Trick Out Your Prius With GP Batteries

Why wait for a plug-in hybrid when you can roll your own? Soon there will be even more places to get your Prius converted into a plug-in hybrid, now that Hong Kong-based GP Batteries International has taken an undisclosed stake in Poway, Calif.’s Plug-In Conversions. GP’s California-based subsidiary Gold Peak Industries North America will work with Plug-In Conversions to expand its sales of plug-in Prius conversion kits worldwide.

The strategic partnership will also allow Plug-In Conversions to produce kits for hybrids from other car companies, including Ford Motor (s F) and General Motors (s GM). Plug-In Conversions previously used batteries from Sweden’s Nilar International.

Plug-In Conversions says it’ll start its expansion in the U.S., with plans to add up to 10 new installers in 2009. The startup’s kits, which replace the Prius’ 1.3-kilowatt hour nickel-metal-hydride battery packs with 6.1-kWh NiMH packs, sell for $12,500, including installation.

Along with a battery swap, the conversion adds a control system, an on-board charger, a bumper plug receptacle, and an optional touch-screen monitoring system. And coming soon from the new partnership: a lithium-ion battery kit.

GP Batteries, a major supplier of primary and rechargeable batteries, already supplies batteries for other vehicles, including Geo Metro electric conversions from Toronto’s Azure Dynamics, and electric scooters from Rhode Island-based Vectrix.

There are some other companies in the U.S. that can do similar conversions, and some at significantly lower prices. Search giant Google (s GOOG) is a big-name advocate of plug-in hybrids with its RechargeIT initiative, and has contracted with Hymotion, part of Massachusetts-based battery maker A123 Systems, to retrofit four Toyota Priuses and two Ford Escapes for its fleet.