Mark Brandon is the Managing Partner of First Sustainable (http://www.firstsustainable.com), a registered investment advisory catering to socially responsible investors. In addition to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), he may opine on social venturing, microfinance, community investing, clean technology commercialization, sustainability public policy, green products, and, on occasion, University of Texas Longhorn sports.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles -- Get Your Municipality on Board

My local utility, Austin Energy, which happens to be one of the most forward thinking utilities in the country, along with municipal governments, non-profits, and even individuals have launched Plug-In Partners. The organization seeks to spur the manufacture of PHEV's by generating advanced demand for the vehicle. They do this by gathering advance purchase orders from fleet buyers. The video attached will show you the benefits of this program.



With due respect to the pro-hydrogen crowd, PHEV's offer a much more sensible solution to curbing automobile emissions. Our H2 friends should focus on stationary applications of energy production. The technology and infrastructure exists now for PHEV's, plus the problems of transportation and storage of hydrogen are non-existent.

The electric cars of the 1990's, recently eulogized in "Who Killed the Electric Car" had an enormous flaw. They could not be counted on for long trips. PHEV's solve this problem. While the 35-40 mile range on one charge of the PHEV's will take care of the average commute, long commuters and weekenders do not want to wait 8 hours for the battery to re-charge if they are travelling beyond range. PHEV's solve that by including a regular internal combustion engine for those times that it is required. The pundits are predicting that a PHEV could get 100 mpg, while at least one designer, AFS Trinity, have signed a Memo of Understanding with Austin Energy to supply their so-called "Extreme Hybrid Drive Train" which they claim will get 250 mpg. An equivalent "gallon" of electrical charge (the juice it would take to travel the same miles as the nationwide fuel efficiency standard) averages about 75 cents. This dollar savings is real money to the average car owner. Add in the environmental and national security benefits and this solution becomes the most compelling case for alternative fuels. This even beats ethanol, which as I've explained in previous posts, creates competition between fuel and food.

Sign the petition, and if possible, call your city council members and urge them to become a Plug-In Partner. Most mid-sized to large municipalities have sizable fleets, and their demand could help make the technology affordable for us all.

3 Comments:

Blogger Mike said...

PHEV's have a huge problem which nobody wants to talk about now, and this is coming from somebody who owns a Prius and loves it.

The biggest FUD about hybrid cars is that you'll need to spend a couple thousand dollars replacing the hybrid battery in 5 years.

This is incorrect - Toyota (and Honda) figured out that they could drastically extend battery life by keeping the charge between 30 and 70% of capacity. Never draining it; and never allowing it to be very full. This is why the battery will likely outlast the car.

Now, back to PHEV - the whole POINT is to top off the battery every night, and drive fully-charged. Otherwise, you won't get even a dozen miles of range out of the thing. But then you're back in cell-phone and laptop-land, where the battery really WILL need to be replaced after merely a few years. (Or, you have to provide a ton more battery capacity to do what the normal hybrids so and keep it in the middle area - at which point PHEVs become another order of magnitude more expensive).

Don't expect to hear this from the politicians pushing PHEV - the utility would love to sell you off-peak power to fill that battery up, and they really don't want you to know that in the process, you're buying cell-phone-like battery life.

10:42 AM

 
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