Monday, November 03, 2008

PIP Declares Victory

It's pretty rare when you get to declare victory and bring the troops home. And those of us at Plug in Partners are grateful to our partners and friends who have made this announcement not just possible, but in a very real sense, a reality. Here's the press release:


In January 2006, Austin Energy launched the national Plug-In Partners campaign, a grassroots effort to demonstrate to automakers that there is sufficient demand to support the mass production of flexible-fuel plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

The Plug-In Partners national campaign was a natural fit for the Austin community, which has a long history of achievement on the energy and environmental fronts.

We concluded as a community that there were three key reasons for Austin to take the lead in this national program.

First, were economics. The supply of inexpensive oil is running out. That will require a transition to less expensive transportation fuels.

Second, was environmental. Automobile pollutants are one of the largest contributors to climate changing emissions.

And third, was national security. The obvious need to curb dependence on foreign oil grows daily.

PHEVs allow for optimization of readily available clean-energy resources and represent a sustainable transportation solution that can be delivered today. The fuel infrastructure is already in place. The operational technology has been perfected and the battery technology is maturing. PHEVs address all needs. They reduce emissions, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the upward pressures on gasoline costs.

Automakers are now on board. Most have advertised their intentions to bring PHEVs to the market –some as early as next year.

The Chevy Volt, a plug-in electric car, will have the battery power to take most American drivers to and from work every day without using any gasoline at all. The vehicle will be recharged at night, plugged into a standard home outlet.

Toyota also is developing a plug-in hybrid, expected on the road by 2010. Ford, Chrysler, Volvo Nissan, Subaru and VW have all indicated they will be bringing plug-in hybrids to the showroom floor for sale within the next few years.

The Plug-In Partners effort over the last three years that enlisted 631 partners, signed up 38,312 petitions and made 11,333 soft purchase orders and participated with outreach and educational efforts in over 88 conferences and expositions has been a critical success.
The City of Austin and Austin Energy have played an important role in moving our nation forward with a practical inexpensive short-term solution to our transportation fuel problem."

To make this announcement even more timely, the first real Plug in Hybrid was unveiled in China last week. The BYD F3DM will land in showrooms at the end of the month. It’s expected to cost roughly 150,000 yuan ($22,000), and go as far as 70 miles (110 kilometers) on electricity when fully charged.

Parent company BYD Co.—it stands for “Build Your Dreams”—claims to supply 65 percent of the world’s nickel-cadmium batteries, and 30 percent of its lithium ion mobile phone batteries. In September, fabled investor Warren Buffett bought a 10 percent stake in BYD for $230 million."

BYD plans to sell cars in Europe and the US by 2010... the year that the Volt should arrive in showrooms.

Although this site will no longer be the official blog of the National Plug in Hybrid Campaign, we'll still keep it up and post new developments in the plug in hybrid world, so, if you haven't bookmarked it already, do so, and stay in touch.

Thanks to you all of you, and thank you Partners,

Something's happening here,

And we helped make it that way.

News Summary I


editors note: Check out the links, they include a wide variety of PHEV stories since our last post.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008


When we started the Plug In Partner initiative, our primary objective was to create a nationwide campaign to urge automakers to accelerate development of plug-in hybrid vehicles. But our goal was to see them manufacturered and in the show rooms.

As stated at the opening press conference by Austin's Mayor Will Wynn in January, 2006, “Plug-in hybrids represent a real near-term solution to America’s over-reliance on foreign oil imports and energy prices that escalate the cost of everything and threaten the very economic life of our nation,”

“The technology exists today,” Wynn says. “This campaign will demonstrate to automakers that the market is also there.”

Now, even as Volvo, Mitsubushi, and Volkswagen join the list of PHEV development announcements of most major automotive manufacturers, an important milestone is reached. And it comes as GM reaches its 100th year. Here's a personal look from Popular Mechanics.

GM Finally Unveils Production Chevy Volt
Popular Mechanics
By Larry Webster
September 16, 2008

After 100 years of making cars, it's party time at the General's house. And despite decades of past innovations and triumphs from General Motors, the guest of honor at today's GM Centennial bash here is a car that won't be in showrooms for at least two years: the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. After generating mountains of buzz since the Volt's debut as a concept 21 months ago, Chevy finally took the wraps off the production version of the car this morning.

GM’s 100th anniversary party so far has been nothing but a stage for the Chevy Volt, but we’ve been able to eke out some details from engineers here on its propulsion technology, sale price and that oh-so-iPod-esque interior. “We think the Volt will stay the test of time," said Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the plug-in car unveiled in production form here today.

“And the beauty of the proportions and the architecture is that there’s the potential for other body designs to be dropped on it." Yes, GM brass are already openly talking about spreading the Volt’s powertrain to other vehicles. What kind of vehicle might follow the Volt is undecided, but a look at the architecture reveals just how easy that might be.

