In a windowless workshop near the county landfill, a small Raleigh company has spent the past year trying to solve the nation's energy crisis one car at a time.
The cluttered Advanced Vehicle Research Center garage, tucked in an office park, can accommodate two Toyota Priuses. Lately, the bay stays full. Demand keeps the cars rolling in for a makeover some say will become standard as the car industry weans itself off gasoline. In less than four hours, the mechanics at the garage can outfit a Prius with a second battery pack. It emerges as a hybrid that can plug into a wall outlet to recharge like a cell phone.
The result: A car that breaks a once-unimaginable fuel efficiency barrier and delivers 100 miles per gallon. The spare battery costs less than 75 cents to charge and gives the plug-in Prius about a 35-mile range solely on electric power, making gasoline optional on short commutes. Retrofitting Priuses has become a full-time occupation for the Advanced Vehicle Research Center.
Even as gas prices have retreated from record highs, the cost of tanking up is changing lifestyles. Many people are driving less and ditching SUVs for smaller cars. Automakers are switching production to economy models and rushing to roll out hybrids. Research is accelerating on new technology such as long-range electric cars and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Read the complete story at newsobserver.com