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California Leaps Ahead: PHEV Center: 100-Household Test; Early Driver Report; Air Resources Board Evolution
Nov 11, 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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Along with the race among carmakers for plug-in vehicles, in the absence of a major Congressional or Executive commitment, we're seeing an emerging regional initiatives: Texas, Washington, Illinois, NY, the Carolinas, Maryland/Delaware/DC, Colorado are all developing projects. And last week, at the world's first large conference on PHEVs in Winnipeg , Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia and the national government all showed signs of wanting Canada to get there first with demonstration fleets, incentives and other steps toward PHEV commercialization.

At the same time, PHEV plans and programs are popping up all over California! Corporations: Google is on board at , at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's campaign, executives (including the founder and a key investor in the $200M "Project Better Place" venture launched last week) are signing up to get cars. With the growing support among elected officials, PHEV advocates are gearing up to ensure that the just-enacted AB118's $120M/year for alternative fuel and clean-air technology is well spent. Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney-General Brown have gone to court to end the US EPA's stalling on a waiver so we can implement AB1493, the pioneering global warming law of 2002. We're still hoping the Governor will realize he can achieve his goals sooner and better with plugs than with hydrogen. (Maria Shriver loved seeing a PHEV in early 2007­photos-people ).

California's energy agencies, mandated to seek ways to reduce petroleum dependency and greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, increasingly recognize the near-term potential of PHEVs that use today's technology and infrastructure. In the roundup that follows, we describe two major steps forward; a new Energy Commission-sponsored PHEV Research Center with a pathbreaking academic study and a market test, and significant evolution at the Air Resources Board.

1. UC Davis PHEV Research Center description 2. Excerpts from speeches at the Center's launch event -- statements show notable advances in the depth of support for PHEVs. 3. A description of the Center's first study and our list of interesting findings. 4. An update on the status of California's ZEV program and a background article on that program. 5. The San Francisco Chronicle's report on the PHEV Center.

The State of California has begun to direct significant funding to PHEV-related projects. The new Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center­ at the University of California at Davis launched with $3M from the Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program plus $1.8M from the Air Resouces Board. "Its goals are to provide technology and policy guidance to the state, and to help solve research questions and address commercialization issues for PHEVs."

SORTING OUT THE INSTITUTIONS: The PHEV Research Center, part of the Institute for Transportation Studies (ITS) has a research focus. It's distinct from Prof. Andy Frank's Hybrid Electric Vehicle Center (a vehicle-design program which is also part of ITS). And it's separate from the UC Irvine Advanced Power and Energy Program and the UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies -- each of which just received one Toyota-converted prototype Prius PHEV for evaluation in partnership with the carmaker (Berkeley for customer experiences and Irvine for technical evaluation) -- see Toyota's detailed press release (including technical specs) at­articles/­show/­news_press_release,220740.shtml and Reuters report­article/­technologyNews/­idUKN0937759520071110 .

The new Davis center has launched with a bang, publishing the world's first study of PHEV drivers and conducting extended market and driving data studies, partnering with the American Automobile Association of Northern California to give 100 typical households PHEVs for two months. It's starting with one Hymotion/A123Systems conversion, to be followed early next year by nine second-generation Hymotion conversions -- redesigned, crash-tested with appropriate government approvals.

NO, YOU CAN"T VOLUNTEER! Davis and AANC have received hundreds of inquiries from early adopters eager to be part of the program. But this will be a rigorous, randomized academic study of consumer behavior and attitudes.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: The Center will be guided by representatives that so far include from GOVERNMENT: California Energy Commission, South Coast Air Quality Management District, US Department of Energy; AUTOMAKERS: Chrysler, Nissan (Ford recently joined); UTILITES: Sacramento Municipal, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric and the Electric Power Research Institute.

While the Council is all large institutions, the Center's staff has been in close communication with the "less official" community of PHEV advocates -- many listed at­partners.html -- and future cooperative efforts are possible.


PHEVs are one of the promising ways we can reach that goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 80%. UC Davis has a long history with PHEVs: Dr Andy Frank here has been working on them for 30 years, showing everybody that this vehicle is a practical and possible technology that we can move forward with. Our research at the Center will answer key questions about how PHEVs will fit with consumer lifestyles and preferences, how Californians will use them, how they will it fit in the marketplace. We're studying how vehicle technologies will work here, including the batteries and detailed analysis of the environmental benefits.

