Aug 3, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
A standing-room only crowd at the launch of Plug-In Bay Area heard the latest about the Plug-In Partners campaign -- and a very exciting announcement from Pacific Gas & Electric.
"PG&E is scheduling a bill insert that will encourage its 4.5 million customers to contact Plug-In Partners and place their (soft) orders for plug-in hybrids." We also got additional details: "Please encourage your readers to spread the word that this September's PG&E bill insert is worth reading. Many toss the wad of non-bill stuff without giving it a look. We're planning media events/press releases to reinforce this message." (PG&E co-sponsored the event, and took delivery last week of a prototype PHEV Prius conversion from Energy CS):
We hope to have more information and transcripts soon. Meanwhile, here's news coverage of the PIBA event from InsideBayArea.com (may show in in print in Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times Star and other ANG Newspapers); the story includes new comments from Toyota. Followed by a story in Red Herring, the publication aimed at entrepreneurs and investors.
Home page headline: Tomorrow's Hybrids: Plug-In, Tune Up, Turn On State officials push for better hybrid cars Drive to get automakers to hit next frontier: over 100 mpg By Douglas Fischer, STAFF WRITER dfischer@.... http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/ci_4129903?source=rv Article Last Updated: 08/03/2006 07:27:54 AM PDT
CAPTIONS: CalCars' Ron Gremban shows the beefier battery pack of a Toyota Prius that has been converted to achieve 100 miles or more per gallon. Utilities, state and regional agencies and local advocates have formed "Plug-in Bay Area" to pressure automakers to quickly bring the next generation of hybrids to market. A beefier battery pack in a Toyota Prius.
SAN FRANCISCO - The concept sounds like a no-brainer for the Bay Area, given the number of gasoline-electric hybrid automobiles on the road.
But the idea came from Texas:
Push automakers to develop hybrid vehicles that churn out 100 miles to the gallon or more, and watch energy imports and greenhouse gas emissions drop off.
Last summer, Austin city leaders and their local utility, Austin Energy, launched such an effort, with the utility providing $1million in seed money for the purchase of next-generation hybrids. Wednesday, state and regional leaders committed the Bay Area to the program, dubbed "Plug-in Bay Area."
Terry Tamminen, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's senior adviser on science and the environment, offered the state's endorsement.
Jack Broadbent, top executive of the Bay Area's air district, said advances driving the next generation of hybrids represents "an important technology that needs to get out there in the public's hands."
The first goal, organizers said Wednesday, is to get manufacturers to accelerate development of 100-mpg hybrids.Plug-in Bay Area's supporters hope to persuade government agencies to use the considerable pressure of fleet purchases to steer the technology forward.
Hybrids today - such as the Toyota Prius - use a gasoline engine to supplement the electric motor and
recharge the car's batteries. The next generation, often called "plug-in hybrids," are expected to contain beefier batteries and a plug, giving drivers the option of bypassing the gasoline engine entirely and recharging batteries via a standard electrical outlet.
Today's hybrids typically get from 40 to 50 miles per gallon, about 20 percent more than they would obtain without hybridization. A plug-in hybrid, supporters maintain, can easily top 100 mpg and offer tremendous potential in reducing fuel consumption and air pollution.
It could also provide a boon to electric utilities looking to sell off-peak power: A typical plug-in hybrid owner would drive the car all day, return home in the evening and plug it in, drawing power at the exact time a utility would like to sell it.
"You will never know the difference when you drive a plug-in hybrid," said Bob Graham of the Electric Power Research Institute, one of the program's backers. "You could put a plug-in hybrid in your pickup, your SUV, your minivan and drive it and never notice the difference.
"It is just a road map to using electric-drive technology to reduce emissions."
The hitch is battery technology. Durability is a chief concern, said Irv Miller, spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales Inc., the nation's leading seller of hybrid cars. Cost is another.
"Toyota is looking very seriously at the issue," said Miller. "But the battery technology right now doesn't support moving forward. We just don't feel confident bringing the batteries to market."
