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Friday, June 26, 2009


Gold Peak Battery

The core of LG’s plug-in conversions, supplied by Plug-In Conversions Corp (PICC), is a 6.1kWh battery pack, comprised of 168 nickel metal hydride (NiMH) cells from Gold Peak Battery (GP). A global battery manufacturer headquartered in Hong Kong,  imageGP has been in business for 45 years and has produced high capacity rechargeable NiMH cells for two decades. 

Last year GP purchased a minority interest in PICC and is therefore invested in seeing the Prius plug-in conversions succeed.  This brings major manufacturing and business resources to bear in producing the best plug-in conversion system currently available and demonstrates GPs commitment to automotive applications. (Pic: GP batteries in LG’s conversion kit)

GP is hardly new to EVs: they already supply the batteries for the Vetrix scooter, other electric-assisted pedal bikes, and previously supplied energy storage devices for small run OEM products developed during the original ZEV mandate. imageBeyond cars, they are the largest producer of rechargeable NiMH batteries outside of Japan. (Pic: Production lab in Hong Kong; note Vectrix scooter on right)

Indeed because they have been producing NiMH for so long, they were early to apply for a license to the original Ovonics patent on the chemistry, and their license specifically includes 4-wheeled vehicle applications.  Legal missteps by other companies (including Panasonic and Toyota), and ownership of Ovonics by Cobasys (joint venture with Chevron) and the patent along with it, have otherwise stymied use of NiMH, giving Gold Peak the advantage. 

(Patent encumbrance for 4-wheel applications is the main reason why NiMH has not seen widespread use in cars, not because the chemistry is inadequate, which in turn has delayed EV applications. It is also a driving force behind the development of lithium-ion batteries to which the patent does not apply.)

Link to Gold Peak Batteries
Link to Gold Peak International
Link to Gold Peak North America
Link to EVB - GP subsidiary that supplies the NiMH cells (GP30EVH) for the Prius Conversion
Read more on LG’s Plug-In Conversions
(Pic: Carolyn at EVB lab, Gold Peak Building, Hong Kong, May 2009)

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Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories: Plug-In Hybrids »

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


ART IN THE SHOP: Patrick Smith “LIFEnearDEATH”

imagePatrick Smith
LIFEnearDEATH
Portraits from a Hospice
July 7th - August 7th

Join us for the reception:
Saturday, July 11th, 4-7

“This series of portraits shows the faces of patients living in a hospice.  The patients are of many ages, from early forties to late eighties.  They are dying of various illnesses—stroke, congestive heart disease, emphysema, cancer, AIDS, alcoholism, drug addiction—and of simple old age. Most of the people in the portraits are now dead.  A few live on bearing the daily efforts of life.  Some are vividly aware of their condition, some are in dementia or wandering the dreamy labyrinth of final days. Some are on the private, knowing journey through medicated pain.  The portraits are meant to show that life does not surrender itself until the only final moment; and to dream that, in a way, no one dies, because there is no land between life and death.  There is the ultimate heroism, and then the rest.”

Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories: Community » Art »

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Carolyn presents on plug-ins for Perfect Sky’s “train the trainer”

Thanks again to Jack Rosebro of Perfect Sky hybrid training for the invitation to teach and for promoting the crux and potential of hybrid technology.  The “train the trainer” 3-day course took place at Skyline College, home to one of the best automotive training programs in the country, and included instructors from all over North America.  Carolyn lectured for 75 minutes on plug-in conversion history, system architecture, benefits, and technical challenges, and demonstrated the PICC system currently available from LG with test drives in the shop car.

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Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories: Staff »

Monday, June 22, 2009


New Prius no “prius” at all

“Prius” means “to come before”, and in that sense the new 2010 model is no prius at all.  It has a bigger engine (1.8L up from 1.5L), lower EV Mode speed (24mph down from 34mph), and the exact same battery.  This is not progress by any green standard; it is capitulation to the status quo: selling more of the same thing, dressed up in a new style, with a bit more “power” and a few new accessories.  (Pic: LG at Pri promo event)

Translation: less Prius, more BMW.image

Late last year, environmental pundit Amory Lovins explained how incrementalism is now a high-risk strategy. In other words, the environment (which is to say, human life) cannot afford business as usual. We need alternatives to burning gas now.