The Volt’s battery pack is shaped like a T with the vertical leg running longitudinally between the seats and the crossbar just behind the rear chairs. Under the hood, there’s the usual gas engine, but on the driver’s side, engineers have managed to package the 150-hp electric motor and its related controls.

So all of the mechanical bits fit in a conventional engine bay, and structurally the Volt is the same as any car based on GM’s new Global Small-Car Architecture. In other words, Volt offspring are all but guaranteed at this point. (We’ve already heard about a potential Volt-based Pontiac.)

But don’t call them hybrids. “The first comment I have to make is I hope I don’t see any headline in the future connecting the Volt to the hybrid segment," said Frank Weber, the car’s chief engineer. “The Volt is not a hybrid, and it’s not a plug-in hybrid. It’s creating a new vehicle called an extended-range electric vehicle." clip

Then there’s the interior, which we learned is also well along its development cycle and very close to its final form. That center stack with looks akin to an iPod with button-free, capacitive-touch technology. While the navigation system will be optional, all Volts will have two screens, one main gauge panel and another on top of the center stack. And of course, those screens will be completely configurative.

In person, the Volt is far sleeker and more attractive than the early pictures suggested. In fact, you could say that styling-wise, it’s on par with the Cadillac CTS.

The five-door body shell is similar to the Prius, but to these eyes, it’s a tick more aggressive—and frankly far more appealing. The gently sloping rear hatch opens to a roomy luggage compartment and the to the rear of the back seats. " more

Whether or not the lines of the Volt appeal to your sense of design or not, the point of bringing these details is this. With this unvealing, a true plug in hybrid with electric seats, windows, and ipod interior and controls is now set to be in Chevrolet showrooms just two years from now, only five years after this campaign was kicked off.

Another goal of the campaign was to create a legislative environment which helped buyers make the jump to this new revolution in transportation. And, with the passing of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, a credit for the early purchase of plug-in electric drive vehicles is now law.

Credit Amount/Criteria: Plug-in electric drive vehicles with batteries of at least 4 kWh qualify for a $2,500 credit. An additional $417 is provided for each additional kWh, up to $7,500 for vehicles up to 10, 000 lbs. Vehicles up to 14,000 lbs qualify for a $10,000 credit. Vehicles between 14,000 and 26,000 lbs qualify for a $12,500 credit. Vehicles over 26,000 lbs qualify for a $15,000 credit.

Phase-out: The credit begins to phase out after 250,000 qualifying vehicles are sold in the U.S.

So in the course of a couple of weeks, we now have a car, and we have a law that rewards early adopters.

We'll have a Volt in Austin on October 17th and 18th at the Austin Alt Car Conference.

Come Join Us and see the good you've done.

Join Plug In Partners today

Sign the On Line Petition

News Summary I


editors note: Check out the links, they include a wide variety of PHEV stories since our last post.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Plug-in Manufacturers Grow

It wasn't that long ago that I remember a Chrysler ad that bragged about how its new Charger, with the big V 8, was a hybrid... it burned gas and rubber. Now, the very ungreen Chrysler is changing its tune. Might was well, especially when your competition is well into the second verse of a very different song.

In the last few weeks, not only has Chrysler made announcements, so has Mazda, Hyundai, and Nissan.

Here's the Mazda story thanks to Autocar:

August 28, 2008

Autocar has learned that Mazda engineers are hard at work trying to develop a rival to the Chevrolet Volt – a car which uses a petrol engine to charge a battery pack which powers the wheels via an electric motor.

Senior sources say that trials are currently underway in Japan, with a prototype that uses a rotary engine to charge the battery pack. The tests are sufficiently advanced that Mazda has a working prototype in a Mazda 5 MPV bodyshell. Company bosses are said to be keen to put this system into production but no firm decisions will be made until the cost of batteries is reduced." more

And here is the announcement from Hyundai as reported in Wired:

Hyundai Going Electric With Hybrids and Plug-Ins
By Keith Barry
September 01, 2008

Hyundai's been making so many announcements about electric vehicles and hybrids lately you'd think it was ZAP. The Korean automaker's promised to put a hybrid subcompact, a hybrid mid-size and a plug-in competitor to the Chevrolet Volt on the road within five years. There's even some speculation at least one of them could be stamped "Made in the USA." clip

The Japanese dominate battery tech these days, but Hyundai says the Koreans could catch up by 2013 -- at which point the company hopes to put a plug-in hybrid on the road. Korean automakers are spending nearly $1 billion on battery tech, and the government has kicked in $40 million.

