kind retrofit job, not a project I’d care to undertake. I’m hoping that Toyota can come up with something before I have to buy something.
Here's an idea a friend threw out - how about adding some solar panels to the plug-in's roof?!