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Zipcar plugs in at MIT

Hybrid plug-in now available as part of car-sharing service at MIT's Albany Street garage.
The Zipcar Prius PHV that is parked — and plugged in — at the Albany Street garage.
The Zipcar Prius PHV that is parked — and plugged in — at the Albany Street garage.
Photo: Melody Craven

Zipcar, a car-sharing service with roots in Cambridge, has introduced plug-in vehicles as part of its fleet, and is housing one of its three new electric vehicles on campus on Level 1 of the Albany Street Garage.

Parked to the right of the entrance gate, the Prius PHV is powered by lithium-ion batteries and can be charged from a standard 110-volt outlet. The vehicle, which takes up to three hours to charge, can travel on electric-only power at speeds of up to 62 mph for approximately 13 miles, after which it shifts to operate as a conventional Prius hybrid, averaging an estimated 50 miles per gallon. This makes the PHV model ideal for car sharing, as members are assured that the car can go the distance, no matter the charge when they pick it up. Because many trips taken by Zipcar members are fewer than 13 miles, many PHV trips will be emission-free. With the Prius PHV, Zipcar members can rely on the electric charge for shorter trips, but rest assured they have back-up for longer road trips or for use between charges.

The 110 volt AC outlet in the Albany Street garage was installed during last summer’s renovation by the contractor. “The power consumption is being studied by our Systems Engineering Group in an effort to plan for future electric-vehicle charging on campus,” according to Larry Brutti, manager of the MIT Parking and Transportation Office. The outlet in the Albany Street garage is reserved specifically for the Zipcar and is not for the use of other parkers.

The new vehicles are part of a pilot program with Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. to demonstrate plug-in hybrid technology, evaluate the performance of the vehicles and help to educate and prepare the public for the electrification of the automobile. The Toyota Prius PHVs, which will become commercially available in 2012, are eight of approximately 160 being distributed by Toyota nationwide.

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