XL Hybrids, based in Somerville, MA, has developed a technology to convert existing conventional vehicles into hybrid electric vehicles by installing a simple add-on kit that reduces fuel consumption by 15-30%.
Though the hybrid conversion can be applied to any car, XL Hybrids focuses on fleets of Town Cars as an appropriate first client base for the technology: Town Cars have a niche market providing luxury comfort and spaciousness, however they have very low efficiency (13-15 miles/gallon). And drivers of Town Cars are usually doing a lot of miles and a lot of city miles, so they are particularly sensitive to fuel economics.
The hybrid conversion for a Town Car will pay for itself within 24 months, so for an existing Town Car that will be on the road for another 3-5 years, the hybrid conversion is a great investment, especially with rising gas prices.
I think this is a really cool and pragmatic business plan - for today. But is there a growth market? I assume that in 5 years, all new Town Cars (and cars general) will be hybrid or will have higher efficiencies, making this sort of "add-on" technology less attractive. What then? I'm sure the guys at XL Hybrids have it figured out. We'll just have to wait and see!