PLUG OK license plate
American Petroleum Institute Weighs In
Jul 30, 2006 (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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In, of all places, a story about Ryan Fulcher, the Seattle-based owner of CalCars' 3rd converted car (congratulations to him and Danika), a reporter decided to ask a spokesperson for the oil industry about PHEVs -- and got a somewhat positive response!

On very little gas, plug-in hybrid gets couple around Quad-Cities Online - Rock Island,IL,USA Print publication date: July 30, 2006 By Stephen Elliott, selliott@...­archives/­qco/­sections.cgi?prcss=display&id=299047

CAPTION: Ryan Fulcher, formerly of Geneseo, displays his Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle that gets more than 100 miles per gallon. [At URL, see More photos of car and batteries]

GENESEO - Ryan Fulcher and his fiancee, Danika Minder, came home to Geneseo this week, bringing with them new technology and a chance for a better way of life.

The Seattle residents and Geneseo natives watch gas prices soar more than $3 per gallon, political unrest rocks oil-rich countries, and environmental issues such as global warming grab headlines.

Their message is simple and aptly stated on their car bumper -- "This Plug-In Hybrid Gets 100 plus MPG."

Their mode of transportation is the Toyota Prius, originally a hybrid car, now a modified plug-in hybrid.

Standard hybrids are primarily powered by gasoline engines. An electric motor kicks in while the car is idling, backing up, moving in slow traffic or after the gas engine has provided the power for acceleration.

While efficient, standard hybrids are still 100 percent gas-fueled.

A plug-in hybrid is more of an electric vehicle with a gas tank for a backup, said CalCars spokesman John Davi. Its batteries have to be charged each night after use.

CalCars, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is a nonprofit group of entrepreneurs, engineers and environmentalists. The small group built the first plug-in Prius in 2004 and is working on others.

Mr. Fulcher's plug-in is one of maybe 10 such vehicles in the world, Mr. Davi said. His Prius was converted in April by CalCar volunteers at a "Maker Faire" in San Mateo, Calif.

"CalCars converted Ryan's car over a weekend in public to show that a bunch of backyard engineers could do this in a couple of days," Mr. Davi said. "Why can't Ford and GM do this?"

Mr. Fulcher has done some additional work on his plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, also known as a PHEV. He thinks there is a future for these vehicles and the technology is already available. Mr. Fulcher made the 2,000-mile drive from Seattle to Geneseo this week in his Prius.

While running on electricity, the vehicle is quiet and has no exhaust, Mr. Fulcher said. While showing the expanded battery pack in a storage container underneath the trunk, he said the only real maintenance is a drop cord used to plug into a 120-volt outlet each night at home.

Mr. Davi said the PHEV's are made for daily commutes.

He said on a 20- to 40-mile drive, the car might not use a drop of gas. But, if it goes beyond that, it simply becomes a regular efficient hybrid, using the gas engine.

"It doesn't really perform as well on the long drives," Mr. Davi said.

Getting 50 mpg on long drives isn't such a bad thing for Mr. Fulcher, but 100 mpg is even better on the shorter distances. He simply plugs it in at night to recharge his vehicle.

Mr. Fulcher said it cost him about $3,000 to put in the additional batteries to convert the care into a PHEV.

But, he said if major automakers put a program in place, it could lead to more demand and lower costs.

John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C., said there are too many unknowns regarding plug-in hybrids. While he represents the oil and gas industries, Mr. Felmy said there will likely be more alternatives to gas-fueled vehicles in the future.

High gas prices and environmental concerns are a few reasons.

"There are a bunch of reasons," Mr. Felmy said. "These are new things where people want to be environmentally conscious.

"With improvements in technology, they'll continue to grow. The Japanese have an incredible lead in auto technology to produce them.

"It's very expensive (now). You have to see the long-term performance. Battery technology is still the linchpin for those vehicles. It has never improved to make it viable."

Mr. Davi, from CalCars, envisions a combination of new technology and alternative fuels powering cars in the future.

"We want to put pressure on automakers to make these cars," Mr. Davi said. "After two months, we've had announcements from GM and Toyota that they're working on them.

"The question is when will they be available for sale."

Until then, Mr. Fulcher and Ms. Minder will drive back home with their PHEV to Seattle after their Aug. 5 wedding. They hope for a bright future here on earth -- for both couple and car.

Plug-in hybrid

A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is a modified hybrid vehicle that runs on both gasoline and electricity, but when charged is primarily an electric car with a gas-powered engine for backup.

- PHEVs are charged using 120-volt current.

- PHEVs, using both electricity and gasoline, get as much as 100 miles per gallon, with an equivalent cost of $1 a gallon.

- On commutes, PHEVs run primarily on electricity. Longer drives require gasoline.

Source: CalCars - The California Cars Initiative

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