PLUG OK license plate
Plug-In Hybrids: State Of Play, History & Players

This page originally created by Ben Ovshinsky, West Coast Representative, Energy Conversion Devices-Ovonics, Inc. (We encourage broad distribution of what we hope will become the most complete and accurate history and survey of PHEVs, and we welcome comments/changes to

History (in addition to this page, see the new book, Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars that will Re-Charge America)

On an approximate time-line (see Vehicles and Resources for many links):

  • [c. 1990] Prof. Andy Frank (University of California at Davis) effectively re-invents the modern Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV), and using student teams, starts building operating prototype vehicles, while continuously refining the technology.
  • Dr. Frank's work attracts industry support and funding from Nissan, Koyo Seiko, GM, Saturn, Ford, Visteon, JATCO, Ovonics, DARPA, SMUD, SCE, DOE, etc.
  • UC Davis PHEVs enter, compete, and frequently win first place, in DOE/USCAR "Future Car" and "Future Truck" national competitions.
  • [1998-2004] UC Davis and EPRI's work influence CARB to modify ZEV Mandate incentives and crediting several times, to increasingly recognize and incentivize PHEVs. Climate Change GHG emissions regs are the most recent to be influenced.
  • [c. 2000] EPRI sponsors broad-based Hybrid Electric Vehicle Alliance (HEVA) under the leadership of Bob Graham, to promote and develop OEM commercialization of PHEVs. Alliance members include major automakers, national labs, utilities, UC Davis. HEV Working Group (HEVWG) publishes landmark studies and reports on PHEV attractiveness.
  • [2000 on] Dr. Frank is funded by and receives support from CEC, SCAQMD, Yolo-Solano AQMD, CARB, and other governmental agencies.
  • [2001] DOE creates the National Center Of Hybrid Excellence at UC Davis, with Dr. Frank as Director.
  • [2001] Dr. Frank obtains substantial GM funds to hybridize and plug-in GM's EV1.
  • [2001-2002] EPRI (the Electric Power Research Institute) supports and funds Dr. Frank's work.
  • [2002] Entrepreneurs, environmentalists and engineers create the California Cars Initiative (, a non-profit PHEV advocacy and technology development group.
  • [2003] Dr. Frank's vehicles are shown at the Paris International Auto Show, and demonstrated to about 200 Renault engineers at a corporate event at their Paris HQ.
  • [2003] Toyota ships a UC Davis Coulomb PHEV to Toyota City to demonstrate it to about 250 engineers and executives at two of Toyota's primary Tier 1 suppliers, Koyo Seiko, and Aisin AW. [Aisin builds the complete Prius transmission system, which also will be going into the Ford Escape, and Nissan Hybrid.]
  • [By 2004] Dr. Frank's student teams have built and operated seven proof-of-concept and proof-of-demonstration prototype PHEVs, including 6-passenger sedans (Taurus and Sable), SUVs (Suburban, Explorer), two-seater sports car (EV1), and two ground-up 80 mpg sports cars.
  • [2004] CalCars' PRIUS+ prototype and EDrive Systems conversions demonstrated.
  • [2005] DaimlerChrysler Sprinter Van PHEV prototoypes completed.

Actual Vehicles

This is a very dynamic and growing list. See also CalCars Vehicles page for links to information about many of these vehicles, or see an up-to-date list of Where (Prius) Plug-In Hybrids Are.

  • UC Davis/Andy Frank seven PHEV-60s (60 mile AER) including 6-passenger sedans (Taurus and Sable), SUVs (Suburban, Explorer), two-seater sports car (EV1), and two ground up 80 mpg sports cars.
  • Daimler-Chrysler several PHEV-20 (20 mile AER) Sprinter Vans in pilot development, and scheduled for commercialization. EPRI heavily involved.
  • In 2003, Renault produced "Elect'Road," a PHEV variant of its "Electri'cite" Kangoo battery electric van (50-80 km range) with a small gasoline "limp-home" engine able to drive 100 km before refueling. See details at EVWorld, description, technical specs, (all PDF) page in French. Renault discontinued the Elect'Road after selling about 500, mainly in France, Norway and a few in the UK, for about Euro 25,000.
  • Esoro H301 built in Switzerland in 1994, four prototypes still on the road.
  • Dassault will display a new PHEV prototype of the Renault Kangoo (Cleanova II) at the Paris auto show and plans a commercial version in 2006.
  • Fiat Multiple platforms said to be plugged-in.
  • Ovonics Plug-In Gen-1 Prius demonstrated.
  • AC Propulsion has converted a Volkswagen Jetta into a tri-fuel PHEV-35 (electricity, gasoline and natural gas), and reported its specifications and performance to California's Air Resources Board. A 55-mile range version with lithium-polymer batteries may be next for this pioneering integrator: see their recent presentation (1.5MB PDF).
  • Toyota reported to have developed and will test beta PHEV-60s in Japan.
  • US Military "Large Battery, Multi-Function, Silent Watch - Stealth, DG" vehicle program. including diesel-electric PHEV-20 tactical reconnaissance vehicle.
  • OEM and Industry "Skunk Works" Nissan, and a number of other world automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers known to have PHEV R&D&D programs.
  • Southern California Edison PHEV Heavy Duty Truck development program.
  • PHEV Bus being developed by several different groups.
  • California Cars Initiative "PRIUS +" -- first prototype completed and in testing.
  • EDrive (EnergyCS+Clean-Tech) version of PRIUS+ using Valence lithium batteries .
  • San Diego State University "Enigma" diesel-powered PHEV sports car demonstrated.
  • L3 Reseach has built Enigma, a PHEV sports car and Eagle, a PHEV motorcycle. Enigma was the subject of a major profile in "The High-Performance Hybrids" in The NY Times Sunday Magazine, Sept 22, 2005, which neglected to mention that it was a PHEV.
  • Southern California Edison is testing a liquid-natural gas-fueled micro-turbine line truck PHEV-12 providing a mobile power supply.
  • AFS Trinity is developing an "Extreme Hybrid" combining flywheel, battery and ultracapacitor technologies.
  • MINIMOBIL, an Austrian-Czech collaboration has built a two-person "tandem" (passengers front-to-back) serial PHEV with a 30-50km electric range and 350km gasoline range.

Notes (see also's Hybrid History 1665-2004 and Larry E. Hall: Back to the Past: History of Hybrids)

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), with 400,000 members in 150 countries, journal voted the PHEV the "#1 Electric Power 21st Century Holy Grail Winner: The Smart Hybrid -- A Big Technology Product That Will Make A Difference …. A High Tech Dream That Will Come True In Your Lifetime".
  • Increased national media, analysts', and opinion leaders' attention: scores of first-awareness articles, and national policy recommenders and institutes now reaching the PHEV conclusion: viz. James Woolsey, former CIA Director; Joseph Romm, former DOE Deputy Director, etc.).
  • Ovonic NiMH batteries enables and powers all UC Davis PHEVs.
  • Dr. Frank's UC Davis graduating students become sought-after, high-value engineers and managers for Ford, Allison, Nissan, GM, Daimler-Chrysler, United Defense, ISER, Ovonics, EPRI, etc. and various California start-up companies.

If you have suggestions to improve this document, please write to

Check out past CalCars news, or subscribe to our low-traffic PHEV newsletter at right: 
Copyright © 2003-2012 California Cars Initiative | Site Map