We'll see the first of the Hyundais to use that technology in November. more

And here is the Nissan story:

Nissan mulls plug-in hybrids: official
Sep 3, 2008

TOKYO (AFP) — Nissan is considering developing plug-in hybrid vehicles that can be charged at home, as it seeks to catch up with its rivals in fuel-sipping cars, an official said Wednesday. Japan's third-largest automaker is considering the move as consumers are increasingly switching to fuel-efficient cars due to high gasoline prices, spokesman Mitsuru Yonekawa said, declining to give further details.

Nissan has already conducted tests with an experimental model and is deciding whether to bring the car to market, according to local media.

Nissan has been slower than Toyota and Honda to embrace petrol-electric hybrids, seeing a brighter future for vehicles running entirely on electricity. more

And here is the Chrsyler story from Hybrid Cars:

Chrysler's Electric Cars Get Closer to Production
Hybrid Cars
September 4, 2008

Chrysler’s new line of electric cars is “closer to production than you think,” said Chrysler president Jim Press earlier today. He explained that Chrysler is currently demonstrating electric cars and plug-in hybrids to dealers to get their feedback. clip

Chrysler's hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles are coming out of the year-old ENVI program, which was organized to jump-start Chrysler’s move to develop its own ground-up hybrids. The company’s first hybrid products, the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen two-mode hybrids, use technology developed jointly by their former parent company Daimler, along with General Motors and BMW.

Chrysler is the last of the six largest car companies to put a hybrid on the market." more

You can review a summary of the plug in hybrid plans of most major automakers at this Cal Cars site. One things is clear, except for Honda, most manufacturers are either getting on board now or headed in the Plug-In direction.

October 17-18

editors note: Check out the links, they include a wide variety of PHEV stories since our last post.


Monday, August 25, 2008

One Million and 300 Million

As the political conventions take the stage, it's encouraging to see that both candidates support PHEVs and the development of electric fuel in the transportation sector.

Here's part of Obama's plan thanks to Politico:

Obama calls for 'clean energy' nation

Sen. Barack Obama on Monday called reducing the nation’s energy consumption “the great test of our time” and proposed billions of dollars in subsidies for business and consumers to encourage a “clean energy “ future. “We can do this,” he vowed in Michigan, the nation’s car capital, promising to spend $150 billion over 10 years on the effort.

The plans include a $7,000 tax credit to drivers who buy advanced-technology vehicles and $4 billion in direct assistance to Detroit automakers to help them build hybrid vehicles in the U.S. “I ask you to join me, in November and in the years to come, to ensure that we will not only control our own energy, but once again control our own destiny and forge a new and better future for the country that we love,” he said at Michigan State University in Lansing.

The three main components of Obama’s plan are:

— Get 1 million 150 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on U.S. roads within six years.

— Require that 10 percent of U.S. energy comes from renewable sources by the end of his first term – more than double the current level. (25% by 25)

Reduce U.S. demand for electricity 15 percent by 2020.

“If I am president, I will immediately direct the full resources of the federal government and the full energy of the private sector to a single, overarching goal — in 10 years, we will eliminate the need for oil from the entire Middle East and Venezuela,” Obama said.

“To do this, we will invest $150 billion over the next 10 years and leverage billions more in private capital to build a new energy economy that harnesses American energy and creates 5 million new American jobs.”

To set an example, Obama is vowing to convert the entire White House fleet to plug-in hybrid vehicles within one year, and convert all federal vehicle purchases to plug-in hybrids or all-electric by 2012.

Obama also set several other ambitious national goals:

Weatherize 1 million homes annually.

Increase the efficiency of new buildings by 50 percent in the next decade through energy-efficient roofs and better-quality windows and ventilation systems.

— Increase the efficiency of existing buildings by 25 percent over the next decade through retrofitting that includes improved insulation and ventilation systems."

Plug ins are also part of John McCains energy plan. Here's part of his plan ,which includes a 300 million dollar prize for a new revolutionalry storage device.

"John McCain Will Propose A $300 Million Prize To Improve Battery Technology For Full Commercial Development Of Plug-In Hybrid And Fully Electric Automobiles. A $300 million prize should be awarded for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars. That battery should deliver a power source at 30 percent of the current costs. "

"Our nation's future security and prosperity depends on the next President making the hard choices that will break our nation's strategic dependence on foreign sources of energy and will ensure our economic prosperity by meeting tomorrow's demands for a clean portfolio." more

With both sides of the political coin supporting the development and commercialization of Plug in Hybrids, it's clear that the momentum in plug ins continues to grow.

Just last week, academics and energy professionals came together for a two day workshop to discuss and explore the future of plug-ins and how they can be implemented into the public infrastructure.

