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PHEVs in the Media: Bay Area/National Round-Up
Jul 30, 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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We're working to catch up on media coverage, so this report doesn't include the past few days of news and analyses. But some of these, including multiple stories in the San Francisco Bay Area, are worth checking out!

Toyota Video | Toyota Display |
Slashdot/Engadget/Jalopnik/Daily Green | San
Francisco Chronicle | San Jose Mercury News |
Industry Week | Southern CA Public Radio | Wall
Street Journal | Denmark TV | A correction by
Prof. Andy Frank to a previous posting

See Toyota's under two-minute video showing its Plug-in HV at­jp/­tech/­environment/­phv/­conference/­driving_300.wmv

UK Battery Vehicle Society's "Toyota Have Finally Done It" has a good close-up photo of the Toyota display showing the car plugging in.­wordpress/­?p=216&sid=

Slashdot, the Open Source cornucopia, generated over 500 comments from Friday night to Monday morning for a posting, "Toyota Unveils Plug-in Hybrid Prius" <­­07/­27/­2312257­­07/­27/­2312257 Engadget, the popular blog, reports "Toyota set to test new plug-in hybrid vehicle"­2007/­07/­25/­toyota-set-to-test-new-plug-in-hybrid-vehicle Jalopnik reports, "It's Electric! It's Official, Toyota Testing Plug-In Hybrid In Japan­search/­plug-in%20hybrid

Daily Green, "the consumer's guide to the green revolution" is a new website from Hearst Media. Jim Motavalli, veteran auto columnist and editor of e/The Environmental Magazine, launches his blog, "Driving Directions: Getting There Green," with " Plugging in the Future With New Hybrid Cars"­2007/­07/­26/­plugging-in-the-future/­4273


SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE ran one page one report, followed by two stories on page one of the B (local) section.

CLEANER FUTURE? PLUG IN - Electric hybrid cars hold promise of slashing greenhouse gases, by Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle, 07/20/07­cgi-bin/­article.cgi?f=/­c/­a/­2007/­07/­20/­MNGT7R3OH81.DTL This long story, the day after the EPRI-NRDC study was released, included large PHEV graphics on the Friday paper's front page, photos of Felix Kramer with his car and Ron Gremban working on a battery pack. Quotes included:

  • "The studies finally give an environmental stamp of approval" to plug-in vehicles, said Felix Kramer, founder of, which promotes electric hybrids. "Scientist have confirmed that unlike gasoline cars, plug-ins will get cleaner as they get older -- because our power grid is getting cleaner."
  • "It shows the next generation of hybrid vehicle technology will reduce both global warming pollution and conventional air pollution in most parts of the United States ... particularly if we are conscientiously taking steps to clean up the power grid," said Dan Lashof, science director at the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center.
  • John Bryson, chairman and CEO of Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison... said he sees huge environmental benefits from plug-in hybrids, especially in California, where 40 percent of greenhouse gases are emitted by cars and trucks. "What we are talking about here is potentially a very, very, large effect" on emissions, Bryson said.
  • GM's Tony Posawatz, who heads the vehicle line for the Chevy Volt and attended the announcement of the study, said his bosses are committed to producing the Volt and other electric hybrids on a mass scale. But he would not commit to a firm date or say how much the car would cost. "We believe that this is the future," he said. "The potential for plug-ins is tremendous."­cgi-bin/­article.cgi?f=/­c/­a/­2007/­07/­21/­BAG08R4M7E1.DTL PLUG-IN HYBRIDS - Making green cars greener costs a bundle - With $24,000 add-on, plug-in Toyota Prius is mostly for rich, Michael Taylor, San Francisco Chronicle, 07/21/07. The follow-up story the next day on the front page of the B section highlights Hybrids-Plus of Colorado, currently the only after-market company selling not just to fleets but to individuals (at $24-$32K to convert the car the individual provides). It quotes Sven Thesen, a supervisor in the Clean Transportation Program at Pacific Gas and Electric Co., about the experience driving "Sparky," PG&E's converted Prius. And the story says, At the California Air Resources Board, they're just as cautious about plug-ins as they are at Toyota. "We think there's a definite role in the future for plug-in hybrids, but there are still some hurdles to overcome in developing a battery that will last the life of the vehicle," said board spokeswoman Karen Caesar. "Today they are still considered experimental. We are not encouraging people to disassemble their Priuses to turn them into plug-ins."­cgi-bin/­article.cgi?f=/­c/­a/­2007/­07/­26/­BAGJPR75VB1.DTL&hw=calcars&sn=003&sc=395 CALIFORNIA - UC to street-test 2 plug-in hybrid Toyota Priuses, by Michael Taylor, San Francisco Chronicle, 07/26/07 The following Thursday, the Chronicle reported on Toyota's plans to start a small pilot PHEV Prius program. The story includes:

  • "This is absolutely the first step of a major manufacturer in putting plug-ins on the road," said Felix Kramer, founder of the California Cars Initiative, a Bay Area plug-in hybrid advocacy group. "It forces every single carmaker to figure out what it's going to do. It means the race is really on."
  • Susan Shaheen, a research director at UC Berkeley's Institute of Transportation Studies, will supervise the testing of one of the plug-in Priuses. Institute staffers, faculty members and students, along with employees of some local businesses, will take the altered Prius through its paces to see how it performs in the everyday world -- the trip to the grocery store, the run down to San Jose for a business meeting...."I'll look at the response of users to plug-in technology, see how they (deal with) refueling and charging, to get a sense of how different this is from (using) a traditional internal combustion engine car or a gas-hybrid vehicle," Shaheen said. "And I will definitely get to drive this car, I hope." The second and third stories both point to for more information, and both include reader comments.


Toyota working with University of California on plug-in hybrids By Matt Nauman, Mercury News, 07/25/2007­business/­ci_6459228

  • The prototypes, based on the current generation of the gas-electric Prius hybrid but with bigger battery packs, will go to UC-Berkeley's Institute of Transportation and UC-Irvine's Advanced Power and Energy Program. "I think it's significant because this is the first automaker plug-in hybrid" to be studied, said Susan Shaheen, a Berkeley researcher. "It's not a conversion." In Berkeley, Shaheen is one of two researchers who will use the vehicle, plus a $750,000 grant from the California Air Resources Board and the state's Energy Commission, to study plug-in hybrids.
  • CalCars, a Palo Alto-based backer of the technology, says its converted plug-in Prius models achieve the equivalent of more than 100 miles per gallon. "For people looking for the most effective way to end our addiction to oil, PHEVs have made sense because carmakers can build them now, with today's technology and using today's infrastructure," said Felix Kramer, CalCars' founder.
  • "We see this pilot project as a significant step in the advancement of the technology," said Dave Illingworth, Toyota Motor Sales senior vice president, said in a statement.
  • Every Car I Drive, blog by Matt Nauman Plug-in hybrid race gets early kick­blogs/­nauman/­2007/­07/­25/­toyota-california-universities-will-study-plug-in-hybrids Toyota: California Universities Will Study Plug-In Hybrids Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

  • Susan Shaheen, a UC-Berkeley researcher, said she's still figuring out the methodology for the studies into how people react to PHEVs, but that she anticipates using travel diaries, logs, surveys and other tools. It's likely, she said, that this means real people will get some seat time "exactly who, I don't know," she said. Her 2-year, $750,000 grant will be shared with Tim Lipman, who will study more technological issues including energy usage and impact upon the environment.
  • Jaycie Chitwood, a Toyota senior strategic planner, told me that the company will have a few of the prototype plug-in hybrids, too, here in the U.S. in addition to those going to Berkeley and Irvine. In Japan, they'll have eight others. The vehicles are being built in Japan, too. Finally, I asked her if talking about this stage of the research puts more pressure on Toyota to deliver the vehicles sooner. "There's a little bit more pressure the more visible we are, but we do need this real-world data. It's little bit of catch 22,'' she said.
  • Nauman also filed a report that the Prius is now the top-selling car in the 11-county San Francisco Bay Area, with 5.4% of total sales, surpassing the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic and Accord and Toyota Corolla:­ci_6420656. The Bay Area joins five states in the Pacific Northwest where the Prius is now the top-sellig car (see our report at­calcars-news/­762.html).

    The influential magazine Industry Week reports on the EPRI-NRDC report­ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=14647

    KPCC ran a good report on PHEVs -- excerpts below:
    "California Provides Outlet for Plug-in Hybrids,"
    by Molly Peterson, July 26, 2007­news/­stories/­2007/­07/­26/­00_plugin_hybrids_07260.html

    Molly Peterson: A couple of weeks ago, Southern California Edison president John Bryson stood proudly before a gaggle of reporters, waving what he said may be the next big car accessory: a thick orange extension cord. John Bryson: The future needs to be as simple as this plug. Someday we believe millions of Americans will fill up their vehicles at the plug instead of the pump saving money and protecting the environment. Peterson: Bryson announced a plan with Ford to develop 20 hybrid electric cars that'll charge up in standard 120 volt outlets. The utility's recruiting Southland consumers as test pilots.

    Peterson: Then last week a new study came out, sponsored by environmental and electric nonprofits. The result: even with a mix of power sources, and even if only 20 percent of Americans drove plug-in hybrids, greenhouse gas emissions would drop by at least 163 million tons a year. These developments were music to the ears of... James Woolsey: ...the tree-huggers, the do-gooders, the sod-busters, the cheap hawks, and the evangelicals...

    Peterson: Kramer heads an advocacy group called, and so he got a Southern California company to take out the standard issue self-charging battery in his Prius and install a bunch of lithium ion ones the same kind computers use. Kramer: Conceptually, people have been tinkering with cars in California especially for a long time, and we think that what we're doing is green tuning.