We have Initial findings from our first study, the PHEV Innovator Study. This was the first consumer research study conducted on actual PHEV drivers -- on how these pioneers have been using their vehicles, when and where they charge, the benefits they felt PHEVs have for them, and enhancements they'd like to see on PHEVs in the future.

In 2005 we put into our Energy Strategy Report the fact that PHEVs showed a great promise in California's future, against the advice of most people. We gambled, we won, because look what's happened in the last two years with regard to plug-in hybrid vehicles.

So it particularly pleases us that we were able to fund the Center here, participate in its activities and see the delivery of these vehicles. Tom mentioned Andy Frank. I've known him for almost all those 30 years. He has been persistent, almost to a fault sometimes, in his support of this technology and I'm glad he's around to see his efforts rewarded and us moving forward with this kind of technology.

The Energy Commission is committed to funding energy research and commercialization efforts that we think will pay dividends to the people of CA. That goes hand in glove with the passage of all the legislation in CA, AB32, AB1007 and now AB118 that was just put into law by the Governor, which will provide both my Agency and the Air Resources Board with funding to help facilitate even more work on alternative fuels and alternative vehicle technologies.

I challenge the federal government to help match the kind of progress that California has shown that it can do. This is the beginning of a very good relationship regarding an old form of transportation fuel that once again we see will be extremely viable in the future.

ANDREW TANG, SENIOR DIRECTOR, THE SMART ENERGY WEB AT PG&E In this new energy economy, we see the utility sector, the transportation sector and the technology sector all converging to meet our country's energy needs in a carbon-constrained environment.

We understand that realizing the ultimate vision in unleashing the potential opportunity and benefits that this really provides to consumers is going to require significant partnerships with people like UC Davis and with commercial enterprises. Earlier this year we partnered with Google to demonstrate V2G at their Mountain View headquarters, and we're currently in a research partnership with Tesla Motors to test the ancillary grid benefits and what we call smart charging technology. And today we're very excited to be partnered here with the UC Davis PHEV Research Center.

Through collaboration, our economy may someday be driven by electric cars, reducing our dependence on carbon-based fuels and helping to reduce CO2 emissions. Think about it. Today over 50% of the electricity that PG&E delivers to our customers comes from carbon-free sources. If we can replace petroleum with electricity, we really stand a chance to have a very significant impact on climate change. However, in order for this vision to happen, there needs to be widespread adoption of PHEVs.

We first got wind of how important this was when we brought the subject up to our 4.5 million members, and we found they were really overwhelmingly interested in alternative fuel vehicles, in particular in getting practical advice about them from us. We've created a Greenlight Initiative in response to what all our members across California have been asking for from us.

We've already converted our fleet vehicles to hybrid, and this is the nest step for us -- getting these hybrids plugged in. And it's also the next step for getting out the next kind of practical kind of advice and experience to our members in terms of getting our members involved with the study so they can drive these vehicles for eight weeks and begin to make the leap, which is really what our mission is, to get people to think, "Well, I could do this, I could drive a hybrid, I could drive a plug-in, it's really not that different, and it has a practical application in my life." This is the next logical step. It's very exciting, We've had a groundswell from our members, and were really looking forward to taking it to the next step by plugging it in.

We encourage anyone interested in real-life experiences of hybrid
drivers to read this first-of-its-kind 32-page report, "Driving
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles: Reports from U.S. Drivers of HEVs
converted to PHEVs, circa 2006-07," by Dr. Kenneth S. Kurani,
Associate Researcher, Dr. Reid R. Heffner, Senior Analyst, Dr. Thomas
S. Turrentine, Director.

ABSTRACT: This report examines early users' experiences with plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). At the time this study was conducted in winter and spring of 2007, PHEVs were not yet commercialized. Still, Americans were becoming aware of PHEVs and 25 to 30 vehicles converted from hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) to PHEVs were on the road. In interviews with 23 drivers of these vehicles we explored how they used and recharged their vehicles. We also discussed their recommendations for future PHEV designs, and investigated how they think about PHEVs, including the benefits and drawbacks they perceive. While today's PHEV drivers may not represent either mainstream American car buyers now or future buyers of PHEVs, their behavior and viewpoints offer clues about how PHEVs will be received and used by other consumers and may shape both the PHEV technologies offered in the future and the reasons why future consumers value PHEVs.

OUR ROLE AND REACTION: CalCars helped identify drivers to be interviewed; we ourselves participated as subjects; and we welome this first documentation the impact of actual PHEVs. The study is unusually broad -- written by an anthropologist, a consumer researcher and an MBA, it highlights psychological and linguistic themes as well as technical and practical issues.