Join Us for the Austin Alt Car Conference October 17-18

Sign the On Line Petition
News Summary I

editors note:
Check out the links, they include a wide variety of PHEV stories since our last post.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Plug In 2008

The Plug in 2008 National PHEV Conference in San Jose by most accounts was a big success. Here's one of the announcements that came out of the conference:

EPRI, GM, 34 Utilities Collaborate to Advance
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

PALO ALTO, Calif. – July 22, 2008; The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) announced today a research and development collaboration with General Motors and 34 top utilities to facilitate integration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) into the grid, a key step in providing the nation’s drivers an alternative to petroleum fuels.

“The EPRI-GM-utility effort is the result of many years of work by EPRI and its members to advance plug-in hybrids and related infrastructure technology to a point of feasible implementation and eventual commercialization,” said Arshad Mansoor, EPRI’s vice president of Power Delivery and Utilization. “Seamless integration of PHEVs into the electric grid will require close collaboration between the automobile and electric sectors.”

PHEVs use domestically produced electricity delivered through the grid, with a lower cost to fuel the vehicles than that of petroleum fuels. Additionally, research released last year by EPRI and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) pointed to the potential of PHEVs to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The entire PHEV environmental assessment is available on the EPRI website .

“Electrically powered vehicles are going to provide tremendous benefit and excitement for the customer, while also hastening the move to a more diverse choice of energy alternatives,” said Jon Lauckner, GM vice president of Global Programs. “But we know that there are some key elements that need to be understood and put in place so customers can enjoy those benefits and get maximum use of these vehicles when we bring them to market. That’s why this relationship with EPRI and the utility partners is so important.” (clip)

“This research program will help link a low-carbon generation portfolio and a smart grid, which in turn will facilitate widespread adoption of electricity as an alternative transportation fuel,” Mansoor said. “PHEVs have the potential of creating tremendous value for society by use of lesser emitting and lower cost electricity.”

The collaborative will also address issues that ensure safe and convenient vehicle charging, public education, and public policies requirements to enable a smooth introduction of PHEVs as a transportation alternative to conventional vehicles.

Participants in the collaboration include Alabama Power, American Electric Power, Austin Energy, BC Hydro, CenterPoint Energy, Consolidated Edison of New York, Dominion, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, FirstEnergy Corp., Georgia Power, Great River Energy, Hydro-Québec, Manitoba Hydro, Nebraska Public Power District, New York Power Authority, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Progress Energy, Public Service Electric & Gas Co., Sacramento Municipal Util. Dist., San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison Co. and Southern Company.

In another announcement at the convention, Google announced two more recipients of their "Recharge It" largesse. Here's part of the story from CNET: is investing $2.75 million into electric-vehicle maker Aptera and battery start-up ActaCell. The announcement, which follows Google's request for proposals from companies with electric car technologies, came Tuesday during the Plug-In 2008 conference in San Jose, Calif.
Aptera, of Carlsbad, Calif., makes street-legal three-wheelers with a unique, aerodynamic design.

The company aims to sell its Typ-1 model for less than $30,000 by the end of year. It's marketing a pure electric as well as a gas electric plug-in hybrid achieving more than 200 miles per gallon. The vehicles are supposed to accelerate to 60 miles per hour within 10 seconds, drive 120 miles on a full charge, and recharge from a 110-volt outlet.

ActaCell of Austin, Tex., aims to develop long-lasting lithium-ion batteries. On Wednesday it announced $5.8 million in series A financing led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and including, Applied Ventures, and Good Energies. " And the technology may be groundbreaking.
If you missed Plug in 2008, you can still make another exciting conference, and you get to come to Austin in the beautiful fall of the year.

editors note:
Check out the links, they include a wide variety of PHEV stories since our last post.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

The 80-20 Rule

Often when I talk about Plug-Ins, I say that PHEV's are a perfect embodiment of the 80-20 rule. There are a lot of versions of the rule and it has been written about a lot. But in the case of the PHEV, the logic goes something like this:

Roughly 80% of our daily trips are under 35 miles. And the remaining 20% are longer trips. So why carry around five times more battery storage and weight for that 20 %? Take care of that 20% with a small, efficient gasoline engine that runs at its optimum speed.

This so called Pareto principle is everywhere. As a business, 80% of your income comes from 20% of your products. 20% of your time gets 80% of the work done. 20% of the population has 80% of the wealth. However, 70% of vehicles can apparently be fueled with no increase of electrical capacity.

There are a lot of facts and misstatements about Plug-Ins that circulate these days about water consumption, pollution, the need for new power plants, and the like.

This post from Climate Progress deals very nicely with a lot of them. Here's a piece of it:

Why do PHEVs reduce greenhouse pollution?

A study by EPRI, the California Air Resources Board, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and others (5.3MB PDF) concluded that plug-in hybrids produced substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions than either conventional gasoline cars or unplugged hybrids. The reduction in emissions results from electric operation being much more efficient than gasoline operation.

