Science Friday Kids' Connectiontm -- in association with Kidsnet
Electric Avenue: Prius Plug-in (April 22, 2005, Hour One)
Toyota's hybrid car, Prius, can get 40 miles to the gallon. How about 100
mph? Shocking, and rightfully so. This dream car would get its boost from
A California non-profit company has designed a conversion kit specifically
for the wildly popular hybrid that would improve on the car's "green"
engine by making it into a part-time plug-in. The kit's extra batteries
plug into an electrical outlet and hold a charge that powers the car
entirely on electricity 20-60 miles, after which its hybrid
gasoline-electric engine kicks in so you're not stuck on the roadside. The
company says it's great for the lower-speed, short commutes that comprise
the majority of our automobile use. Less gas consumption, fewer emissions,
a cleaner environment.
The hitch: The kit is not a Toyota product, and the auto manufacturer says
that owners who install it void the car's warranty, discouraging many Prius
owners from trying the kit. Ira's guest is not out to take business away
from the auto companies; in fact, he hopes to persuade them to work
together with his company to incorporate the technology into a product that
would be beneficial and affordable.
Felix Kramer, founder of the California Cars Initiative in Palo Alto,
Related Links and Resources
Business Week, April 11, 2005: Giving Hybrids A Real Jolt
California Cars Initiative: Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles
California Cars Initiative: How We Green-Tuned an '04 Prius Into a PRIUS+
Yahoo! Groups: priusplus
ZDnet.com, April 5, 2005: Hybrid-car tinkerers scoff at no-plug-in rule
* How does a hybrid engine work? How does an all-electric engine work?
* What are the advantages of an all-electric car? What are the drawbacks?
* What are the advantages of a hybrid car? How does the Prius
conversion kit improve on it?
* What are the objections of the hybrid car manufacturers to plug-in
cars or conversion kits?
* Electric cars were common in the early years of the automobile. Why
were they phased out?
Get a real charge out of it. Get the details on the mechanics of an
electric car at How Electric Cars Work from HowStuffWorks.com and brush up
on history at About.com's History of Electric Vehicles. HowStuffWorks also
has a good interactive explanation of How Hybrid Cars Work. Because of its
dependence on the car, California has always been in the vanguard of
pollution reduction and gas conservation; The California Energy
Commission's Student's Guide to Alternative Fuel Vehicles discusses Hybrid
Vehicles and Electric Vehicles and talks about they have been used
effectively by the California government. Have students research the
government use of alternative fuel vehicles in your community.
Cross purposes. Hybrid Automobiles, a lesson plan from NewsHour Extra, is
a rather technical look at hybrids, but your mechanically inclined students
will love it. It has hands-on demos and research projects that compare the
various electric and hybrid cars in terms of structure, price, efficiency,
gas mileage, and emissions. It also suggests inviting a dealership to
bring a hybrid to school for a demonstration.
Out of gas. Car makers say that consumers don't want one that has to be
plugged in, but General Motors' EV1 all-electric car of the 1990s had a
hardcore corps of fans. Learn about the little engine that could and why
GM decided to discontinue it at GM Pulls Plug On Electric Car and GM
Crushes Electric Car Hopes. DaimlerChrysler manufactures an electric
"neighborhood" car (GEM - "Driving around town has never been this FUN!"),
but, as a caller points out, insurance companies won't touch it.
Pucker up. What primes your pump? Gasoline, the sun, corn alcohol, diesel,
electricity? How about...lemons! Energy Quest's Lemon Power science
project makes a battery out a lemon. Sadly, there would never be enough
current to light a flashlight (let alone a car), but you can always make
lemonade! Visit Dr. Dan's Lemon Power Web site to try out stuff lemons
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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