Those spreading the gospel of plug-in hybrids Wednesday hope that, as volume builds, costs drop and durability concerns fade, plug-in hybrids will quickly filter into the mass market.
Maybe so. Toyota's Miller recalled how a similar sense of hope and promise swept the activist community when automakers, in response to an all-but-rescinded California mandate, rolled out electric vehicles in the 1990s.
"Those folks didn't emerge as purchasers or leasees," Miller cautioned. "And for the technology to survive and propagate, you need to translate emotion and energy into a market."
Red Herring Online August 2, 2006
Plug-In Hybrids Get Pledges
Jennifer Kho JKho@...
Plug-in Partners says it has collected 6,900 hypothetical government orders.
Plug-In Partners, a group that advocates plug-in hybrids, said Wednesday they have collected nearly 7,000 so-called soft orders for the vehicles from local and state government agencies throughout the United States.
"It's been growing much faster than expected," said Roger Duncan, deputy general manager of energy company Austin Energy and a campaign manager for Plug-In Partners, at a forum to launch the group's San Francisco Bay Area chapter.
Plug-in hybrids are hybrid vehicles that have been souped up with extra batteries that can be recharged by being plugged into a wall socket.
Advocates say the vehicles can get more than 100 miles per gallon by replacing gasoline with electricity. Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline, per mile, especially because most drivers would be charging their cars at night, when electricity is cheaper and in surplus.
Andrew Frank, a mechanical and aeronautical engineering professor at the University of California, Davis, said at $0.06 per kilowatt hour, the electricity replacing gasoline costs about $0.02 per mile versus $0.12 to $0.15 per mile using gasoline (see Plug-In Hybrids Get 100+ MPG).
But while startups such as Hymotion and EDrive Systems hope to spark a market, they have yet to commercialize plug-in hybrids for consumers. And while DaimlerChrysler, Toyota Motor, Honda, and General Motors say they are investigating plug-in hybrids, none have announced plans to make them (see The New Plug In Hybrids). http://www.redherring.com/Article.aspx?a=16912&hed=The+New+Plug-in+Hybrids
That's where Plug-In Partners hopes to make a difference.
The group is gathering support for plug-in hybrids in the form of city and state resolutions, and it is also collecting the pledges from government and corporate fleet operators in an effort to persuade carmakers that a market for plug-in hybrids exists.
"This is a compiling of hypothetical orders for a car whose technology is proven, but whose availability is not a reality," said Jodie Van Horn, coordinator of Plug-In Bay Area. "We started with government agencies because they are the most obvious purchasers of vehicles that constantly need to be re-supplied. If the government's committed to placing soft orders, that's a set number of vehicles for automobile makers to produce."
Pledges to 'Strongly Consider'
These "soft orders" are pledges to "strongly consider" buying specific numbers and types of plug-in hybrid vehicles if auto manufacturers make them, even if they cost more.
The group also is distributing and collecting another petition for individual consumers, which states that the person would want to buy a plug-in hybrid if it were cheaper to operate and costs "a few thousand dollars" more.
"We're basically saying to the automobile industry that we're compiling these orders, and the first company that produces these cars will get the entire database for free," Ms. Van Horn said.
The Plug-In Partners initiative began in Austin in January. Since then, it has grown to include 32 cities, said Mr. Duncan.
More than a dozen of those are among the 50 largest cities in the U.S., and the group expects to hit its target of signing up the 50 largest cities by early next year, he added.
The group hasn't set a goal for the number of soft fleet orders it hopes to collect. For comparison, Toyota sold 43,100 Prius hybrids in 2003, 125,800 in 2004, and 175,200 in 2005. "We're just going to continue until the automakers start making the vehicles," he said.
Plug-In Partners even hopes the initiative, currently limited to the U.S., will spread internationally, Mr. Duncan said, adding that groups in Japan, Sweden, and Canada have shown interest.
"I think the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is an amazing and viable alternative, not just for government agencies but for the public at large because it's a cleaner, more efficient fuel, which will save money and solve our problem with oil," Ms. Van Horn said.