Don’t PHEVs and BEVs just shift pollution from the tailpipe to power plants?

No. The proper comparison between vehicle types is the “wells-to-wheels” basis, where the pollution from extracting the raw materials, shipping, transformation (e.g. refining), and use are added. BEVs and PHEVs running on electricity have zero tailpipe emissions, but there are still mining and power plant emissions. Those emissions are however much lower than the corresponding crude oil extraction, refining, and tailpipe emissions. Pollution here includes greenhouse gases such as carbon-dioxide. The grid is getting cleaner each year, and will continue to do so as we replace fossil power plants with renewables, while a gasoline car gets dirtier as it ages.

Fueling a car on gasoline made from coal (Coal-To-Liquids or CTL) emits twice as much greenhouse gas as gasoline from crude oil.

Why is fueling a PHEV from coal electricity better than gasoline?

Two reasons: (1) Electric motors are extremely efficient compared to internal combustion engines, and this efficiency more than compensates for the dirtiness of coal. (2) The U.S. grid is only 49% coal (natural gas is 20%, nuclear is 20%, hydro is 7%, and other renewables are 2.4%). Thus power to charge PHEVs is not all from coal, and some is from zero emission sources.

Are the batteries ready?

Yes. According to EPRI, “battery durability testing sponsored jointly by EPRI and Southern California Edison demonstrate that current lithium-ion batteries are likely to retain sufficient capacity for more than 3000 dynamic deep-discharge cycles–about 10-12 years of typical driving.” The excuse “the batteries aren’t ready” has been used frequently because it is convenient, and few people bother to check. Any manufacturer sells what it has, and automakers are no different. When there are failures of planning in the board room, it is convenient for a manufacturer not to admit their mistake, but to blame the lack of a product on something beyond their control. That is PR.

The current absence of plug-in vehicles from America’s showrooms has been conveniently blamed on the batteries. In reality, existing, proven NiMH batteries, such as found in hybrids and BEVs could easily power PHEVs. However, automakers would like to switch from NiMH to Li-Ion batteries for PHEVs because they are lighter, smaller, and potentially cheaper. Common Li-Ion batteries (Lithium-Cobalt), such as found in cell phones and laptops have lifetime and safety issues, which allowed the automakers to claim lack of readiness.

However, other Li-Ion chemistries have existed for some time, so this claim was not accurate. For example, Lithium-Iron-Phosphate batteries are inherently safe and will last the lifetime of a vehicle. Also, the issues with Lithium-Cobalt batteries can be solved with the addition of other elements such as nickel and manganese. For example, Sanyo uses a mixture of Ni, Mn, and Co for the positive electrode, thereby producing a safer battery that exhibits power retention ratio of 80% or higher after 10,000 cycles (10-15 years in a hybrid vehicle). (more)

The good news is this.

And it won't be long before you can drive one.

And 80% of your transportation fuel can be 100% green.


Monday, June 30, 2008

VW Jumps on the Bandwagon

Another major manufacturer is jumping on the plug in hybrid bandwagon. Here's the story from Motor Trend:

VW jumping on plug-in hybrid bandwagon
with TwinDrive system
June 26 2008

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn announced today that pre-production testing of the automaker's plug-in hybrid electric system, dubbed TwinDrive, is underway with the full support of the German government. If all goes as planned, VW is hoping to introduce the technology on vehicles by 2010, that magical year when plug-in electric vehicles being promised by multiple automakers are supposed to hit the world's roads.

During a presentation of Volkswagen's new electric car program entitled "Fleet Test: Electric Drive Vehicles," Winterkorn explained that TwinDrive can power a vehicle solely on electricity for up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) and can be plugged into to existing power outlets for recharging. Much like GM's system in development for the Volt, the car's lithium ion battery power supply is supplemented by a traditional gasoline engine for long distance travel.

"While the E-motor on a typical hybrid model just supplements the combustion engine, the exact opposite is true on the TwinDrive: here the diesel or gasoline engine supplements the E-motor," Winterkorn said. "(clip)

According to Jalopnik, "the Twin Drive can be run in electric-only mode for a range of up to 30 miles using an 82 HP electric motor. But, there's also a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel that makes 122 HP which can take over once the batteries have been drained. When the two powerplants combine, you have a parallel hybrid with about 174 HP.

Wired adds this:

"Start-stop technology will save power and regenerative braking will help generate it. VW says the car will use lithium-ion batteries and have an all-electric range of 31 miles. The company recently signed a deal with Sanyo to develop li-ion batteries; the electronics company plans to begin production next year and says it will spend $769 million on the effort during the next seven years. "

As for VW's overall plans, RiverWired writes:

"Volkswagen will have three hybrids, one of which will plug in, and an all-electric car in dealerships in 2010. The Touareg SUV and popular Rabbit hatchback will be available as hybrids, while the Jetta will be a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.The electric car will be a limited edition of the new up! concept.

