Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter Update

Dear Partners:

As you probably read in the press, GM announced in late November that they will manufacture a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

A day earlier, Toyota North America president Jim Press said that “The next frontier will be the plug-in hybrid.” Press was speaking to the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) conference in Washington D.C. where plug-in hybrids were a prime topic of conversation. EDTA brings together representatives of the automotive industry, electric utilities, battery makers, and hydrogen fuel cell advocates into one group.

Nissan, who was also represented at the conference, announced earlier in the year that they are working on a plug-in hybrid.

Andy Karsner, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy (DOE), said of plug-in hybrids, “This isn’t just something that we want to happen. It’s something that is going to happen.”

So obviously there is a lot of activity on plug-in hybrids and the automakers have changed their position since issuing almost universally negative remarks after we launched the Plug-In Partners campaign in January.

None of the automakers, however, has announced a date. Also, automakers say that batteries need further development before plug-ins can hit car lots. Along those lines, a breakfast meeting of battery makers was held at the EDTA conference about the state of battery technology.

Battery makers in attendance urged more demonstration projects and pointed out that the federal government spends considerably more on fuel cell research than on advanced batteries. They also suggested that auto manufacturers leave space in hybrids for additional battery capacity so the vehicles can be converted to plug-ins as batteries develop. Also noted was that the price of batteries would drop dramatically with volume.

On the issue of battery reuse/recycling, battery makers said that advanced automotive batteries could be used by electric utilities for stationary storage for 10 to 15 years after their life as an automotive battery.

On the legislative front, we are working on plug-in hybrid legislation with members of the House and Senate, their staffs and a coalition of people from around the country. The focus is on demonstration projects, battery research and development, and incentives for consumers, businesses and manufacturers.

There will be plug-in hybrid bills introduced in the new Congress next year and we will contact you about help in supporting such legislation.

Both Karsner and Tom Kuhn of the Edison Electric Institute said that President Bush repeatedly asks about progress on plug-in hybrids and the state of lithium ion batteries, opening hopes that plug-ins may be one issue on which bipartisanship could form and legislation pass and be signed.

So while much progress has been made since the launch of Plug-In Partners in January there is still much work to be done before this technology is active and effective in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing dependence on imported oil.

We will keep you updated on progress and proposed legislation, and we encourage you to recruit other members to become Plug-In Partners.

Below is a summary of current partners and fleet orders. A complete list of partners can be seen at at the “Supporters, Cities, and Organizations” link.

Thanks to all of you for supporting this important effort and please keep us apprised of activities and events.


Roger Duncan
Deputy General Manager
Austin Energy

If you have any questions or comments please contact me at 322-6157, or Daryl Slusher at 322-6210, or Lisa Braithwaite at 322-6511.

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