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Plug 'em In

Personal transportation is a huge TreeHugger topic, since most of us have to get from one place to another at some point each day; with cars near the top of the transportation list for many, it’s important to know what options are best for you, and, perhaps as importantly, what options are out on the horizon for you to consider in the near future. While the Tesla Motors’ Roadster [] has made a big splash (for good reason) and gasoline/electric hybrids are becoming more and more mainstream, we think the next logical step for many of us will be a sort of hybrid of these two ideas: the plug-in hybrid.

The idea is pretty simple: take a hybrid of today, add more battery capacity (either through more volume or more efficiency) and include an easy way to charge up the extra capacity in the comfort of your home. More batteries means (in some cases) that you can run the car on battery power alone — meaning no gas required — for a number of miles (and hopefully enough to do most of your daily driving: commuting, errands to the store, etc.). When the batteries run dry, the gas motor kicks in and helps recharge the batteries; it’d be likely that such a vehicle would average around 100 miles per gallon. Sounds easy, right?

The downside, as with many new technologies, is that it’s slow coming to the consumer market, and more expensive at the beginning. We’ve seen several new prototypes that are pretty fancy, and a few after-market conversions that can help get you headed toward plug-in bliss if you have a hybrid already.

1) First of all, learn more about what the fuss is all about [].
2) You may or may not be surprised that Google is getting in on the action [].
3) Conversion kits [] can get you plugged in today, for a price; see it in action on TreeHuggerTV [].
4) See what happens when a plug-in gets put through its paces [].
5) Some of the prototypes we’ve seen include this version of smart’s Forfour [], the Ford Edge [], Saturn Vue [], the VentureOne [] and Toyota’s HybridX [].
6) The Chevy Volt [] (pictured above) has garnered lots of media buzz; enough that we had to cover it again [].
7) If all this plug-in talk doesn’t do it for you, you can just hack your hybrid [] to get some similar results; just don’t expect your warranty to be honored after that…

…but it might still be worth it (maybe). No matter where you come down on the hybrid debate, no matter how you slice it, plug-ins are making a compelling case as the next step toward green transportation. We just have to wait and see if they perform as well on the road as they do on paper.