No word yet on how many of these four cars will actually hit the market in 2010. German-language car magazine Auto Motor und Sport reported that VW CEO Martin Winterkorn just recently announced the plan to build the green Vee-Dubs. The PHEV Jetta will -- theoretically -- be in good company, as GM is working furiously on the Volt and Toyota will offer a plug-in Prius."

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel spoke at the Volkswagen event where he stated that he expects around 1 million hybrid cars on German roads by 2020 and more than 10 million a decade later.

Meanwhile, John McCain has hired Plug in Activist Jim Woolsey as his energy advisor.

Woolsey believes that "the greatest danger to the country now is not nuclear and chemical weapons but climate change and the American dependence on oil which is partly blamed for causing it.

Mr Woolsey believes the greatest weapon in America's arsenal is not the stealth bomber, the Abrams tank or the F-16 jet – but the humble plug-in hybrid car that will let most people do their daily drive on electric power. "

And on the day of that announcement, McCain came out for a $300 million prize for a new game changing energy storage device, ten times more than the feds are spending now.

As the Economist says, it may truly be the beginning of the end of the Petrolhead.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Toyota Plug In

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe made his company's intentions clear yesterday about PHEVs. Here's the story from the LA Times:

Toyota promises plug-in hybrid vehicle in U.S., Japan and Europe by 2010
By Yuri Kageyama,
The Associated Press
June 11, 2008

TOKYO -- Toyota is introducing a plug-in hybrid with next-generation lithium-ion batteries in the U.S., Japan and Europe by 2010, under a widespread "green" strategy outlined today.The ecological gas-electric vehicles, which can be recharged from a home electrical outlet, will target leasing customers, Toyota Motor Corp. said.

Such plug-in hybrids can run longer as an electric vehicle than regular hybrids, and are cleaner.Lithium-ion batteries, now common in laptops, produce more power and are smaller than nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrids now.

The joint venture that Toyota set up with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which makes Panasonic products, will begin producing lithium-ion batteries next year and move into full-scale production in 2010, Toyota said.

Toyota also said it's setting up a battery research department later this month to develop an innovative battery that can outperform even that lithium-ion battery.

Japan's top automaker, which leads the industry in gas-electric hybrids, has said it will rev up hybrid sales to 1 million a year sometime after 2010. (clip)

"Without focusing on measures to address global warming and energy issues, there can be no future for our auto business," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters at a Tokyo hall. (more)

Meanwhile, in the United States, the political environment to support plug ins continues to grow.

"On June 11 and 12, the Brookings Institution and will host a conference entitled “Plug-In Electric Vehicles 2008: What Role for Washington?” The event represents the biggest gathering of national powerbrokers discussing the role of government regarding plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

The list of attendees includes Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.); Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.); New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; Jon Wellinghoff, commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and CEOs and top executives from Ford, General Motors, Federal Express, and Southern California Edison.

Event Summary

Oil prices are at record highs. The overwhelming dependence of our cars and trucks on oil strains family budgets, threatens our national security and contributes to global warming. Plug-in electric vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce the United States’ dependence on oil.

Yet can this potential be realized? If so, how?

Is there a national interest in putting millions of plug-in vehicles on the road soon? How should policymakers in Washington, D.C., respond?

You can watch the event here.

Clearly, as indicated in this opinion piece from the Orlando Sentinal, the time for Plug-ins is Now.

For all the concern over climate change and heavy reliance on foreign oil, there has been little attention given to a technology that could be the key to help resolve both problems: the electric plug-in automobile.Given the public's desire for cars that cost less to run, Detroit now has a golden opportunity to fill a large potential market for plug-in hybrids -- essentially gasoline-electric cars modified to run in an all-electric mode for all or a large part of a daily commute.

Detroit could not only pre-empt this market in America, but also could establish a true world car that would help relieve all countries of their overwhelming dependence on oil for automotive transportation. (clip)

But real change won't come until car owners recognize the need for it. That time may have arrived now that gasoline prices have hit $4 a gallon or more."

You can help that real change come.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On the Horizon

Now that the number one automaker and the number two automaker has made the commitment to building Plug In hybrid / electric vehicles by 2010, another automotive giant is joining the race.

Here is the story from the New York Times:

Nissan Plans Electric Car in U.S. by ’10
Published: May 13, 2008

DETROIT — The Nissan Motor Company plans to sell an electric car in the United States and Japan by 2010, raising the stakes in the race to develop environmentally friendly vehicles.

