LOS ANGELES, CA – The South Coast Air Quality Management District in California has agreed to spend $2.6 million for a test fleet of 30 plug-in hybrid cars and SUVs, according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper. A plug-in hybrid uses a rechargeable battery pack that is more powerful than those on standard gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. The batteries can be recharged overnight from a residential outlet. District directors awarded contracts to Quantum Technologies Inc. of Irvine, Calif., and Hymotion of Toronto, Canada, to prepare a plug-in test fleet.

The vehicles requested by the air quality district would be able to travel as far as 30 miles using battery power alone or as a booster to the gas engine. They will have zero tailpipe emissions on all-electric power. The enhanced batteries also could enable the vehicles to achieve fuel economy of 60 to 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, depending on daily driving demands, he said.

Quantum, which also develops hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and hydrogen storage systems, received $2 million to buy and convert 20 of Ford Motor Co.’s Escape gasoline-electric hybrid SUVs. The Escapes will use batteries from Advanced Lithium Power Inc., a Vancouver, Canada, company in which Quantum is a 20 percent stakeholder, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hymotion, which sells plug-in conversion kits for the Escape and Prius hybrids, was awarded $560,000 to turn 10 standard Prius models into plug-ins. The cars will use batteries from A123Systems Inc. of Watertown, Mass. The vehicles would be used by businesses and public agencies throughout the air quality district, which covers Orange County and large parts of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Data collected during the five-year test period would be used to help understand how consumers use the vehicles and to help the battery manufacturers better define the reliability of their products.