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We're on Yahoo's home page; Green Car Journal; Berkeley orders 40 PHEVs

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  • Felix Kramer
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2006
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      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      photos (some a little out of date) from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
      <http://www.calcars.org/sponsor.html> and
      contribute to our efforts so we can do more.)

      We try to send only the most important news out:
      last month we sent out 35 messages, and we've
      never sent out more than 51 (that was in May,
      when we flew our car to DC). Please remember that
      if you reply to a CalCars-News posting, it goes
      only to an info@... email address, not to
      any individual, and because we get a large volume
      of mail, we can't promise how quickly we'll
      respond. If you do want to write, please delete
      the text of the message you're responding to, and change the subject line!

      * Berkelely just signed onto Plug-In Bay Area
      (which has a new web page http://www.pluginbayarea.org>

      Bay City News Wire
      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,
      you’ll 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. That’s 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 hybrid’s battery extends the
      vehicle’s 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 won’t build plug-ins
      until it’s 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 Toyota’s Prius to the nation’s 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 Toyota’s 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? It’s 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
      company’s 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. It’s 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.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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