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Manitoba Hydro to test plug-in hybrid
Jan 6, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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Winnipeg Free Press
Hydro to test plug-in hybrid
Fri Jan 6 2006
By Bill Redekop

ARE you ready for the next hybrid car, that plugs in at night, and runs on electricity and biofuels?

Manitoba Hydro will launch a trial program early in the new year on the next step in lowering dependence on oil imports and cutting fossil fuel emissions -- the plug-in hybrid.

"The problem has always been, and continues to be, you just can't get enough storage in a battery to give hybrid vehicles any range," said Ken Thomas, Manitoba Hydro fleet manager. "So the plug-in hybrid is the perfect combination."

You plug in the engine overnight, just like you do with a block heater, and you've got 40 kilometres worth of driving in your car or truck by morning.

Actually, you get many more kilometres than that. Like the Toyota Prius, the battery regenerates every time you brake or coast, in addition to normal battery regeneration from the engine. With a plug-in, you can drive in the city all day without burning fossil fuels, Thomas said. But if you're out on the highway, once the electric power is used up, your biofuels kick in.

Suddenly, the $2.5 billion worth of oil and natural gas we buy from Alberta every year -- about $2,200 for every man, woman and child in Manitoba -- starts to drop exponentially.

"We are looking very seriously at going to plug-in technology very quickly. I would think within two or three years we'll have plug-in hybrid trucks," said Thomas.

For the average driver, up to two-thirds of vehicle mileage could be obtained from an electric source, and one-third from biodiesel or ethanol, said Eric Bibeau, University of Manitoba alternative energy chair.

"We end up with renewable electricity, and with renewable biodiesel fuel. We have the entire technology mapped out. We don't need fuel cells. We have everything."

And the blends of biofuel could be much higher than what's being proposed so far. The province's initial target is to have 85 per cent of gasoline blended with 10 per cent ethanol (E10). With biodiesel, blends may be 20 per cent (B20) most of the year, except for winter when it drops to five per cent (B5).

But the sky is really the limit. "They've run vehicles on E85, which is 85 per cent ethanol. It only requires some minor modifications to the engine," said Thomas.

In Yellowstone National Park in the United States, the park's diesel trucks ran on B20 (a 20 per cent blend of biodiesel fuel) and didn't have problems until temperatures hit -40 Celsius. That's using biodiesel made with soybeans, which is not as good in cold weather as biofuel from canola, Thomas said.

Biodiesel fuel doesn't ruin the engine in cold weather. What happens is the biofuel can crystallize and clog the fuel filter so the engine won't go. The driver has to go to the service station to have a fuel filter replaced.

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