With all of the talk about how plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are going to change America’s transportation industry, I wanted to find out what PHEV options Americans have today and will have in the near future.
For those that don’t know about PHEVs and how they work, take a look here.
The first thing I found out about plug-in hybrids was that there aren’t any available for purchase by the everyday American. Automakers have been sluggish to get a PHEV to market, so currently the only PHEV option for an average citizen is converting a conventional hybrid vehicle. Companies such as A123Systems sell plug-in hybrid electric conversion modules that convert Toyota Priuses to PHEVs by adding additional battery capacity and wall plug-in capability. According to CalCars.org, Austin Energy has a few plug-in converted Priuses in their fleet.
Besides converting conventional hybrids to PHEVs, the only thing Americans can do to get a PHEV is wait. GM and Fisker Automotive have plans to sell their first PHEVs to the public this year. Other automakers such as Toyota, Ford, Jaguar, Chrysler and Volvo plan on releasing PHEVs in 2011 and 2012.
One PHEV that has received considerable media attention is the Chevy Volt. The Volt can drive 40 miles on electric power alone before a gas engine kicks in to power a generator that supplies the electric motor until it can get to a wall pllug. GM claims that the Volt can run on gas for an additional 200-300 miles. The Volt definitely won’t save much on gas on long road trips, but it is ideal for customers that have short commutes to work . Chevy plans on releasing the Volt to public sales in November 2010. The estimated price tag for the Volt is approx. $40,000, and the U.S. currently offers a $7,500 rebate for PHEV purchases.
Fisker Automotive, an American start up, is planning on selling their Karma luxury PHEV by the end of this year . The company touts that the Karma’s top speech is 125 mph and can go 0-60mph in less than six seconds. The Karma operates similarly as the Chevy Volt where it can drive the first 50 miles on electricity alone and after 50 miles it operates as a conventional hybrid. The Karma’s expected price tag is around $80,000.
Toyota plans on releasing a plug-in version of the Prius by sometime in 2011, but they are still in an evaluation phase of development. If everything goes as planned they will release a limited number to commercial fleets early next year .
Since Toyota and other major automakers plan on launching their first PHEV in a year or two later, it will be interesting to see if GM corners the PHEV market with the Volt before other PHEVs are released.
However the PHEV market pans out, one thing it for sure, PHEVs are a big step in the right direction towards a cleaner and more efficient transportation industry.
Keep a look out for PHEVs coming soon.
 CalCars, “How Carmakers Are Responding to the Plug-In Hybrid Opportunity”. http://www.calcars.org/carmakers.html
 Chevrolet, “2011 Volt”. http://www.chevrolet.com/pages/open/default/future/volt.do
 Fisker Automotive, “The Karma”. http://karma.fiskerautomotive.com/
 Popular Mechanics, “2012 Toyota Plug-In Prius Pre-Production Test Drive”. http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/reviews/hybrid-electric/4339705