Kramer took the big step of buying one of the first Toyota Prius hybrids in late 2003. He started adding batteries and a charging system to that car to make it a prototype. The car was such a success that a back yard cottage industry was born which modified the Prius into a PHEV. Today, there are many commercial specialty shops that will convert your Prius into a 100 MPG PHEV with amazing performance.
What followed was persuading the politicians, bureaucrats, automotive writers. editors, and all the other naysayers that it could be done. CalCars.org took the extraordinary step of flying their modified Prius PHEV to Washington DC. This was the first time a plug-in hybrid was seen in public in the nation's capitol. The national press jumped on the bandwagon, and suddenly it was cool to be a politician talking about electric cars.
We have only briefly covered the eight years of hard work, learning what worked and didn't work in re-engineering various Prius project cars. By the way, everything about CalCars.org is open source with volunteers helping each other. An untold number of man-years has gone into building cars and telling their PHEV story.
Since 2006, CalCars.org has organized open-to-the-public conversion events by volunteer teams at five Maker Faires. That helped bring in high-power advocates like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. They attracted the attention of Google, which supported them, assembled the first employee PHEV fleet, and brought in Enterprise Car Rental.
Environmentalists were slow to embrace the PHEV and EV. They were betting on the 'silver bullet' of Governor Schwarzenegger's mythical Hydrogen Highway. This author has extensively researched hydrogen fuel cell technology and written about the California Fuel Cell Partnership and their one-off, multi-million-dollar engineering prototype vehicles.
What shut off my interest in hydrogen technology was when one of their lead technicians confided he had built a battery electric conversion of an older car. He said he had about $5,000 in his backyard project which he built. The car he retrofitted had performance and range equal to the first-generation hydrogen fuel cell cars
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