Earlier on this week I ran an article detailing ten top DIY conversion links. I decided that perhaps it’d be nice to detail ten top PHEV sites for anyone interested in plugging their hybrid in. Unlike the EV conversion scene many plug in hybrid conversions are commercially done, partly due to the expense of battery packs and the demographic of the owners wanting conversions. However, it’s possible to convert a vehicle (existing hybrid or a regular engined car) to a plug in hybrid yourself. You just have to know where to look for help and ideas. Hopefully this list will help.
It is possible to convert a regular gas-powered car to a plug in hybrid too – so don’t think this list is exclusively for those Prius owners. While plug in hybrids aren’t anything new (the first one was back in the early 1900s) we’re certainly at a point where plug in hybrids are starting to enjoy a bit of a golden age. At least, I think that’s where we’re heading. I don’t think we can get to full electrics without at least a passing time of plug in hybrid popularity. I hope that in a few years’ time my list will need redoing as more and more conversion and PHEV options become available.
After the jump are my top ten sites for PHEV DIY converters to look at. Most of them are Prius-based, but by no means are they all so. There’s some other plug in hybrids too. Some of the sites won’t give you much information and others may need a few revisits. I hope you enjoy them all.
- www.calcars.org .
One of the best sites out there detailing how plug in hybrids work, where you can get one and why they’re important to help restructure the motoring world to one which helps break our collective addiction to oil. Calcars has been instrumental in getting the DIY Prius PHEV conversion movement going and while based in California, have supporters worldwide. In fact, it was thanks to Calcars that the very first Plug in Prius was converted! This is the site to go to if you want to learn about what, why, how and when plug in hybrids exist.
- The EAA PHEV Wiki.
This site isn’t for the weak at heart. Ran by the American Eletric Auto Association, this site gets quite technical and really goes into the nitty-gritty of converting your own Prius to a plug in Prius using several different techniques. It’s certainly the place to go if you are the sort of person who has made up their mind that they don’t want to wait another two or more years for a commercial plug in hybrid to hit the western market, don’t want to pay someone $10,000 upwards to convert your existing hybrid to a plug in, or just fancy the challenge of doing your own conversion. If you answered yes to any of those options then you should click above. Take some time to read it and come back. (Although, if like me you’re a passing electronics enthusiast rather than a professional you’ll need to read and re-read the EAA PHEV wiki several times before it makes sense). Without the knowledge in the EAA PHEV wiki I’d never have been able to convert my own Prius.
- Hybrid Interfaces
While the eaa-phev.org site (above) concentrates on DIY conversions using lead acid batteries, there’s another way to convert your Prius into a plug in. You can actually use salvaged Prius batteries in parallel with the original battery. This is the technique I’ve used in my own PHEV prius conversion. In order for it to work you’ll need some rather special parts made by the chap who runs Hyrbid Interfaces.
At this point I should point out (as Norm, the owner and designer of the Can-View, BMS+ and Monitor+ kits does) is that DIY modification of a Prius to a PHEV isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not particularly hard – but it is potentially very dangerous. He’ll only sell kit to people he feels are capable of following all safetey measures when converting their car. But the stuff he sells is very good and does the job of helping run a Prius as a plug in excellently.
Ran by proprietor Steve Woodruft, AutoBeYours specialize in salvage Prius parts, from whole cars to batteries and other essential parts you need when converting to a PHEV. Steve’s company has become popular all across the US when it comes to sourcing spare Prius parts. Steve has also worked extensively with other plug in pioneers and is a stockist for pluginsupply (below). Steve has also been working on an all-electric conversion of a Prius (That’s right, without an engine!) He has some interesting Youtube Videos here Steve is well worth a visit too if you’re not feeling quite as technical as those people over at the eaa-PHEV wiki.
- Plug In Supply.
Another great site for finding components and parts for your own DIY plug in conversion, Plugin Supply sell everything you need to convert your Prius to a plug in hybrid. Sadly I think some of the kit is US-centric. Non US residents (like me) would probably be advised to double-check that all the kit would work in their country before buying any. But nevertheless, a great site and good value for money compared to the non-DIY conversion options.
