TodayApril 16, 2022

A Happy Home for Hybrid Cars

Home is where your hybrid heart is

Luscious Garage works exclusively on hybrid cars. Founded in 2007, it sits amidst early-20th-century storefronts in a quiet, tree-lined section of downtown San Francisco. Outside, a tire hangs high with a plant inside it-just a hint of what’s within.

The ground-level work area is unlike any you’ve seen before. The left wall is filled with colorful artwork. Then, you notice there’s no smell of oil or gas-and no pounding of compressors. Natural light from skylights illuminates the two spotless stations where Carolyn Coquillette, owner and master technician, and her employee, master technician John Peters, work. Plants help to filter the air.

Luscious uses re-refined oil, which they buy in bulk, eliminating plastic containers. They do their own laundry using EnergyStar certified second-hand equipment. They wash their parts in biodiesel. Everything is recycled.

When you arrive, you talk with a technician at a Mac-equipped kiosk, not to a service advisor. Everything is online and transparent-and paperless, thanks to Carolyn’s Hyspace program-essentially Myspace for hybrids. When you purchase a service, it’s clearly stated and viewable online at home. The mezzanine waiting area has the ambiance of a comfortable apartment.

It’s furnished in secondhand chairs, a sofa, a literature-covered credenza, and a modest desk. The floor surface is made from recycled tires. Books line the walls, along with art and a fine old Thomas Brothers San Francisco street map.

“We want you to feel relaxed when you come into the shop,” says Carolyn.

A small 1.5-KW solar array on the roof supplies electricity to run lights and the electric rather than air-powered tools used in the shop.
Why specialize in hybrids? “We are living unsustainably,” says Carolyn. “On the one hand, we need to drive, but driving is bad for the environment. We need to make wise choices.”

Although the Prius is highly efficient, it is still gas-dependent. Luscious Garage can install a kit from Plug-In Conversions Corporation that gives your Prius a 25-mile electric-only range at up to 70 miles per hour. “Eighty percent of daily trips are less than 40 miles, so you could end up running on only electricity,” says Carolyn. “If you run out, the car switches over to gasoline and functions just like it did before the conversion,” she adds. A recharge at 110 volts takes about six hours or two hours at 220.

The $13,500 conversion price may seem expensive, but it can pay off in significantly lower fuel costs, not to mention peace of mind.
“Take a used 2004-2009 Prius- maybe your own- add the kit,” says Carolyn. “For less than $30,000 you’ll have a car that’s better than the new 2010 Prius.”

She has successfully converted about 30 Priuses to PHEVs so far. “Priuses are extremely safe and reliable and require little regular maintenance,” says Carolyn. Hybrid owners tend to be aware of what their cars do and how they impact the environment. They expect and appreciate the kind of personal, informative, environmentally sensitive service they get at Luscious Garage.

“It’s really about being mindful,” says Carolyn. “We see ourselves not as a green business, but as one that’s ‘less brown.’ If all auto shops did what we do it would have a huge impact.”

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.