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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010

Clark having his Prius converted to plug-in hybrid

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There's an old expression that pioneers get slaughtered and settlers get rich. Well, financially speaking, Clark has repeatedly been a pioneer and he keeps getting slaughtered, especially in the arena of alternative fuel vehicles.

Going back to the 1970s, the consumer champ has been obsessed with fuel economy and reducing his dependence on foreign oil. He believes our national security is at risk when we're too heavily reliant on foreign oil.

So now the consumer champ has bought a third-party experimental kit that will turn his Toyota Prius into a plug-in hybrid. The cost of the kit? Some $7,000 after a recent price reduction. Clark, however, paid $9,000 when he bought the kit before the price reduction. At $9,000, he'll almost never make his money back.

Here's how the conversion will go: The spare tire will be removed from Clark's Prius and in its place will go a 300-pound metal box containing lithium ion batteries.

The consumer champ was initially worried about spontaneous combustion with the lithium ion batteries, but he's been assured that is not a threat. We'll let you know if it turns out otherwise and he comes back to the studio like a toasty marshmallow!

After the conversion, his dashboard will have a switch that allow the Prius to run in one of several modes.

There's one mode for non-freeway surface street travel where the Prius runs at speeds of up to 50 mph as a fully electric car. He can get 50 miles of driving each day out of this mode. At night, Clark has to plug in the car at an effective cost of about penny and half per mile.

Then there's also a freeway mode where the Prius runs as an electric car with a gas assist. This mode offers about 75-85 mpg and about 100 miles of driving each day. When the battery power runs out, it switches to full gasoline power.

Will his vehicle work as intended when he gets it back after conversion? Who knows! But we'll keep you updated.
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