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Environmental Groups on PHEVs: Sierra/UCS/NRDC
Aug 31, 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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Plug-in hybrids are getting increasing attention from environmental groups that until now have been focusing largely on standard hybrids. Here are a few developments.

Sierra Club Radio­radio/­ interviewed
Plug-In Bay Area Coordinator Jodie Van Horn.
Here's the description:­sierra_club_radio/­2007/­08/­sierra-club-rad.html
and here's the downloadable mp3:­programs/­scr-2007-08-04.mp3

Sierra Magazine covered PHEVs briefly in March/April 2007­sierra/­200703/­lol.asp and PHEV schoolbuses in July-August 2007­sierra/­200707/­lol.asp

UCS's much-praised HybridCenter website has started to pay more attention to PHEVs. It hasn't addressed the shortcomings we've repeatedly pointed out -- see­calcars-news/­796.html -- but its news section now includes dispatches about PHEVs and EVs at­hybrid-center-hybrid-news-homepage.html and its timeline­hybrid-timeline.html includes developments at GM and Toyota.

The HybridCenter's latest newsletter at­driving_change/­driving-change-network-17.html contains this update: GM Aims to Lead PHEV Race: General Motors Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz is confident that a new battery development contract with A123Systems Inc. will help the automaker ready the Chevy Volt Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) for production by late 2010. The company anticipates an October 2007 delivery of the next-generation lithium-ion battery packs and beginning PHEV prototype road tests next spring. It is rumored that GM’s model will have twice the range of the 20 miles per charge PHEV planned by Toyota. To learn more, visit the Hybrid News Center.

NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL ADDS PHEVS to COSTA RICA AGENDA NRDC, which recently co-authored with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) the landmark study on the emissions and power generation impacts and benefits of plug-in hybrids­calcars-news/­797.html , is now starting to actively promote PHEVs. Some of the groundwork was laid by NRDC's affiliate, Environmental Entrepreneurs. In June 2006, E2 co-founder Bob Epstein co-authored a pioneering analysis showing that biofuels like ethanol were more effective when used as fuel for power plants than when burned directly in car engines. (See­calcars-news/­458.html for excerpts and links.)

Now NRDC, which has developed strong partnerships in Costa Rica as it aims to become completely carbon neutral, and which facilitated an E2 trip there, has included PHEVs as a key element in its 2-page roadmap at­international/­costa.pdf . Here are some excerpts from "Costa Rica: Setting the Pace for Reducing Global Warming Pollution and Phasing Out Oil."

"Global warming and heavy dependence on fossil fuels are two of the greatest threats facing humanity today. This administration will strongly advocate local, regional, and global action on climate change, including full support for the Kyoto Protocol, renewable energy, and greater fuel efficiency for vehicles." -- President Arias, Council of the Americas interview, November 24, 2006

President Arias has declared a goal of making Costa Rica the world’s first carbon neutral country, reducing net global warming emissions to zero. Offsetting current emissions through forest conservation and reforestation programs can help the country get there, but Costa Rica has the potential to do even more. Costa Rica is already a world leader in renewable energy use and tropical forest conservation, but the transport sector is entirely dependent on oil. By increasing investment in domestic renewable energy production and demand reduction strategies, Costa Rica could be the first fossil fuel­free country in the world. The time to act is now: Costa Rica should capitalize on the investor interest in clean technology and maximize the potential for rural development and jobs in new industries. NRDC recommends a suite of four key strategies that will help pave the way for Costa Rica to become a global pioneer in solving one of the biggest--and most urgent--challenges the world’s citizens face today.

Four key strategies for reducing global warming pollution in Costa Rica By investing in sustainable domestic energy strategies, Costa Rica can meet its energy needs without fossil fuels--diverting US$1 billion annually in oil imports--and reduce global warming pollution. NRDC recommends four strategies:

  • Increase energy efficiency in the electricity sector
  • Raise fuel economy standards and adopt plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)
  • Encourage production of biomass for electricity and transportation fuels
  • Increase the efficiency and use of public transport

Below is the full text of the second bullet:

Raising fuel economy standards and adopting plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Costa Rica’s transport sector--the single largest source of global warming pollution in the country--is dependent on imported oil, making it vulnerable to rising fuel prices and political pressure from oil exporters. In turn, this increases the demand to drill for oil domestically. NRDC recommends that the Costa Rican government set a baseline fuel economy standard and mandate annual increases. Increasing the fuel economy of light duty vehicles is the single most effective energy-saving policy the Costa Rican government could adopt. The technology already exists for many alternative vehicle and fuel solutions. The government should create economies of scale for plug-in electric vehicles by mandating their purchase by all government agencies. Incentives for cleaner vehicles--vehicles with high fuel economy and alternative fuel use capability--should also be instituted, and would pay for themselves in oil savings. If these cleaner vehicles were just 50 percent of the total vehicle fleet, oil consumption would be cut by almost half. Although the cost premium for cleaner vehicles may be seen as a challenge for consumers, Costa Ricans already pay more for diesel engine vehicles and through consumer education could learn the favorable return on investment of cleaner vehicles.

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