Today's San Jose Mercury News is all about getting clean cars.
On the bottom of the front page is PG&E's announcement that it is the
first utiltiy to jump into "vehicle to grid," with a demonstration
launching today at a major event sponsored by Silicon Valley
Leadership Group. It includes a drawing explaining V2G
On the Op-Ed is a column co-authored by Jodie Van Horn of Plug-In Bay
Area and Tom Hayse, who on March 22 became the first CEO to offer
employee benefits for PHEVs
>. The story is
accompanied by a large photo of the back of my car. Both articles are
Oh, and by the way: here's the headline on the front page lead story:
"If you buy this car [Hummer photo] you'll owe $2,500. Buy this one
[Prius photo], you'll pocket $2,500. That's about Assembly Member Ira
Ruskin's "Clean Car Discount" bill, AB 493, which passed the Assembly
Transportation Committee two weeks ago and is said to "have the
backing of most major statewide environmental groups, who see it as
one of their top priorities for 2007. It's not about PHEVs, but it's
heading the exact same way. Read the story at
>, including a chart of those
that will cost more, those that stay the same, those that provide rebates.
New PG&E plug-in car can feed power to home
San Jose Mercury News - San Jose,CA,USA04/09/2007
By Sarah Jane Tribble stribble@...
or (408) 278-3499.
Imagine a car that powers your home during a blackout. Or one that
produces so much extra energy, the utility company pays you.
PG&E, joining a growing number of advocates for plug-in hybrid cars,
will showcase a converted Toyota Prius at an alternative energy
gathering in Sunnyvale today. The investor-owned utility, which
appears to be the first in the United States to demonstrate a car
that can power a home, says customers will be able to use plug-ins to
cut greenhouse gas emissions as well as high home-energy bills.
"If there has ever been a place to start and capture the
possibilities and imagination of consumers, California is the place,"
said Bob Howard, PG&E vice president of gas transmission and distribution.
While sales of conventional hybrids such as the Toyota Prius that run
on a combination of electric and gasoline motors have skyrocketed the
past few years, major automakers have been reluctant to build
mass-market plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can be recharged with a
home's electrical outlet. They said consumers weren't interested
because the cars would be too expensive.
But as manufacturing prices have dropped and gas prices have risen,
attitudes have shifted.
"We have a race going on between the carmakers," said Felix Kramer,
founder of CalCars and a guru in the plug-in hybrid industry. "It's a
complete change from a few years ago, when everybody said nobody wants this."
A study by the Washington-based non-profit Electric Power Research
Institute projected that if gas prices nationwide hovered near $3 a
gallon and electricity costs averaged 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour,
plug-in hybrids make more economic sense than conventional cars. San
Jose's average gas prices are $3.28 a gallon. And PG&E said its
plug-in hybrid costs 2 to 4 cents per mile to operate, compared with
a typical car that costs 8 to 20 cents per mile.
Pacific Gas & Electric, which uses more renewable energy than most
utilities in the nation, must continue to increase its use of
renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to meet aggressive
global warming goals passed by lawmakers the past few years. Plug-ins
help that goal, the company said, because they enable homeowners to
use more energy at night - when wind and other cleaner fuels are
available - and less energy during high-demand days, when it's more
likely natural gas and coal plants that produce carbon are providing energy.
Most of the major automakers, from Toyota to Ford, have also felt
pressure to cut carbon emissions that take a toll on the environment.
Last year, General Motors became the first manufacturer to pledge
that it would market a plug-in hybrid, while the others have said
they are considering it. GM spokesman Jeff Holland said Friday that
its Saturn Vue sport-utility vehicle will be available as a plug-in
by the end of 2009. He couldn't say how much it would cost.
Prices for plug-in hybrids are expected to range from $3,000 to
$5,000 more than conventional hybrids, which would mean cars such as
the Toyota Prius would be in the high $20,000 price range, said Bill
Van Amburg, senior vice president for the industry trade group CALSTART.
The small number of plug-ins on the road today are custom-converted
vehicles, much like PG&E's tricked-out Prius.
PG&E's conversion, done by EnergyCS, cost $40,000. The car's lithium
battery, which takes up the bottom of the back trunk where a tire
would go, adds an extra 180 pounds to the car's weight. It produces 9
kilowatts of electricity; the average house uses about 2.5 kilowatts
of electricity an hour.
Like a traditional hybrid, plug-ins have both electric motors and
batteries as well as a gasoline engine. The gas engine kicks in when
the car is moving about 20 to 25 miles per hour.
A 2007 Toyota Prius gets 55 miles per gallon in combined city and
highway driving, according to a government report late last year. But
a plug-in hybrid has a bigger battery, allowing it to use the
gasoline engine less and reach 100 miles per gallon.