The commitment — expected to be announced Tuesday by Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn — will be the first by a major automaker to bring a zero-emission vehicle to the American market. Nissan also expects to sell a lineup of electric vehicles globally by 2012.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Ghosn said Nissan decided to accelerate development of battery-powered vehicles because of high gasoline prices and environmental concerns, not just because of the need to meet stricter fuel-economy standards.

“What we are seeing is that the shifts coming from the markets are more powerful than what regulators are doing,” he said.

Mr. Ghosn said Nissan envisioned a broad range of electric vehicles, starting with small cars, and adding: “It’s not only about a small city car or a small minivan. It can also be about a small commercial vehicle and a small crossover.” clip

The company plans to introduce 60 models worldwide by 2012. Several new products are planned for the United States market, including a new Maxima sedan, the Cube small car and a new version of the Z-family sports cars.ew" more

And there is this from the Wall Street Journal:

"In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Ghosn said not all the electric cars Nissan manufactures will be purely electric or emission free. He said Nissan would make some models available with an optional "range extender" -- a gas-powered engine that recharges the battery and keeps the vehicle moving after the initial plug-in charge expires. Nissan, he said, aims to sell vehicles that are "pure electric, zero emission. But you always have the possibility of having a range extender."

Thus, Nissan will be offering serial plug in hybrids.

As this story from Business Week states, the rivalry in low carbon cars is heating up.

"Practically every automaker on the planet is being forced to make cars and trucks that pollute less and go farther on a tank of fuel. Here is what GM and its main rivals have in the pipeline.

GM (GM). The Chevrolet Volt is the sexiest green car in GM's arsenal. Due in November, 2010, the sedan will charge up in six hours and run for 40 miles before a small gasoline engine fires up and recharges the battery, extending the range to 600 miles.

Toyota (TM). It already has the Prius and five other hybrids selling in the U.S. The company plans to lease a limited number of plug-in hybrids by 2010 and put its gasoline-electric hybrid system into more models.

Honda (HMC). It's the contrarian. While Honda aims to launch another hybrid compact by 2010, it also has plans for clean diesel engines in anything larger than a Civic.

Nissan (NSANY). CEO Carlos Ghosn bought Toyota's hybrid system for the Altima family sedan. But in two years Nissan will replace it with one that's home-grown. Plus, in 2010, Nissan plans to start selling electric cars worldwide. They will use technology similar to GM's.

Ford (F). GM's crosstown rival is pushing its Eco Boost engines, which generate plenty of power and better fuel economy. And by the end of the decade two more hybrids will join the Escape SUV in Ford's gasoline-electric lineup.

PHEV's may not have arrived, but they are definitely on the horizon.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Partner Update and Announcement

Coming this fall, mark you calendars for the Austin Energy Alt Car Expo and Conference. It's October 17th and 18th and it will be a great opportunity to see what's happening in plug-ins, mass transportation, and urban planning. For general and exhibitor information, call Christine at Platia Productions (310) 390-2930 or email

And here is a Plug in Partners Update:

Partners Update

There are currently 629 entities signed on as Partners. They include:
Ø Cities = 76
Ø Counties/Local Governments = 35
Ø Public Utilities = 166
Ø Businesses = 178
Ø Non-Profit Groups = 67
Ø National/Local Environmental Groups = 37
Ø Investor-Owned Utilities = 10
Ø State/Federal Agencies = 17
Ø Alternative Fuels Associations = 31
Ø Utility Associations = 9
Ø National Security Associations = 3

“Soft” Fleet Orders (total 11,431 orders)

Ø 1,733 Heavy Truck
Ø 1,891 Light Truck
Ø 1,150 Medium Truck
Ø 1,834 SUV
Ø 127 School Bus
Ø 3,494 Sedan
Ø 52 Tractor
Ø 1,150 Van

Campaign Activity

Ø WE are working through EPRI to partner with GM and FORD on PHEV development

Ø Working with V2Green to test V2G communication. Check out the press release at v2green.

Ø Working with the PEW Foundation in get industry partners

Ø Working with EPRI as a partner in the PHEV “Trouble Truck” research and development

Ø Attending national conferences to continue to get new PIP members and inform the public about PHEVs


Ø Last years energy bill, HR 6, created a plug in hybrid demonstration program at the DOE, loans for advanced battery production, and other needed incentives for manufacturers of plug in hybrids. Unfortunately, consumer tax incentives for the purchase of plug in hybrids were not included. Although consumer tax credits for PHEVs enjoyed bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, concerns over other tax portions of the energy bill resulted in the entire tax package being removed from the original bill.

