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San Jose Mercury News: PHEV/V2G/Clean Car Focus
Apr 9, 2007 (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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Today's San Jose Mercury News is all about getting clean cars. On the bottom of the front page is PG&E's announcement that it is the first utiltiy to jump into "vehicle to grid," with a demonstration launching today at a major event sponsored by Silicon Valley Leadership Group. It includes a drawing explaining V2G­multimedia/­mn/­news/­plugin040807.pdf. On the Op-Ed is a column co-authored by Jodie Van Horn of Plug-In Bay Area and Tom Hayse, who on March 22 became the first CEO to offer employee benefits for PHEVs­calcars-news/­720.html. The story is accompanied by a large photo of the back of my car. Both articles are reprinted below.

Oh, and by the way: here's the headline on the front page lead story: "If you buy this car [Hummer photo] you'll owe $2,500. Buy this one [Prius photo], you'll pocket $2,500. That's about Assembly Member Ira Ruskin's "Clean Car Discount" bill, AB 493, which passed the Assembly Transportation Committee two weeks ago and is said to "have the backing of most major statewide environmental groups, who see it as one of their top priorities for 2007. It's not about PHEVs, but it's heading the exact same way. Read the story at­ci_5625792, including a chart of those that will cost more, those that stay the same, those that provide rebates.

New PG&E plug-in car can feed power to home San Jose Mercury News - San Jose,CA,USA04/09/2007­businessheadlines/­ci_5625797 By Sarah Jane Tribble stribble@... or (408) 278-3499.

Imagine a car that powers your home during a blackout. Or one that produces so much extra energy, the utility company pays you.

Stop imagining.

PG&E, joining a growing number of advocates for plug-in hybrid cars, will showcase a converted Toyota Prius at an alternative energy gathering in Sunnyvale today. The investor-owned utility, which appears to be the first in the United States to demonstrate a car that can power a home, says customers will be able to use plug-ins to cut greenhouse gas emissions as well as high home-energy bills.

"If there has ever been a place to start and capture the possibilities and imagination of consumers, California is the place," said Bob Howard, PG&E vice president of gas transmission and distribution.

While sales of conventional hybrids such as the Toyota Prius that run on a combination of electric and gasoline motors have skyrocketed the past few years, major automakers have been reluctant to build mass-market plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can be recharged with a home's electrical outlet. They said consumers weren't interested because the cars would be too expensive.

But as manufacturing prices have dropped and gas prices have risen, attitudes have shifted.

"We have a race going on between the carmakers," said Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars and a guru in the plug-in hybrid industry. "It's a complete change from a few years ago, when everybody said nobody wants this."

A study by the Washington-based non-profit Electric Power Research Institute projected that if gas prices nationwide hovered near $3 a gallon and electricity costs averaged 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, plug-in hybrids make more economic sense than conventional cars. San Jose's average gas prices are $3.28 a gallon. And PG&E said its plug-in hybrid costs 2 to 4 cents per mile to operate, compared with a typical car that costs 8 to 20 cents per mile.

Energy goals

Pacific Gas & Electric, which uses more renewable energy than most utilities in the nation, must continue to increase its use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to meet aggressive global warming goals passed by lawmakers the past few years. Plug-ins help that goal, the company said, because they enable homeowners to use more energy at night - when wind and other cleaner fuels are available - and less energy during high-demand days, when it's more likely natural gas and coal plants that produce carbon are providing energy.

Most of the major automakers, from Toyota to Ford, have also felt pressure to cut carbon emissions that take a toll on the environment. Last year, General Motors became the first manufacturer to pledge that it would market a plug-in hybrid, while the others have said they are considering it. GM spokesman Jeff Holland said Friday that its Saturn Vue sport-utility vehicle will be available as a plug-in by the end of 2009. He couldn't say how much it would cost.

Plug-in costs

Prices for plug-in hybrids are expected to range from $3,000 to $5,000 more than conventional hybrids, which would mean cars such as the Toyota Prius would be in the high $20,000 price range, said Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president for the industry trade group CALSTART.

The small number of plug-ins on the road today are custom-converted vehicles, much like PG&E's tricked-out Prius.

PG&E's conversion, done by EnergyCS, cost $40,000. The car's lithium battery, which takes up the bottom of the back trunk where a tire would go, adds an extra 180 pounds to the car's weight. It produces 9 kilowatts of electricity; the average house uses about 2.5 kilowatts of electricity an hour.

Like a traditional hybrid, plug-ins have both electric motors and batteries as well as a gasoline engine. The gas engine kicks in when the car is moving about 20 to 25 miles per hour.

A 2007 Toyota Prius gets 55 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, according to a government report late last year. But a plug-in hybrid has a bigger battery, allowing it to use the gasoline engine less and reach 100 miles per gallon.

