We're on Yahoo's home page; Green Car Journal; Berkeley orders 40 PHEVs
- Here's a roundup of news stories and other items that have been accumulating.
* First, CalCars on Yahoo's home page. "Prepare
to Plug in for 100-mpg Hybrids" includes lots of
photos (some a little out of date) from
<http://www.calcars.org/lphotos.html>. It was
published at Forbes Auto
on July 31, and we ran the text August 31 at
but only today made its way to Yahoo's home page
and to <http://autos.yahoo.com/green_center-article_42>.
* CalCars-News recently exceeded 4,000
subscribers. Tell people you know who are
interested in following the latest to subscribe,
from CalCars.org's home page. (If they're new to
CalCars and want to support our efforts, also
encourage them to go to
contribute to our efforts so we can do more.)
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* Berkelely just signed onto Plug-In Bay Area
(which has a new web page http://www.pluginbayarea.org>
Bay City News Wire
BERKELEY JOINS CLAMOR FOR PLUG-IN HYBRID VEHICLES
10/31/06 10:00 PST
Berkeley is the latest Bay Area government to
promise purchase of a fleet of plug-in hybrid
vehicles once an automaker begins producing such
cars commercially, city leaders announced today.
Berkeley's "soft order" for 40 plug-in hybrids is
similar to a decision last month by Marin County
to place a "soft order" for 22 of the vehicles.
The order is called "soft" because carmakers
don't currently make plug-in hybrids.
"With Marin, Berkeley and other soft orders being
placed around the country, automakers can no
longer deny the growing demand for plug-in
vehicles," said Jodie Van Horn, coordinator of
the advocacy organization Plug-In Bay Area.
To make a plug-in model, the Palo Alto-based
California Cars Initiative has individually
modified hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius by
adding additional batteries and a conventional power plug.
Motorists can drive those modified plug-in
hybrids up to 100 miles on electricity alone,
advocates said, which more than doubles the
current fuel efficiency of a Prius, at about 45-50 miles per gallon.
Advocates say plug-ins could make driving around
town an all-electric, zero-emissions experience,
while maintaining the capacity to burn gasoline on longer-distance trips.
"Plug-in hybrids will help our city save money
and improve air quality while contributing to
national efforts to break our oil addiction,"
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said. "I encourage the
automakers to start building these innovative
vehicles soon so that we can turn this soft order into a real one."
In addition to Berkeley and Marin County, other
Bay Area agencies and governments supporting the
goals of plug-in vehicles include San Francisco,
Alameda, Oakland, the Sonoma County Water Agency
and Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
* From the Gren Car Journal, an update is their "top story"
Plugging in to the Future
By Kellen Schefter
If plug-in hybrid advocates have done their job,
youll have already heard of PHEVs by now. The
PHEV (for plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle) is
like any other hybrid characterized by an
electric motor-generator incorporated into a
conventional gasoline or diesel powertrain
except the battery pack is larger and can be
recharged from an electrical outlet. Thats a big
deal to those disappointed by the disappearance
of factory-built electric vehicles over the past
decade. The PHEV, simply, provides most of the
benefits of a battery electric vehicle and a
hybrid in a single package, although at substantial additional cost.
The relatively minor equipment changes required
amount to big gains in efficiency. Extra energy
stored in a plug-in hybrids battery extends the
vehicles electric-only range, allowing some
prototype plug-ins to achieve an average of 100
mpg or more. In fact, 100+ mpg has become the
rallying cry of plug-in hybrid advocates across the country.
Why does so promising a concept need an advocacy
movement? Ask the automakers, and they are likely
to say that the battery technology is not viable
for production yet. This is a real concern.
Batteries already account for the majority of the
sticker markup that hybrids command. Add more
batteries, and the cost will go up most likely,
significantly which is a tough business case to
make. Factor in concerns about potential
overheating and battery life under demanding
charge/discharge regimes as PHEVs require and
the industry is left with cold feet.
The main thrust of the nationwide plug-in
campaign is to convince automakers to start
building plug-ins themselves, thereby lowering
the cost through mass production and improving
performance through full-fledged research and
development. But automakers wont build plug-ins
until its clear a market exists.
Cultivating this market is precisely the goal of
groups such as Plug-In Partners, which has grown
from a single Texas utility company, Austin
Energy, to a nationwide grassroots initiative
with the cities of Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Los
Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago
signed on, as well as over 100 public utilities,
businesses, and national policy groups.
The Plug-In Partners plan of action calls for
citizen petition drives, as well as expressions
of interest in purchasing plug-in hybrids so
called soft orders from its members. Overall,
Plug-In Partners claims to have gathered up soft
orders for more than 5,500 plug-in hybrids.
Showing support and market potential for plug-in
hybrids is only one part of the puzzle. Besides
market concerns, automakers maintain that the
technology is not yet sufficient to build
plug-ins en masse. The Plug-In Hybrid Development
Consortium, which includes utilities and
automotive suppliers among its members, intends
to address this by accelerating the development
of hybrid components and demonstrating their use.
The advocacy effort could be helped on both
fronts with federal financial support. Draft
legislation titled the Plug-in Hybrid Electric
Vehicle Act of 2006, would offer grants to
states and local authorities to help acquire
plug-in hybrids. The bill would also provide $200
million in annual funding for plug-in research
and development, including battery technology, from 2007 to 2016.
The bill was discussed during a recent meeting of
the House Subcommittee on Energy, which included
testimony from plug-in hybrid experts. Coinciding
with the meeting, members of the Hybrid
Consortium brought two plug-in prototypes based
on Toyotas Prius to the nations capitol for
some congressional courting. Some of Congress
bigger names drove and viewed the vehicles
including Senators Tom Daschle (SD), Orrin Hatch
(UT), and Hillary Clinton (NY), all of whom have
come out in support of the vehicles.
A handful of companies, not content to wait for
the manufacturers to get on-board, see a market
for plug-in hybrids now. EnergyCS, a
California-based engineering firm, and a Canadian
company called Hymotion have each developed
plug-in conversion kits for Toyotas Prius that
claim 100+ mpg. However, at expected additional
costs over that of a stock hybrid of $12,000 and
$9,500, respectively, buyers will probably be
limited to government agencies and well-heeled environmentalists.
So has the plug-in campaign worked? Its too
early to tell. Rumors continue to circulate that
there is movement on the PHEV front within the
auto industry, and recent rumblings hint that GM
may actually have a plug-in hybrid development
program underway. Ford has stated that it's also
looking into PHEVs and Toyota has now said that
it will develop a plug-in hybrid, but when and in
what configuration are unknown.
DaimlerChrysler is presently the sole automobile
manufacturer building plug-in hybrids, though
only as technology test-beds. Based on the
companys popular commercial van, the Sprinter
PHEV gets a 20 mile electric-only range and is
currently being developed with a five-cylinder
diesel and a gasoline V-6. As many as 40 Sprinter
PHEVs will be placed in fleet test programs in
California, Kansas City, and New York.
Unless battery technology is cost-effective,
selling plug-in hybrids too early puts them at
risk of meeting the same fate as the electric
vehicle. Its imperative that PHEVs be offered
affordably without the kind of severe price
premium experienced with early battery electrics.
Should technology and demand align, plug-in
hybrids, like any of the other alternative fuel
technologies competing for prevalence, deserve their chance to impress.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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