PICC plug-in Prius can now go 70 mph on battery power

Thanks to a beefed up bit of software, Priuses converted to plug-in drive by Plug In Conversions Corp. (PICC) have gotten quite a bit better. They can now go up to 70 mph using nothing but their batteries and get 170 mpge. The software manages to get around Toyota's built-in top speed limitation of 34 miles per hour in EV mode, as PICC president Kim Adelman told us when we spoke to him at EVS23. All of this goodness doesn't come cheap: the software upgrade will cost customers anywhere between $2,000 and $2,500 on top of the $12,500 conversion; at least there will be a free trial version available at some point. The software goest on sale later this month.

In PICC's announcment of the upgrade (which you can read after the jump), there was no explanation of how Argonne National Laboratory tested the car recently and calculated the 170 mpge number, but, previously, PICC's best and most expensive packs could get around 25 miles of EV-only range.

Riversimple Urban Car hydrogen car revealed

A ground-breaking hydrogen-powered city car, which has been designed in Britain and financed by the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, is to be unveiled next week.

Autocar can reveal that the Riversimple Urban Car will have a far smaller fuel cell than in current industry prototypes and thus needs less hydrogen to be stored on board and in fuelling stations.

The vehicle is no bigger than a Smart car, weighing just 350kg, and has been developed over three years by teams at Oxford and Cranfield universities.

It can reach 50mph and travel in excess of 200 miles, consuming the equivalent petrol energy of 300mpg in hydrogen.

Power comes from a 6kw fuel cell, which is tiny compared to the 100kw system powering the Honda Clarity.

It uses a composite body to keep the weight down and four electric motors on each wheel, which double as brakes and electricity generators.

There is a bank of ultracapacitors to store this electricity, which in turn provides most of the accelerating power, allowing for a small fuel cell.

Design for the Riversimple cars will be placed online in an 'open source' environment, meaning any small manufacturer can lease the design, better suiting local environments and allowing for the car to be built almost anywhere in the world.

The cars themselves will also be leased over 20 years, with fuelling included in the leasing cost, and the materials will be recycled at the end of each car’s lifespan.

Hugo Spowers, head of Riversimple, said: "Cars evolved under very different constraints to those of today, so we must move on. The sale of cars still rewards the maximisation of resource use – whereas we now accept that we must minimize resource use.”

Sebastian Piech, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, along with other members of the Piech family, have backed the project so far.

“The Riversimple Urban Car represents a major step towards practical 21st century personal transport and towards the fulfilment of my great-grandfather’s ambitions for accessible personal transport but this time combining his other passions: light weight and high efficiency," said Piech.

Ten prototypes will initially be built and Riversimple hopes to team up with a city, possibly Cambridge or Peterborough, to roll out a pilot scheme.

The company says this will allow a hydrogen infrastructure to be developed alongside the introduction of the cars.

Mini Cars Can Equal Big Bills According to Crash Test

Mini cars may be heralded for their inexpensiveness and their environmental friendliness, but according to a new study the small vehicles perform poorly in low-speed crash tests.

Micro cars fit in small parking spaces and come with small price tags and fuel bills. But they can sustain big damage in a collision and not so mini repair bills are the result.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashed micro cars into a barrier at just 3 to 6 miles per hour to test how their bumpers would protect them.

"The bumper doesn't play a huge role in more severe crashes," IIHS senior vice president Joe Nolan said. "You can be sure in low speed collisions these vehicles are going to have a lot of damage that's unnecessary."

But not one of the seven vehicles tested received a top rating of good, while five were rated as poor. Only one received a rating of acceptable.

"This is a very low speed event. It's sort of a fast walking speed and we've got cars with $3,700 of damage in a fast walking speed collision and that's huge," Nolan said.

Part of the problem is that little cars have lower bumpers than other vehicles, he said. The mini cars' bumpers, which are supposed to bump into the bumper of the other car and protect the rest of the vehicle, instead slid under the other bumper, causing major damage.

These are the first bumper test results released under a new IIHS ratings protocol that is based on averaged repair costs and weighted to reflect real-world damage patterns.

Crash Test Results

Of the vehicles tested, the Kia Rio was the poorest performer. According to IIHS, the car did worse than most other small and midsize cars and minivans the group has tested.

The Rio mini car racked up about $3,700 damage in the full-front test alone. That's about 30 percent of its purchase price.

The vehicle sustained more than $9,000 worth of damage overall in the series of four tests performed by the IIHS.

The Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent and Mini Cooper also earned poor ratings for bumper performance.

The Honda Fit needed $3,648 worth of repairs after just one test, which is a quarter of the car's purchase price.

It was the smallest car in the group, the Smart ForTwo, which fared the best overall in the crash tests. The IIHS gave the vehicle its second highest rating of acceptable because it is made of plastic body parts that resist dents. Its body parts are also inexpensive to replace because they are pre-painted and come in small sections.

The Smart ForTwo had $3,281 worth of total damage in the four tests.

The Chevrolet Aveo was the next best with $4,490 in total damage.

IIHS said it would like to see damage of no more than $500 after a slow-speed fender bender. That's the cost of most insurance deductibles.

The Companies' Responses
Kia Motors said the IIHS's tests focused on repair costs, whereas Kia focuses on passenger safety, offering three kinds of airbags, front and rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring systems plus other safety features all as standard equipment.

Honda said its own 5 mph tests resulted in no body damage and only minimal bumper damage.

The other automakers that responded to ABC News' request for comment all said their vehicles meet or exceed every federal safety standard.