It also provides automakers with free market research we hope will help them design cars that succeed in the marketplace! CalCars intends to find ways to organize the experience of the increasing number of drivers and owners of PHEVs in ways that will contribute to those goals. (At­where-phevs-are.html we list 67 passenger vehicle PHEVs; we're working to get data on the other 50-75 we know about for that list (the Google Map version currently lags the list by about 25 entries).


  • 23 drivers, 75% of whom had previous experience driving battery-electric vehicles (so an unusual group!)
  • 15 vehicles, 8 by EnergyCS, 2 by Hymotion, 5 through the EAA-PHEV "do-it-yourself" community at .
  • Designers need to consider that All-Electric Range (AER), especially at least 20 miles, is associated with images of a positive future.
  • Statistics about average commuter distance may not be an effective way to estimate PHEV market demand.
  • Full instrumentation and informative display have symbolic importance and trains drivers.
  • The exciting "100+MPG" experience has emotional importance and meanings to drivers; high MPG most epitomizes how people see PHEVs.
  • Consumers have complex expectations about range and motivations for when they recharge.
  • The "idea" of saving money is more compelling than actual calculations of payback among buyers of PHEVs (or HEVs).
  • Conversions have build high expectations; limited availability has led to frustrations directed at automakers.
  • Home emergency power may be seen as a major secondary benefit of PHEVs.

At­research see the Center's research plans and find a link to this report:

Though the ZEV Mandate is a bare shadow of its original form, it continues to evolve. The regulations are almost impossible for non-insiders to understand -- let alone comment on. In recent years, the regulations were repeatedly modified especially to placate carmakers that didn't want to build plug-in cars and gradually obtained credits for building hybrid cars and small numbers of high-priced fuel-cell prototypes. The California Electric Transporation Coalition (CalETC, formed by the state's largest utilities), groups like Plug In America and the ZEV Alliance (a coalition of health, environmental and public interest groups) have been working to change that direction, and last year the ARB held a Technology Symposium to evaluate the future direction of the program (see our multiple reports in CalCars-News).

GOOD BACKGROUND INTRODUCTION: In addition to the narratives in the film, "Who Killed the Electric Car" and the book by Sherry Boschert, "Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars that Will Recharge America," learn about the ZEV regulations in an excellent piece of reporting, "California to Rule On Fate of EVs," by Peter Fairley, published in the November issue of the IEEE Spectrum. The article begins, "EVs Will Be Back: California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger talks up his states's zero-emission vehicles program." The report starts with details on Phoenix Motorcars' plans for selling ZEV credits to automakers (which we have been told the company is now downplaying as a strategy). Halfway through, we read,

But battery EV proponents say that thanks to today's climate -- economic, political, and atmospheric--some consumers are ready to trade range for a car that costs less to run and produces less pollution. CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols agrees. "People are willing to take a chance on a car that doesn't necessarily do everything the old Taurus used to do," she says. Nichols says she is especially bullish about plug-in hybrids -- which could be good news for that technology's backers if it translates into new policy.

The Spectrum text is at­nov07/­5657 and
you can see the graphic pages at­IEEESM1107/­default.aspx?pg=12&mode=2 (click
on the pages to enlarge and read them online). And you can read more
about it at the PlugsAndCars blog,­2007/­11/­ieee-will-carb-take-part-in-plug-in-car.html

Since the departure of Executive Officer Catherine Witherspoon, Tom Cackette, Chief Deputy Executive Officer, who has been at ARB since 1982, served in that role until the the recent appointment of James Goldstene. At Friday's handover by Toyota of two Priuses, Cackette said, "Vehicles like this are advantageous because they don't require infrastructure like you find are needed for other alternative-fuel vehicles....You can plug them into any regular outlet to charge, and you're ready to go, so there's no (fuel) stations or special sites needed to make them practicable." (Long Beach Press Telegram report­news/­ci_7422623 )

NEW ARB STAFF REPORT JUST RELEASED: On November 9, the Air Resources Board staff released its latest proposed modifications of the ZEV regulations to begin to level a playing field which currently, for instance, gives fuel cell vehicles a 10x credit advantage over an electric vehicle. They're a mixture of promising improvements stemming from the long-awaited recognition of the need to modify the regulations to take into account the likelihood that PHEVs and EVs will supplant fuel-cell cars in automakers' development plans, plus disappointing continuation of previous unproductive concessions to automakers. The nine-page document proposes a new "Silver+" credit category for PHEVs and hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines (which have been called "the worst of both worlds"). Read a report and comments at Green Car Congress,­2007/­11/­california-arb-.html .

