Plug-in Hybrids? What plug-in hybrids?

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, Austin Energy has a few plug-in converted Priuses in their fleet.

Austin Energy's Plug-in Hybrid


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[1].

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 [2].  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.

Chevy Volt


Fisker Automotive, an American start up, is planning on selling their Karma luxury PHEV by the end of this year [3].  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.

Fisker Karma


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 [4].

PHE Pruis


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.


[1] CalCars, “How Carmakers Are Responding to the Plug-In Hybrid Opportunity”.

[2] Chevrolet, “2011 Volt”.

[3] Fisker Automotive, “The Karma”.

[4] Popular Mechanics, “2012 Toyota Plug-In Prius Pre-Production Test Drive”.



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3 responses to “Plug-in Hybrids? What plug-in hybrids?

  1. msp746

    I believe a company from Norway called THINK should be included in this list. They make a small plug in that is already available in Norway, Austria, and the Netherlands. They will start selling in the US later this year and will start producing them in Elkhart, Indiana starting early 2011. They mainly sell to municipal fleets, governments and utility partners. They will ramp up selling to individual US consumers later in the year targeting 15 “EV Ready” cities with Los Angeles at the top of the list. In the US, they will sell for around $30,000 after incentives. The companies goal is to eventually sell the THINK for $25,000.

  2. tsoenen

    I did not include any manufacturers considering purely electric cars, only PHEV. Unless I missed something it looks like Think makes electric cars not PHEVs.

  3. nkklaus

    I think the real wildcard in the PHEV market could be BYD Auto from China. BYD rolled out the F3DM in 2008, but it was a commercial failure in China with only around 100 vehicles sold within the first year. This was due to the fact that it was expensive for a chinese made car at $23,000 and the lack of exsisting infrastucture. However, BYD has continued to do extensive research and development. The company is known for being copycats by reverse engineering the electronics of all top car manufacturers. This has allowed them to vertically integrate the entire production line and making it impossible to compete on price with them. They’re parent company BDY is the largest OEM battery manufacturer in the world and was able to dominate the battery market with the same strategy.
    At the 2009 auto show there were rumblings of the F3DM being introduced to the US by 201o, but no news has been released since. At the 2010 Auto Show, BDY said they would try to introduce the all electric vehicle the E6 to the US market by 2011. I’m not saying that either of these are going to be the first to market or dominate the market right off the bat, but if I were GM and Toyota I would be worried. They are the largest battery manufacturer in the world and…………….Warren Buffet owns 10% of the company, sounds like a winning combination.

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