Most hybrid plug-in prototypes simply take energy from a home's electricity outlet. But a growing number of engineers, including those at PG&E, say any plug-in can also be used as a two-way generator.

These so-called vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, cars charge by plugging into a three-prong 110- to 120-volt outlet. If the home needs energy, such as during a blackout or on a peak day when electricity prices are high, a switch can be flipped to send the charge the other way.

It's unclear how much money a homeowner would save on energy costs using a plug-in hybrid. To be sure, consumers would buy more electricity from the utility, but they would probably cut their gasoline bills.

PG&E hopes the concept car will show consumers new ways to use hybrids, thus increasing consumer demand.

During a demonstration Friday, the PG&E car powered a small electric heater and lights. If needed, the car could run home appliances for several hours after being charged all night.

PG&E said it would like to pay consumers a credit for extra energy the car's battery sent back onto the state's electricity grid, the same way the utility pays credits to solar homeowners who feed energy back into the grid. That would need approval from regulators.

Prodding car makers to sell plug-in electric vehicles STRATEGIC ACTION CAN SEED MARKET FOR 100-MPG AUTO
By Tom Hayse and Jodie van Horn San Jose Mercury News Opinion 4/09/2007­opinion/­ci_5625904 TOM HAYSE is the CEO of ETM-Electromatic. JODIE VAN HORN is the coordinator of Plug-in Bay Area. They wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Automakers have expressed interest in producing plug-in hybrids but, so far, none has committed to a certain date. Some experts say consumers can prime the pump with "soft orders."

Here's an ad we'd like to see: "Car for sale. Late model PHEV. Zippy acceleration, 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, zero tailpipe emissions for typical daily operation. Matches the driving range of any car on the road today at half the operating cost. Fun to drive, helps secure our nation's energy supply, greatly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Batteries included."

We would be lining up right now to buy this car, but these plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) aren't yet commercially available. So instead, we are signing up to send the auto manufacturers a clear signal of the strong market demand for this solution.

PHEVs are improved versions of currently available hybrid cars. Conventional hybrids run entirely on gasoline, and mainly use batteries to store energy reclaimed during braking. PHEVs have much larger batteries that can be recharged by plugging in to a standard 120-volt outlet. Fully charged, PHEVs may have a 20-40 mile range of electric-only operation. For a typical 25-mile round trip commute, PHEVs might not use gasoline at all and get recharged every night. Then, come the weekend, they're ready for the 400-mile round-trip to Tahoe, or the 8-hour drive to San Diego, with the same gas-sipping economy of conventional hybrids.

Advertisement style='font-weight: bold'>Net pollution reduction

One common misconception about electric vehicles, including PHEVs, is that powering our transportation with electricity is simply moving the pollution and greenhouse gases from one place in the world to another. Not true. The PHEV's super-efficient electric motor running off batteries charged through the grid by power plants results in a large net reduction in pollution of all kinds, including greenhouse gases. Furthermore, less than 3 percent of our nation's electricity supply comes from oil - imported or otherwise. And every year the electric grid gets cleaner and greener with the addition of better plants and more alternatives like solar and wind.

Individuals and agencies around the country have privately converted conventional hybrids to PHEVs to demonstrate the viability of the technology. There are at least four such cars driving on the roads around Silicon Valley. But auto manufacturers aren't yet commercially producing plug-ins. Some have expressed interest in doing so, but have not given a date for when these vehicles will be available in car showrooms.

In an effort to bring mass production closer to reality, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group has joined with Plug-In Bay Area, the local chapter of, a national grass-roots campaign seeking to demonstrate to automakers that there is growing demand for these vehicles. We are doing so by soliciting "soft" orders for these vehicles from municipalities, government agencies, utilities, businesses and non-profit organizations. A soft order is a statement that the signer will "strongly consider" purchasing a PHEV when it is made available.

ETM, a Newark-based power electronics subsystem company, has placed a soft order with Plug-In Bay Area for 13 cars for its 103 employees. ETM is offering a cash incentive to employees who buy these cars once they are available. We are recruiting individuals and Silicon Valley employers - public, private and non-profit - to do the same.

Employers can help

Here's how employers can help:

Place a "soft" fleet order for your agency/organization/company. If, like ETM, you don't have a company fleet, encourage your employees to place individual "soft" orders and aggregate them.

Institute a cash incentive program for your employees to buy a plug-in hybrid when they become available. Or if you already have a cash incentive program for fuel-efficient vehicles, consider expanding it to include a larger benefit for plug-ins.

Encourage other individuals, companies in your network, local municipalities, utility and non-governmental organizations to join Plug-In Partners.

If everyone plugs into this idea, that car-for-sale ad could soon read: "Sold!"

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