MINNEAPOLIS – When Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak decided to convert his gas-electric Toyota Prius to a plug-in, he found that Canada was the closest place to get it done. So Rybak vowed to make a local option available, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
After speaking with Denny Hecker, who owns 18 car dealerships in Minnesota, Rybak was able to strike a partnership allowing Minnesotans to convert hybrid cars to plug-ins that can run on batteries.
The conversion — which takes six to eight hours and costs just under $11,000 — is currently only available at the Denny Hecker Volkswagen dealership in Inver Grove Heights. If the program is successful, it will be expanded into other locations.
According to the Jeremy Hanson, the mayor’s spokesman, as much as $3,000 could be knocked off the conversion cost as part of a new state grant program spearheaded by Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL–Minneapolis.
Rybak began driving a gas-electric hybrid Toyota Prius as his official city car when he became mayor in 2002. In October 2007, he had it converted into a plug-in hybrid that regularly gets more than 70 miles per gallon of gas. According to his spokesman, Rybak is believed to be the first mayor of a major American city to drive a plug-in as his official city car and Minnesota was the first state to pass legislation promoting plug-ins.
Fully charged, Rybak’s car runs only on a battery with zero fuel consumption in city driving under approximately 30 miles per hour for about 30 miles.
Minneapolis has more than 120 government vehicles that are either gas-electric hybrids or that use E-85 fuel.