Most hybrid plug-in prototypes simply take energy from a home's
electricity outlet. But a growing number of engineers, including
those at PG&E, say any plug-in can also be used as a two-way generator.
These so-called vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, cars charge by plugging into
a three-prong 110- to 120-volt outlet. If the home needs energy, such
as during a blackout or on a peak day when electricity prices are
high, a switch can be flipped to send the charge the other way.
It's unclear how much money a homeowner would save on energy costs
using a plug-in hybrid. To be sure, consumers would buy more
electricity from the utility, but they would probably cut their gasoline bills.
PG&E hopes the concept car will show consumers new ways to use
hybrids, thus increasing consumer demand.
During a demonstration Friday, the PG&E car powered a small electric
heater and lights. If needed, the car could run home appliances for
several hours after being charged all night.
PG&E said it would like to pay consumers a credit for extra energy
the car's battery sent back onto the state's electricity grid, the
same way the utility pays credits to solar homeowners who feed energy
back into the grid. That would need approval from regulators.
Prodding car makers to sell plug-in electric vehicles
STRATEGIC ACTION CAN SEED MARKET FOR 100-MPG AUTO
By Tom Hayse and Jodie van Horn
San Jose Mercury News Opinion 4/09/2007
TOM HAYSE is the CEO of ETM-Electromatic. JODIE VAN HORN is the
coordinator of Plug-in Bay Area. They wrote this article for the Mercury News.
Automakers have expressed interest in producing plug-in hybrids but,
so far, none has committed to a certain date. Some experts say
consumers can prime the pump with "soft orders."
Here's an ad we'd like to see: "Car for sale. Late model PHEV. Zippy
acceleration, 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, zero tailpipe
emissions for typical daily operation. Matches the driving range of
any car on the road today at half the operating cost. Fun to drive,
helps secure our nation's energy supply, greatly reduces greenhouse
gas emissions. Batteries included."
We would be lining up right now to buy this car, but these plug-in
hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) aren't yet commercially available.
So instead, we are signing up to send the auto manufacturers a clear
signal of the strong market demand for this solution.
PHEVs are improved versions of currently available hybrid cars.
Conventional hybrids run entirely on gasoline, and mainly use
batteries to store energy reclaimed during braking. PHEVs have much
larger batteries that can be recharged by plugging in to a standard
120-volt outlet. Fully charged, PHEVs may have a 20-40 mile range of
electric-only operation. For a typical 25-mile round trip commute,
PHEVs might not use gasoline at all and get recharged every night.
Then, come the weekend, they're ready for the 400-mile round-trip to
Tahoe, or the 8-hour drive to San Diego, with the same gas-sipping
economy of conventional hybrids.
style='font-weight: bold'>Net pollution reduction
One common misconception about electric vehicles, including PHEVs, is
that powering our transportation with electricity is simply moving
the pollution and greenhouse gases from one place in the world to
another. Not true. The PHEV's super-efficient electric motor running
off batteries charged through the grid by power plants results in a
large net reduction in pollution of all kinds, including greenhouse
gases. Furthermore, less than 3 percent of our nation's electricity
supply comes from oil - imported or otherwise. And every year the
electric grid gets cleaner and greener with the addition of better
plants and more alternatives like solar and wind.
Individuals and agencies around the country have privately converted
conventional hybrids to PHEVs to demonstrate the viability of the
technology. There are at least four such cars driving on the roads
around Silicon Valley. But auto manufacturers aren't yet commercially
producing plug-ins. Some have expressed interest in doing so, but
have not given a date for when these vehicles will be available in
In an effort to bring mass production closer to reality, the Silicon
Valley Leadership Group has joined with Plug-In Bay Area, the local
chapter of PlugInPartners.org, a national grass-roots campaign
seeking to demonstrate to automakers that there is growing demand for
these vehicles. We are doing so by soliciting "soft" orders for these
vehicles from municipalities, government agencies, utilities,
businesses and non-profit organizations. A soft order is a statement
that the signer will "strongly consider" purchasing a PHEV when it is
ETM, a Newark-based power electronics subsystem company, has placed a
soft order with Plug-In Bay Area for 13 cars for its 103 employees.
ETM is offering a cash incentive to employees who buy these cars once
they are available. We are recruiting individuals and Silicon Valley
employers - public, private and non-profit - to do the same.
Employers can help
Here's how employers can help:
Place a "soft" fleet order for your agency/organization/company. If,
like ETM, you don't have a company fleet, encourage your employees to
place individual "soft" orders and aggregate them.
Institute a cash incentive program for your employees to buy a
plug-in hybrid when they become available. Or if you already have a
cash incentive program for fuel-efficient vehicles, consider
expanding it to include a larger benefit for plug-ins.
Encourage other individuals, companies in your network, local
municipalities, utility and non-governmental organizations to join
If everyone plugs into this idea, that car-for-sale ad could soon read: "Sold!"
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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