    Peterson: Charging a seven kilowatt battery pack overnight can cost $.50 in L.A., and can yield more than 100 miles per gallon. Miguel Pulido, the mayor of Santa Ana, loves that about his plug-in; that and the usual hybrid amenities. Miguel Pulido: See how silent it is? Nobody knows when I'm leaving 'cause I just float away. Peterson: Pulido, who studied mechanical engineering, also sits on the board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Regional air boards like his can't regulate auto emissions, he said, but severe air pollution makes them part of the debate. Pulido: We at the air district are very frustrated because we think we have solutions, certainly things that ought to be tried, that ought to be supported, that ought to be attempted, so even if we're wrong, we can address that learning curve and try to move things forward.

    Peterson: South Coast has been demonstrating plug-ins and electric cars for years. Pulido said that shows the state air board what's possible. The state air board overhauled its Zero Emission Vehicle program four years ago under fire from the auto industry. Now, as technology has evolved, the state agency will review its regulations again. The Zero Emission program's manager, Tony Andreoni, said caution is the watchword. Tony Andreoni: In our workings we try to really stay more neutral and say, "The technologies are going to be there, they're going to be used; let's see when they can actually take advantage of really reducing the emissions."

    Peterson: The air board will take on regulations under a hotter public glare than during the 1970s, when California got a waiver from federal law to install smog-cutting catalytic converters in cars first. Jack Rosebro of the Green Car Congress said the buzz around plug-ins makes this state's consumers a strong market force. Jack Rosebro: When catalytic converters were proposed, we're talking about one small component. And if I remember right, car companies went to Congress and said, we will go out of business if this is put in. Now we're talking about a much bigger change. So we have to have much bigger pressures.

    Peterson: Automakers exert pressure of their own. Like lobbying the Energy Department to kick in for battery research and development. The federal government's still working out how much of that to do. General Motors and Toyota do say they'll race to plug in to the market. But most other manufacturers even the ones trying to develop the cars, like Ford are still holding out on commitment. Ford Motor's Sue Cischke: Sue Cischke: There isn't any one answer, and so we're betting on all these technologies with the idea that whatever we can drive down and make affordable to the consumer, that will win.

    Peterson: The odds of the bet keep changing. Just this week, Toyota announced plans to test manufactured plug-in hybrids on the road in Japan and start leasing them there soon.

    THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, which missed the Google RechargeIT launch, the Southern California Edison-Ford announcement and the EPRI-NRDC report (except for passing mention in its Energy Roundup BlogRoll), ran a brief story, Toyota to Test Plug-in Electric Hybrids, By YOSHIO TAKAHASHI, July 26, 2007, including: When the company will be able to market the vehicle "depends on when we can succeed in developing batteries" that are smaller and more efficient than current ones, said Masatami Takimoto, an executive vice president with Toyota.­article/­SB118538875541177827.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    DENMARK Thanks to Pia Jacobsen in Copenhagen for translating ""50 kilometers a Liter!," a story that appeared on DR TV, in video and online reports on one of the two largest national TV stations in Denmark.­Nyheder/­Penge/­2007/­07/­18/­20070718103215.htm. Here are some excerpts [50KM/Liter is actually about 117 MPG]:
    - Cars could be so much better than they are now, I think. The drivers do want better and more energy efficient cars, so why can't we have them? If we show the way, we can go to the car industry and say build them for us!, Felix Kramer told DR.
    - Twice the range a Liter: In faster or longer fares, the electric motor and the gas motor cooperate. This results in a gas economy of more than 43 km/l, twice as far as a standard Prius. Felix Kramer himself drives around 50 km/l in his daily car routine, and as most other people he seldom drives more than a daily 40 kilometers.
    - The electricity bill will of course rise, as the battery is recharged by the regular electricity network, but even with the low American gas prices it costs Felix Kramer less than a third to drive on electricity.
    - Cars can store electricity: Apart from the wonderful mileage a liter the plug-in hybrids can, if they become popular, reshape the consumption pattern of electricity. As cars are parked 20 hours a day, they can become decentralized electricity storage for the electricity networks. For example all the wind power can be produced and stored by night in car batteries and used during the day, when the consumption is at its highest, says Felix Kramer.

    Finally, a correction, from Prof. Andy Frank, to our July 20 posting "Report: PHEV from Toyota Within a Month? More Unclear Specifics..."­calcars-news/­800.html, where we said, "Three years earlier, in 2003, Toyota flew an SUV, the Ford Explorer PHEV built by UC Davis students and Prof. Andy Frank, to its research HQ for a look." Andy clarifies: The car was a Mercury sable that was flown to Europe then to Japan. The car got 58 mpg on gasoline only and over 200 mpg if calculated like the current PHEV Priuses. Also it has 60 miles AER [all-electric range] on the EPA driving city cycle.

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