Plug in your Prius?

From AutoBlogGreen:

Not content to be a potential supplier of lithium ion batteries for GM's plug-in hybrid programs, A123 Systems will start selling battery packs that conversion companies can use to transform current hybrid vehicles to plug-in capability. The company has already been working with Hymotion on plug-in kits and they have a contract to convert ten Prius for the California South Coast Air Quality Management District. The kits will be completely integrated and designed to be installed in under two hours. The installed price of the 5kWh kit for a Prius is $10,000 and gives a range of 14 miles on battery. A123 CEO David Vieau testified at a recent US Senate hearing in support of tax breaks for customers buying plug-in conversions. Fleet testing of the systems is ongoing and sales are expected to start in 2008.

This is exciting stuff… I’ve seen a lot of companies selling plug-in systems, but they have all been very complicated to install. I’d love to see this kind of thing become easier to do.

My question is this: why does a plug-in system have to include the expensive battery? Why hasn’t anyone created a customization that allows you to plug-in your existing prius without spending thousands on a new, more powerful battery? This would be an inexpensive upgrade ideal for someone like me with a commute that’s short enough to do the majority on a single charge of the current batteries– if I could charge them overnight in my garage it would make a huge difference even without the new battery.

(Photo credit: Taekwonweirdo)