Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated is to test greener vehicles in its transportation fleet.

The soft drinks bottler said yesterday (13 March) that it will convert some of its hybrid vehicles to plug-in hybrids, using aftermarket kits. The move is being made in collaboration with Duke Energy.

"Through this collaboration, we hope to increase the awareness of plug-in hybrids, demonstrate the viability of the technology, and evaluate performance parameters," said Mike Rowand, director of advanced customer technology for Duke Energy.

A PHEV kit extends the efficiency of a standard hybrid vehicle by increasing the size of its battery, which can be charged through a normal 120- volt electric outlet. PHEV technology has enabled vehicles to travel 100 miles or more on a gallon of gas.

"We believe plug-in hybrid technology could play an important role in further reducing our fleet costs while addressing environmental concerns," said Lauren Steele, vice president of corporate affairs for Coca-Cola Consolidated. "We are excited about participating in this pilot programme."

Charlotte-based Coca-Cola Consolidated currently operates more than 400 hybrid vehicles, one of the nation's largest corporate hybrid fleets, and plans to convert three Toyota Prius hybrids into PHEVs.