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10 Talking Points for Plug-In Hybrids: Updated
Oct 31, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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You can forward the following quick intro to PHEVs. It used to be available in a 2-page printable version; it's now available as a single-page PDF at­calcars-phevtalkingpoints.pdf Thanks to many people for suggestions, especially to Rick Kennerly for jazzy intro phrases...


1. How to electrify hybrids. Today's hybrids are 100% gasoline-fueled. They're more efficient than non-hybrids because they don't idle, they use smaller engines, and they recapture braking energy into a battery for later use. It's a great improvement. But tapping the full potential of hybrids can save much more gasoline and bring many other benefits.

2. Get a spare and better gas tank. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) add a second cleaner, cheaper, and domestic energy source for your car: electricity. It's like having a second small fuel tank that you always use first. You fill this one at home with electricity from an ordinary 120-volt socket, at a cost equivalent to less than $1/gallon. (Assumptions below.) Here's another way to think about it: At $3 for a gallon of gas, driving a non-hybrid car costs 8-20 cents a mile (depending on its miles/gallon). With a PHEV, all-electric local travel and commuting can drop to 2-4 cents a mile.

3. Short trips? Zero gas burned. Longer? Unlimited range. If your batteries have a longer range than your average daily commute, you'll rarely need gas. But if you forget to plug in or you have to go on a longer trip, you still have the same extended range you've always had from the gasoline engine -- while still driving a relatively clean and efficient hybrid.

4. Neo-cons and greens agree. Using electricity for your daily local travel improves "energy security." PHEVs have been endorsed by an alliance of environmentalists and national security conservatives who see it as the best way to rapidly reduce consumption of imported oil. They want car makers to add the "flex-fuel" feature (at a cost of $150) so PHEVs can run on biodiesel or cellulosic ethanol. That's how PHEVs could get 500 miles/gallon of gasoline (+ electricity + biofuels).

5. Emergency home backup power. Suitably equipped hybrids and PHEVs can serve as mobile electricity generators after disasters and outages, providing low-emission 120-volt power for days to emergency centers and individual homes.

6. Electricity: key helper on global warming. Even though over half of the nation's electricity is produced from coal, when you count all the emissions from the oil well or mine to the car's wheels, an electric vehicle produces about half the greenhouse gases of a gasoline car. These excellent numbers improve as utilities are increasingly required to use cleaner and more renewable energy. California's new law requires 30% greenhouse gas reductions in new vehicles within 10 years; PHEVs could double that goal starting in two years.

7. Leading the car industry out of the wilderness. American car makers missed the boat on hybrid technology and are playing catch-up. PHEVs offer them the opportunity to leapfrog their competitors. Getting car buyers excited about clean, advanced technology cars could save one or more beleaguered car company. Component suppliers see the opportunity and have formed an Advanced Hybrid Vehicle Development Consortium to demonstrate performance and to speed automakers' path to commercialization of PHEVs.

8. Save money in the long run. Mass-produced PHEVs can pay for themselves in higher fuel savings and reduced maintenance costs. In high volumes, car makers could sell PHEVs for $3,000 more than current hybrids, and $5,000 more for hybrid SUVs. Early adopter buyers will pay extra for this "green feature," just as current car buyers pay for larger engines or leather seats without expecting a return. The bonus? Projections based on real-world experience from electric car fleets demonstrate that PHEVs have a lower lifetime cost of ownership than any other vehicle type.

9. PHEVs already exist. Dr. Andy Frank pioneered at UC Davis converting Ford and GM cars and SUVs. The Electric Power Research Institute worked with DaimlerChrysler to design small numbers of PHEVs based on the Mercedes Sprinter (15-passenger commercial van), using lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries. They'll be delivered by early 2006 to Federal Express, The New York Times and electric utility fleets. Last year, non-profit CalCars built the first PRIUS+ conversion. Then for-profit EnergyCS built a more advanced version, and launched EDrive Systems to sell installed conversions to Prius owners in 2006. CalCars is now looking at the Ford Escape and other hybrids to meet a fleet market demand we estimate at 10,000-100,000 vehicles.

10. Deploy the fleet. Fleet buyers can lead the way. A local Plug-In Austin Campaign has launched. A national 50-City Plug-In Partners plan for a large fleet buy is in the works. Some companies are starting to subsidize employee purchases of hybrids. Government can play a role. Motivated by high battlefield fuel costs and attracted to the no-heat "footprint" of electric vehicles, the military may be a big buyer. Senators from both parties and former cabinet members endorse PHEVs as the fastest way to significantly cut gasoline use. New hybrid tax credits (not deductions) help buy down extra costs. Other legislative initiatives, including incentives to car makers and buyers, will come from all levels of government.

Assumptions for Point #2: Toyota Prius: 260 Watt-hours per electric mile at "off-peak" (overnight) electricity rate (8.8 cents/kilowatt hour) equals a cost of 2.3 cents/mile. Multiply this by the 45 miles per gallon of a typical Prius and you get the equivalent of $1.03/gallon. Typical Non-Hybrid SUV: 400 Watt-hours per electric-mile at the off-peak rate of 8.8 cents/kilowatt hour equals a cost of 3.5 cents/mile. Multiply this by this less efficient vehicle's average of 18 miles/gallon and you get an even better $0.63/gallon. (SUVs get low mileage, so they can improve more.)

The California Cars Initiative is a non-profit startup of engineers, environmentalists and entrepreneurs that combines technology development and advocacy. Our goal is to get car companies to build PHEVs. More at Read the Frequently Asked Questions. See News Archive. Write to info@... Updated October 27, 2005

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