The Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA), a British automotive design, development and certification consultancy, has done what many TreeHugger readers have been suggesting in the comments of many posts about plug-in hybrid cars: Removable battery packs that can be swapped for full batteries that have been charged from the grid.
Their test vehicle is a modified Skoda Fabia which they call the H4V (Hybrid 4 wheel drive Vehicle) because the gasoline engine powers the front wheels while two 35kW electric motors power the rear wheels. The regular gasoline version of the car gets 32 mpg (7.24 L/100km) while their 'plugless' plug-in hybrid prototype returned 53 mpg (4.4 L/100km).
"The H4V’s battery pack is built from portable cassettes, each with 1.5 kWh capacity. MIRA designed and made the battery packs, using Li-Ion Phosphate cells 'sourced from an American supplier.'"
Charge time is 30 minutes, and each pack weights 22 kilograms (that's expected to go down).
The H4V has a range of 15 miles (25 kilometers) in electric-only mode
"The battery units could also power external devices, which could include camping equipment, or to power electric jet skis or quad bikes."
We're not quite convinced yet that removable battery packs will be the future of plug-in hybrids, but it's a path worth investigating, and maybe in some scenarios it will make sense.
::MIRA Introduces Plug-in Hybrid Retrofit System with Removable Li-ion Pack, ::No plug? No Problem. MIRA Debuts the "Plugless Plug-In Hybrid"
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