STAFF DESCRIPTION: The Air Resources Board has posted a new concept paper outlining proposed amendments to the zero emission vehicle or ZEV regulation. In developing the new proposals, staff started with the range of proposed amendments heard at the July 24, 2007 workshop, and considered comments received at the workshop and in dozens of subsequent meetings with affected stakeholders. To access the concept paper, or for more information about the ZEV Program visit the following web site link:­msprog/­zevprog/­zevreview/­zevreview.htm Staff invites your comments on these proposals in writing or through individual meetings. In order to inform our regulatory process, we request that comments be submitted or meetings be conducted by November 26, 2007.

100 California households to test super-high-mileage hybrid cars Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer­cgi-bin/­article.cgi?f=/­c/­a/­2007/­10/­30/­BAUIT3FBN.DTL&tsp=1

One hundred Northern California households will be given the use of experimental, plug-in hybrid cars next year in the first widespread consumer testing of the super-high-mileage vehicles in the nation, under a program announced Tuesday by UC Davis transit planners and an auto club.

The households, to be chosen from the ranks of more than 4 million members of AAA of Northern California, will each have an eight-week loan of a Toyota Prius converted to run on batteries that are twice as powerful as those originally installed by the automaker.

The cars can easily get 100 miles per gallon on their combined power from electric motors and gasoline engines. They also spew out far fewer environment-harming emissions than even conventional hybrid cars.

"This is the first large consumer study of plug-in hybrids," said Tom Turrentine, director of the Plug-In Hybrid Center at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. "We're the advance guard of putting a lot of these (cars) in households." The program is scheduled to start in the spring of 2008.

Plug-in hybrids are in their infancy - perhaps 50 of them are in fleets maintained by utility companies, universities and other organizations - and so far there has been no large testing of how they work in everyday use.

Normal hybrids use a combination of electric and gasoline power to eke out better mileage than gasoline-only cars, largely by having the electric motor take over in situations where the car does not require much power, such as crawling down a city street or in a freeway traffic jam. The electric power is created by on-board generators and regenerative braking, freeing the car from the leash of a power cord and hours of recharging that purely electric cars required.

Plug-in advocates say the converted hybrids constitute the best of all worlds: By equipping the car with more powerful batteries and then letting them recharge overnight, the next day's journey can be done mostly on electric power, saving the car's gasoline engine for more stressful situations such as zooming onto a freeway or for long-distance travel.

The downside of plug-in hybrids, critics say, is that the converted cars, by using household electricity for daily recharging, are simply sucking more energy from the already polluting coal-fired power grid, and that in the long run this is just as bad for the environment as having a gasoline-only car.

Turrentine conceded that the United States "should clean up its coal-fired plants," but said that in states such as California, which gets much of its power from cleaner sources such as hydroelectric plants, plug-in hybrids will only help.

The 10 Priuses to be used in the test are being turned into plug-ins by Pat's Garage, a San Francisco firm that has been doing such conversions for several years. Each car costs about $15,000 to convert. The program is being funded by the California Energy Commission and the state Air Resources Board.

Driving a plug-in Prius is much like driving a normal one. The major difference is that the car is more silent than a conventional hybrid because its electric motor is whirring away far more often than the gasoline engine.

"We're going to be interviewing households every week," Turrentine said. "We want to know how people respond to the car. Are they excited because it is cheaper (to operate)? Are they excited because they are saving the world?"

The guidelines for choosing test households are pretty simple: The program is seeking people who have a garage, carport or parking place with a nearby 110-volt outlet and who will not only be willing to plug in their hybrids every night but will remember to do it. Turrentine also said they will be seeking people with daily roundtrip commutes from 20 to about 120 miles.

He said the type of households chosen for the plug-in exercise will have different lifestyles - "it could range from a typical American family to a young urban dweller to a retired couple living in Tahoe."

UC Davis officials said AAA plans to select program participants from the association's member rolls, rather than open it up to volunteers.

AAA senior vice president Alexandra Morehouse said her organization got involved because "our members are overwhelmingly interested in alternative-fuel vehicles. Our mission (in this program) is to get people to think, 'I could drive a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. It's not that different, and it could be part of my life.' "

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