Luckily, we have them.  The second generation Prius can easily become a plug-in vehicle; here at LG we’ve converted dozens of Prius to plug-ins and now offer the best plug-in package to date (see earlier post). This is the true 3rd generation Prius. 

If you’re looking for a Prius, I would highly recommend buying a 2004-2009 model and converting (a used vehicle with the conversion will cost about the same as a new model, roughly $30,000, depending on package).  We have the resources to find you exactly what you want.  Use the contact page for inquiries…

If you already have a second-generation Prius and you’re considering something new, convert it!  You will have twice the car as the 2010: a regular Prius and an EV built into one.  Arm rests worn out?  Tired plastic?  LG can solve these problems.  The core of the vehicle has tremendous value: Gen 2 Prius will last over 300,000 miles with very few issues.

New cars are inevitable and at some point necessary.  LG’s business is largely based on them, and I’m not suggesting a John Denver hypocrisy: don’t build a house in the mountains of Colorado (now that I’ve already got one).  I’m reminded of Kyoto critics pointing at greenhouse gases from China and India (now that we’ve already loaded the atmosphere with them).  imageI digress… Clearly we can and will service the 2010 Prius and many new models beyond.

But as far as cars and the environment are concerned, we have crossed a threshold.  The second generation Prius is perhaps the best car ever made: it’s practical, reliable, fuel efficient, and an ideal platform for a plug-in conversion.  (Pictured: Carolyn with plug-in Prius converted at China Light and Power)  With it’s bigger engine and lower EV mode speeds, the 2010 Prius appears less desirable as a plug-in candidate, which to me indicates that the car is slipping back in the internal-combustion direction.  We cannot allow this slide to happen.

If you are inclined to buy new, I strongly encourage waiting.  Toyota can provide plug-in functionality off the assembly line; indeed they recently announced a plug-in version of the latest model at the end of this year.  Caveat: only 150 units in the US, only for lease, and only to fleets.  Range and performance are unknown.  One thing is clear: they won’t make it available to the public unless our collective buying habits encourage them to do so.

Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories:

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Gen 2 Prius MFD Screen Repair

***THIS BLOG IS OBSOLETE***

We now replace MFDs with reman units from Toyota.  They run about $1500 and we charge $60 to install.  Please use the contact page to inquire about latest pricing and appointments.

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image2004-2005 Prius multi-function displays have some weak soldering points, causing a failure well documented by our colleagues across the bay at Art’s Automotive:

Repairing the Multi-function Display via ArtsAutomotive.com

New screens from the dealer are unmercifully expensive, between $3000-$5000 depending on the model (navigation or no).  Much more attractive—not to mention green—is the prospect of repairing the original screen.

imagePaul from Art’s, author of the earlier link, openly admits that he got his info from Hobbit, the east-coast Prius guru (pictured demonstrating the safety of Prius high voltage AC motor phases, from a class Carolyn attended back in 2006).  His original account of repairing the screen is also available online:

Evaluation and repair of a failed Prius MFD via techno-fandom.org

Hobbit basically pinpoints his problem to a pair of joints on the top board, the most common point of failure.  Like Art’s, we offer resoldering of these joints in house.  image(To be honest we hire Eric, our friend and IT computer science geek, to perform the very fine solders himself.) 

The price for the service, including removal and reinstallation of the screen: $500 

Admittedly there are other possibilities for failure.  Because the diagnostic time necessary to chase those other potential soldering breaks quickly outpaces the value of an already repaired (or otherwise guaranteed) used unit, we offer a fall back solution: if the first soldering attempt does not work, we’ll replace the unit with a known-good one from Steve Woodruff of AutoBeYours, which comes with a 1 year warranty, at no additional cost. 

In other words, if the initial repair doesn’t work, we’ll replace with a used unit, parts and labor, for the same price, $500.  Of course we’re happy just to switch yours out with a replacement screen, if you prefer. 

Use the contact page for appointments… or call us: 415-875-9030

Photo Gallery of Screen Repairs, for the curious:

Screen removed and on the bench, Carolyn disassembles for Eric:

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Two screens that recently failed in two separate Prius, ready for attention:

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Eric, the 21st century mechanic, working his magic:

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Carolyn's avatarPosted by Carolyn Permalink Categories: Repair »

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