From: Scott McCredie, Wired
Published May 6, 2009 10:07 AM

Plug-In Hybrids: More Hype Than Hope?

Seattle has outfitted more than a dozen Toyota Prius hybrids with new plug-in technology to squeeze even better fuel efficiency from the eco-wonder.

City officials were intrigued by data suggesting they could cut their fuel consumption in half by using batteries charged directly from the grid. If claims are to be believed, drivers would routinely see 100 mpg using readily available battery packs installed in the trunk.

Just over a year after performing the conversions, the city says it is thrilled with the cars. The plug-in Prius hybrids have used less gas and emitted less CO2 than their conventional counterparts. But the tests also have put a big dent in the plug-in promise.

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Having racked up some 17,000 miles, the plug-in Prius hybrids are averaging just 51 mpg. That's raising uncomfortable questions about the value and effectiveness of plug-in technology, even as President Obama pledges to have 1 million of them on the road by 2015.

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