- Peter Perkin’s Plug in Insight.
Yes, you read that correctly. A plug-in Honda Insight.
Historically it’s always been looked upon as harder to convert a Honda Insight (the first generation ones with the wheel skirts at the back rather than the one just launched this year) as the hybrid drive train is substantially different to the Prius. Instead of being a parallel hybrid like the Prius the original Insight with it’s IMA (integrated Motor Assist) series hybrid setup was slightly harder to engineer into a plug in conversion than the Toyota. It’s that fact which has always encouraged the Prius plug in conversions over insight ones, not to mention the fact that the Insight was only available for a short period of time outside of the Japanese market.
However, Pete has taken one of his two Honda insights and worked some fantastic magic to get a plug in Insight, with bigger batteries and a fuel economy well over 100 mpg. The link above links to Pete’s website, which in turn has a link to a Honda Insight forum where he has discussed the project and his success on completion.
If Pete sounds familiar then don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. Like me, Pete has a background in the EV owning community having converted a van to run on electric. He sold his van about two years ago to fund the plug in insight project as he needed more range than the van could give. A fellow Brit I wish him all the best in his continued Insight PHEV adventures! Drop by and say Hi!
What if you don’t own a hybrid and want to convert your regular gas car. Going the whole hog and going to an EV doesn’t necessarily fill you with joy, since you think you need longer range than you can affordibly get with a full EV. You don’t mind doing your own conversion but wonder if there’s a way of going to a plug in hybrid. If only you could install an electric motor somewhere…
Aside of all the pub-discussions there aren’t that many ways of getting a regular gas car to drive as a plug in hyrbid – short of ripping out the internal organs of another car (namely a hybrid) and transplanting them in. Either that, or you’d have to be some pretty special engineer. That is, until the EMIS. Developed by the company synonymous in the EV world for producing high power DC motors used in some of the world’s fastest custom EV Hot Rods, the EMIS uses a clever box of electronic tricks to allow you to fit an in-line motor in any rear-wheel drive vehicle. Sitting alongside the original car electronics, the EMIS system takes control of the start-stop functions of the Internal Combustion engine, using battery power only to move the vehicle at slow speeds (much like the Prius) and then using the motor at higher speed to allow the petrol or Diesel engine to burn less fuel and spin more efficiently. It’s a very clever setup and one I hope will catch on in future months. It’s potentially cheaper than a new car, at any rate.
- Prius Chat’s PHEV forum
Back to a Prius-centric link here. Sadly I’d like more general Plug in hybrid links, but at the moment the DIY market isn’t that huge. Hopefully that’ll change.
Priuschat.com is considered the best resource for Prius owners worldwide. It has it’s own sub-form dedicated to Prius Plug ins. It’s a great place to ask for advice and meet other like-minded converters. Well worth a look.
- Plug in Renault Espace
Slovakian Andrej Pecjak has taken a 1992 Renault Espace and converted it to a plug in hybrid. He’s claiming an EV only range of 130+ miles and then a Diesel fuel consumption of 2.5 litres per 100km in PHEV mode (about 113 UK MPG if my maths is correct). That’s about what I’m getting on a good tank with my Prius. If you consider that the Renault Espace is a lot bigger that’s pretty good.
Sadly though, the conversion wasn’t cheap at five figures. Perhaps this won’t be one for most DIY converters then. But in terms of inspiration it’s spot on!
Google’s very own supported project of plug in hybrids culminated in Google getting an entire fleet of plug in hyrbids and doing some serious tests to see how they measured up as a fleet vehicle when compared to regular cars and regular hybrids. Google’s support of the movement doesn’t have anything to do with DIY conversions, but it’s essential reading and well worth looking at when doing a conversion as it can give you some real-world test data on which to base your expected mileage improvements.
These are some of my selected favorite PHEV DIY links. I hope these links are useful. If you have any more that you feel need to be mentioned, please comment or drop me a line!