By Jim Motavalli
12:00 PM EST, January 30, 2013
I love the meetings of the Westport Electric Car Club, which is really statewide — there were people from all over Connecticut at the recent meeting, held among the vintage vehicles at Dragone Classic Cars.
Leo Cirino, the club's eternally optimistic president, outlined plans for an electric car rally in Fairfield County to raise awareness about this suddenly available technology. "We want to hold it near Earth Day," he said. The rally will start on the Westport Green, wind through several towns (remember, some of these cars are range-limited) and end at the railroad station in Saugatuck, where there is solar EV charging.
Rallies like this are great for raising awareness — they certainly get heads turning when they parade on by. The annual Greenwich Concours D'Elegance includes a Grand Tour around the region, headed by Duesenbergs and Pierce Arrows. People notice that, too.
You'll hear more about this later — I'm on the publicity committee! Also appearing in Westport last week was Randy Bryan of ConVerdant Vehicles (at converdantvehicles.biz). He makes kits not only to convert your Prius hybrid to a plug-in hybrid with up to 50 miles of electric range but also to allow your house to run on your car during blackouts.
First, the hybrid kits. You can already buy a plug-in Prius, with 13 or so miles of road, but Bryan is appealing to people who already own one of the popular hybrid cars and might want to convert it. With a four-kilowatt-hour battery built into the storage under the trunk floor, it's $8,900 (also 13 miles of EV range), and with the 10-kilowatt-hour pack it's $13,500. A converted car can cruise at 70 mph in full electric mode.
The kits are actually made by California's Plug-In Supply, but they're not backed by the same kind of warranty you'd get from Toyota.
The second kit produces a "plug-out" hybrid that can supply 120-volt, 60-hertz AC from the car, and run at least the refrigerator, the computer and some lights during a blackout. There are basic one-kilowatt models and more heavy-duty two- and three-kilowatt models (for the Prius or Lexus CT200h only) that can handle the whole house.
On four or five gallons of fuel, Bryan says, you can keep the lights on for a whole weekend, or a whole week on a full tank.
There are plans for doing this conversion yourself (with mail-order parts) on the Internet, if you're qualified to work with the high voltage in a hybrid car. From ConVerdant, prices vary from around $200 (very basic one-kilowatt) to $1,400 (three kilowatts). It's certainly an alternative to a smelly and fume-prone gasoline generator in this outage-prone state.
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