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Environmental Groups on PHEVs: Sierra/UCS/NRDC

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  • Felix Kramer
    Plug-in hybrids are getting increasing attention from environmental groups that until now have been focusing largely on standard hybrids. Here are a few
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2007
      Plug-in hybrids are getting increasing attention
      from environmental groups that until now have
      been focusing largely on standard hybrids. Here are a few developments.

      Sierra Club Radio
      http://www.sierraclub.org/radio/ interviewed
      Plug-In Bay Area Coordinator Jodie Van Horn.
      Here's the description:
      and here's the downloadable mp3:

      Sierra Magazine covered PHEVs briefly in March/April 2007
      and PHEV schoolbuses in July-August 2007

      UCS's much-praised HybridCenter website has
      started to pay more attention to PHEVs. It hasn't
      addressed the shortcomings we've repeatedly
      pointed out -- see
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/796.html --
      but its news section now includes dispatches
      about PHEVs and EVs at
      and its timeline
      includes developments at GM and Toyota.

      The HybridCenter's latest newsletter at
      contains this update:
      GM Aims to Lead PHEV Race: General Motors
      Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz is confident that a new
      battery development contract with A123Systems
      Inc. will help the automaker ready the Chevy Volt
      Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) for
      production by late 2010. The company anticipates
      an October 2007 delivery of the next-generation
      lithium-ion battery packs and beginning PHEV
      prototype road tests next spring. It is rumored
      that GM’s model will have twice the range of the
      20 miles per charge PHEV planned by Toyota. To
      learn more, visit the Hybrid News Center.

      NRDC, which recently co-authored with the
      Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) the
      landmark study on the emissions and power
      generation impacts and benefits of plug-in
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/797.html , is
      now starting to actively promote PHEVs. Some of
      the groundwork was laid by NRDC's affiliate,
      Environmental Entrepreneurs. In June 2006, E2
      co-founder Bob Epstein co-authored a pioneering
      analysis showing that biofuels like ethanol were
      more effective when used as fuel for power plants
      than when burned directly in car engines. (See
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/458.html for excerpts and links.)

      Now NRDC, which has developed strong partnerships
      in Costa Rica as it aims to become completely
      carbon neutral, and which facilitated an E2 trip
      there, has included PHEVs as a key element in its
      2-page roadmap at
      http://www.nrdc.org/international/costa.pdf .
      Here are some excerpts from "Costa Rica: Setting
      the Pace for Reducing Global Warming Pollution and Phasing Out Oil."

      "Global warming and heavy dependence on fossil
      fuels are two of the greatest threats facing
      humanity today. This administration will strongly
      advocate local, regional, and global action on
      climate change, including full support for the
      Kyoto Protocol, renewable energy, and greater fuel efficiency for vehicles."
      -- President Arias, Council of the Americas interview, November 24, 2006

      President Arias has declared a goal of making
      Costa Rica the world’s first carbon neutral
      country, reducing net global warming emissions to
      zero. Offsetting current emissions through forest
      conservation and reforestation programs can help
      the country get there, but Costa Rica has the
      potential to do even more. Costa Rica is already
      a world leader in renewable energy use and
      tropical forest conservation, but the transport
      sector is entirely dependent on oil. By
      increasing investment in domestic renewable
      energy production and demand reduction
      strategies, Costa Rica could be the first fossil
      fuel­free country in the world. The time to act
      is now: Costa Rica should capitalize on the
      investor interest in clean technology and
      maximize the potential for rural development and
      jobs in new industries. NRDC recommends a suite
      of four key strategies that will help pave the
      way for Costa Rica to become a global pioneer in
      solving one of the biggest--and most
      urgent--challenges the world’s citizens face today.

      Four key strategies for reducing global warming
      pollution in Costa Rica By investing in
      sustainable domestic energy strategies, Costa
      Rica can meet its energy needs without fossil
      fuels--diverting US$1 billion annually in oil
      imports--and reduce global warming pollution. NRDC recommends four strategies:

      * Increase energy efficiency in the electricity sector
      * Raise fuel economy standards and adopt plug-in
      hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)
      * Encourage production of biomass for electricity and transportation fuels
      * Increase the efficiency and use of public transport

      Below is the full text of the second bullet:

      Raising fuel economy standards and adopting plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

      Costa Rica’s transport sector--the single largest
      source of global warming pollution in the
      country--is dependent on imported oil, making it
      vulnerable to rising fuel prices and political
      pressure from oil exporters. In turn, this
      increases the demand to drill for oil
      domestically. NRDC recommends that the Costa
      Rican government set a baseline fuel economy
      standard and mandate annual increases. Increasing
      the fuel economy of light duty vehicles is the
      single most effective energy-saving policy the
      Costa Rican government could adopt. The
      technology already exists for many alternative
      vehicle and fuel solutions. The government should
      create economies of scale for plug-in electric
      vehicles by mandating their purchase by all
      government agencies. Incentives for cleaner
      vehicles--vehicles with high fuel economy and
      alternative fuel use capability--should also be
      instituted, and would pay for themselves in oil
      savings. If these cleaner vehicles were just 50
      percent of the total vehicle fleet, oil
      consumption would be cut by almost half. Although
      the cost premium for cleaner vehicles may be seen
      as a challenge for consumers, Costa Ricans
      already pay more for diesel engine vehicles and
      through consumer education could learn the
      favorable return on investment of cleaner vehicles.

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