Ø In 2008, the House of Representatives will try once again to pass a renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits bill that will include a tax credit for Plug in Hybrids. The bill, HR 5351 includes a credit for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The bill would provide a tax credit of between $4,000 and $6,000 for purchasers of a PHEV. The base credit will be $4,000 for a PHEV with a battery of at least 5kwh. The credit will increase by $200 for every kwh of capacity above 5kwh up to a maximum of 15kwh. A 15 kwh battery would have an approximate all-electric range of between 40 and 60 miles depending on the configuration of the vehicle operating system and many other factors. This is the same bill that the House passed in 2007.

Ø The US House passed a bill that would extend a series of tax credits for renewable energy and energy efficiency and pay for them by eliminating or scaling back oil and natural gas industry tax breaks. The bill (H.R. 5351), would extend a variety of tax credits beyond 2008 and create new ones, including a credit for cellulosic ethanol production and an incentive for plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Ø April 23-27, AIP Convention, Las Vegas
Ø April 25-26, Alt Build, Santa Monica, CA

News Stories

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

PHEV's and Water Consumption

In our last post on Blowback, we observed and opined that any movement forward exerts a force in the opposite direction, and that it is natural. However, this story on water consumption seems to be more than just natural clever shaping, it seems seriously wrong.

Here is the story and the claims.

Plug-in Cars Could Drain U.S. Water Supply,
Researcher Says
By Jennifer Bogo
Popular Mechanics
March 7, 2008

"A 30-mile commute in a gasoline-powered car would require the withdrawal of 18.9 gallons of water, according to a study he co-authored this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The same commute in a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), meanwhile, would take a whopping 318 gallons.

All told, electric miles necessitate threefold the water consumption and 17 times the water withdrawal of gasoline miles. But wait, aren’t PHEVs the environmentally friendly choice? “If you are a plug-in hybrid owner and you have wind or solar power at your house, then you can feel really good about your plug-in hybrid using very little water, if any,” Webber told PM. “If you’re a hybrid owner and are plugging your car into the standard U.S. grid, then your car is not very clean, nor is it water-free.”

With the grid’s current composition, electricity production requires about 136,000 million gallons of freshwater per day, accounting for over 40 percent of all daily freshwater withdrawals in the nation. That’s because coal-fired and nuclear power plants that use steam to drive a turbine typically use water—vast amounts of water—to cool and condense the steam at the exhaust."

And here's the disclaimer, followed by the restatement.

"Though most of this water is returned to the source (albeit at a higher temperature), a 17-fold increase in demand would pose a real problem for water-stressed regions, making power plants more vulnerable to shut down during times of drought."

In truth, to make a meaningful statement about water consumption, one needs to quote, well, the consumption, not the amount of water that is used to cool the plant.

Otherwise, it's the rough equivalent of saying that hydropower plants withdraw all of the water that goes through the dam's turbines.

According to this EPRI document most conventional power plants use from 200 gallons up to 900 gallons per MWH, depending on whether the plant uses natural gas, coal, or nuclear fuel, and depending on the cooling technology employed. (in that order)

The misrepresentation in this story thus seems staggering.

If you take 500 Gallons per MWH as a blend between all of your plants, and each KWH of electricity gives you four miles, then actual water consumption to go the 30 miles in the story is much closer to four gallons not 318 gallons. Water consumption per MWH for a new natural gas plant is around 250 gallons per MWH. At that rate of consumption and at an average of 20 MPG, the amount of water per electric gallon of gas is about 1.25 gallons. Most thermal plants will use around 3 gallons. Of course, there is no water consumed at all with wind power or solid state solar plants.

And what about the water used to refine gasoline?

The number varies greatly, but the ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, Montana processes 62,000 bbls of crude oil, or 2.6 million gallons per day. That is 879 million gallons of crude oil per year. The water usage for the plant is 456 million gallons. That works out to be 0.52 gallons of water per gallon of crude oil processed. The study uses a range of 1.4 to 2.9 gallons of water per gallon of gasoline.

And what about the water consumed in the Tar Sands? Or in Saudi Arabia where they use massive water flooding?

Now, if you read the abstract of the original report, you will see that it says that electrics require 3 times the water consumption and 17 times the water withdrawal. The story above even says that. But with a headline that says "Plug in Cars could drain the US water supply," and the lead paragraph saying "a whopping 318 gallons", it's hard to see.

But it's even harder to see how the authors' work could have generated such a headline, given their own conclusion.

"Overall, we conclude that the impact on water resources from a widespread shift to grid-based transportation would be substantial enough to warrant consideration for relevant public policy decision-making."
At Plug In Partners, we conclude that plug-ins powered by combined cycle natural gas plants use slightly less water than gasoline vehicles, and that plug-ins powered solely by coal and nuclear facilities will consume significantly less than the study's 3 times rate. We further conclude that the larger 17 fold increase number is mostly useful as a highly misleading headline.
Another writer from another publication could have just as easily written this headline:
Plug in Cars powered by Renewables will save US Water Supply.