PLUG OK license plate
Fleet campaign: Austin and Mayors / NY State Consortium
Jun 29, 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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Source: Austin Chronicle
[Jun 29, 2005]
Excerpted from Naked City section of Austin Chronicle.

Earlier this month, Mayor Will Wynn addressed the 73rd annual conference of Mayors in Chicago, giving a presentation titled Smart Energy Best Practices for Livable Communities, along with Austin Energy's Roger Duncan, who focused on Austin's plug-in hybrid vehicle initiative. "Austin is at the forefront of the transportation debate," Wynn said. "The beauty of this system is that vehicles charged by the electric system will run on alternative energy sources such as West Texas wind instead of Middle East oil." The city's plug-in plan, first introduced last September, involves purchasing a fleet of next-generation hybrid DaimlerChrysler Sprinter vans for city use, charging them at night with wind power from Austin's award-winning GreenChoice renewable energy utility program, and asking other cities to buy similar fleets of plug-ins, placing huge bulk orders. The goal is to create an economy of scale for the vehicles, making them more affordable and plentiful for everyone. The plug-ins increase fuel economy by 50%, significantly decrease emissions, and are capable of 20 miles worth of all-electric urban driving, according to Duncan.­view.cfm?section=article&storyid=866
Plugging for an Electric Transportation Sector
By Gene Zeltmann
New York Power Authority CEO and President urges development of electric hybrids.
June 26, 2005

Our nation consumes just over 19 million barrels of oil each day, 25 percent of the world total, and nearly 60 percent of that ends up as tailpipe exhaust from cars, trucks and buses. With oil production predicted to peak in five years -- and the number of vehicles on the road continuing to grow -- a Malthusian scenario emerges with clear implications for fuel prices and our economy in the years ahead. Still, we are assured by most experts that the internal combustion engine will be with us for some time to come. Consider that only 88,000 hybrid-electric vehicles were sold in the United States in 2004, accounting for about one-half of 1 percent of total vehicle sales. And this year, with gasoline prices at an all-time high, sales are forecast at around 200,000 hybrid cars, a significant increase, yet still just 1.7 percent of the overall car market.

Despite generous tax incentives offered by the federal government, and most states, including New York, J.D. Power Associates estimates that sales of these vehicles will not exceed 3 percent of the U.S. market by decade’s end, even with gasoline selling above $3 a gallon.

The reason for this peculiar state of affairs is economic: The price premium of $3,000 to $5,000 that consumers must pay for a hybrid vehicle does not in their minds, at least, offset the higher cost of gasoline.

But I believe the economics are about to change in the hybrid’s favor. At Governor Pataki’s direction, the New York Power Authority is funding research to demonstrate the feasibility of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Four plug-in prototypes of the popular hybrid version of the Dodge Sprinter van are to be manufactured by Daimler Chrysler and rolled out on America’s highways as early as this fall. The plug-in option will boost the already frugal gas mileage of the Dodge Sprinter hybrid by as much as 55 percent. For a passenger car, that would be equivalent to a range of between 100 and 150 miles a gallon on a single eight-hour charge. (Once the charge is spent, the car reverts to normal hybrid mode.)

This may or may not signal the ubiquity of plug-in hybrids in the future. But their potential – both to curb our oil addiction and provide major environmental benefits--is clear. And given other incentives, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more plug-in hybrids on the road.

In addition to significant fuel cost savings, virtually zero emissions and a vehicle with stored energy, the plug-in hybrid would be a boon to our economy and energy security as it is largely dependent not on foreign sources of oil but on domestic sources of electricity. This fuel is available from either the electric grid or from distributed generation, such as fuel cells.

One recent study found that if half of all vehicles were electric, we’d cut oil demand by 4 million barrels a day, or by about 40 percent of the current total. There were also significant economic effects, such as an improved balance of payments account, cleaner air, a vast increase in jobs and bigger gross domestic product.

Governor Pataki is even more optimistic than that. He thinks that 100-miles-per-gallon hybrid vehicles might be the norm as early as 2015. If true, we could conceivably cut oil demand in the transportation sector by 70 percent – and possibly even more.

More, because trucks would account for as much as 64 percent of all plug-in hybrid sales by then. And some experts think that, given current trends in the price of gasoline, there could be as many as 70 to 100 varieties of plug-in hybrid vehicles for sale by the middle of the next decade.

To make sure these predictions come to pass, Governor Pataki is now orchestrating a second phase of the demonstration project – arranging for a consortium of New York companies to put these vehicles in their corporate fleets, where their feasibility and benefits might be readily proven.

As our transportation and financial future is now presented in dark hues, this shows that it can also be presented in bright ones -- powered by clean, domestic sources of electricity.

Gene Zeltmann is Co-Chairman of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, President and CEO of the New York Power Authority and Chairman of the Electric Power Research Institute.

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