A small but committed group of environmentalists and hybrid car enthusiasts have demonstrated modified vehicles that can travel as far as 250 miles
per gallon of gasoline. This remarkable achievement was realized by adding extra batteries and modifying the electrical system to enable plug-in
recharges. Proponents argue that while modified hybrid cars still require some form of traditional energy generation, they help reduce the US
dependence on oil because the plug-in energy may be produced by cleaner sources such as solar.
CORTE MADERA, Calif. (AP) - Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign
oil is years or even decades away. Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage.
It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret - a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the
car's high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel.
Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car.
Like all hybrids, his Prius increases fuel efficiency by harnessing small amounts of electricity generated during braking and coasting. The extra
batteries let him store extra power by plugging the car into a wall outlet at his home in this San Francisco suburb - all for about a quarter.
He's part of a small but growing movement. "Plug-in" hybrids aren't yet cost-efficient, but some of the dozen known experimental models have gotten up
to 250 mpg.
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Fantastic news for the future, especially if you are tired of paying $$$$ to fill up your gas tank. I drive a Honda Civic Hatchback that gets 34
mpg, but I still pay $20+ to fill the tank. The modified hybrid would work great for me because I drive about 150 miles per week.
There are, however, many key assumptions surrounding the concept of super-efficient modified hybrid cars.
The extra batteries let Gremban drive for 20 miles with a 50-50 mix of gas and electricity. Even after the car runs out of power from the batteries
and switches to the standard hybrid mode, it gets the typical Prius fuel efficiency of around 45 mpg. As long as Gremban doesn't drive too far in a
day, he says, he gets 80 mpg.
This creates a problem for those that drive long distances. Also, this doesn't appear to be a solution for big-rig trucks. Perhaps someone knows the
percentage of pollution generated by 18-wheeler's? Maybe this isn't important, but I suspect it is.
Backers of plug-in hybrids acknowledge that the electricity to boost their cars generally comes from fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases, but
they say that process still produces far less pollution than oil. They also note that electricity could be generated cleanly from solar
A big IF there. Solar power proponents have been promising the world for decades now. Some great strides have been made, but it's clearly not
The point about converting hybrids into plug-ins and using the nation's large-scale electrical systems is a good one. I don't think we're likely to
see a complete abondonment of traditional fossil fuel generated electricity, but the large scale generators appear to be far cleaner than the small
scale ones used in cars and intenal combustion engines.
The bottom line is that energy consumption is a zero-sum game - we need energy to move the cars, etc. but if we can make some compromises that push us
towards cleaner sources and less oil-intensive sources we'll be a lot better off in the long run.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'd like nothing more than to find a way to eliminate our need for Middle-Eastern oil. I'm sick of that
region's insanity dominating US politics and economics.