Will A123 get into plug-n-play plug-in hybrids?

Hot battery maker in deal to get battery installer.

A123 Systems, the lithium ion battery maker that is working with General Motors and other big wigs, has reportedly bought Hymotion, a company that specializes in converting regular hybrids into plug-ins.

The possible deal was reported by the Web site Clean Break. The companies have not commented, but sources in the plug-in industry say a deal appears to be in the works. If it goes through, it could make retrofitting hybrids into plug-ins cheaper and easier.

Today it costs about $10,000 or more to turn a regular Prius into a plug-in. Plug-ins can be charged through a wall socket and get 100 miles a gallon. At the current prices, it's not an economical choice, according to, among others, Felix Kramer of CalCars, which advocates plug-ins. Going the plug-in route will cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, but an owner would have to drive the car a tens of thousands of miles before the cost of the batteries equaled the gas you would have used.

Only a few small companies offer plug-in conversion services at present, but GM and other car companies are expected to start producing plug-ins at the factory in the coming years. To date, most have been scared away by the additional cost of putting in more batteries. Apparent demand among customers, however, has begun to prompt GM, Nissan and others to get into the market.

A123 also works with major car manufacturers on plug-in hybrids with Cobasys, which comes up with systems for integrating extra lithium ion batteries into plug-in hybrids. (Chevron Ventures is an investor in Cobasys.)

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About the author

    Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.

     

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