NewEnergyNews: NYTIMES DISSES PLUG-IN HYBRID

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    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    NYTIMES DISSES PLUG-IN HYBRID

    Somebody has got to talk to this guy Hermance.

    Still Miles to Go for the Plug-In Vehicle
    Matthew L. Wald, October 24, 2006 (NY Times)

    - THE electric system runs mostly on coal, natural gas and uranium, all relatively plentiful. Cars run mostly on oil, oil and oil, which lately has been expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice to connect the two?
    - Commercially available batteries will not store enough electricity to move a full-size car more than about 60 or 70 miles, enough to meet most drivers’ needs on most days but not a very attractive candidate in the auto showroom. So what about a car with enough battery power for its first few dozen miles, and a gasoline engine to handle the rest?

    - Enter…the concept of a plug-in hybrid. The idea is to expand on the gasoline-electric hybrids already on the road, which charge the battery from the gasoline engine. With a bigger battery pack, charged from an electric outlet, drivers could go the first few gallons’ worth every day on electricity instead…
    - Comparing total miles driven with the gasoline consumed, advocates say the plug-ins will travel 80 miles or more on a gallon. The rest of the energy will come from coal or natural gas, or, ideally, wind turning a windmill or water spinning a hydroelectric turbine…

    - At $2.50 a gallon, a vehicle that gets 20 miles to the gallon costs 12.5 cents a mile to run. But a car that goes four miles on a kilowatt-hour would cost just over 2 cents a mile to run, at the national average retail electricity price. But the price might be lower than average because electric companies could tap into cheap nighttime generation, getting new use from equipment that is usually idle for half the day.
    - Yet…engineers say there is no prospect of this happening in the near future.
    - At Toyota…David Hermance, the executive engineer for environmental engineering, is horrified…plug-ins are “not yet ready for prime time.”
    - …DaimlerChrysler is downright reluctant, even though it has built four test models…But both companies, as well as General Motors, have said that they are looking at the technology…
    - A recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, while praising the plug-in goal, cast severe doubt on its practicality. When gasoline costs $3 a gallon and the driver goes 12,000 miles a year, the report said, a year’s fuel is about $1,200 in a conventional car, but a Prius at 50 miles a gallon saves $480 of that. If the hybrid costs an extra $3,500, then the payback period is seven years, the report said.
    But if the plug-in goes four miles on a kilowatt-hour, and does its first 40 miles on electricity, the incremental cost would be about $20,000, but the saving is only about $15 a year larger than for the Prius-type vehicle. The car could be registered as an antique before the owner earned back the additional investment…
    - Felix Kramer, the founder of the California Cars Initiative, an advocacy group, pointed out a parallel in the energy world. “People will say it’s worth paying a little more to get wind and solar into the marketplace…”

    - And batteries could improve…[the Electric Power Research Institute]…has visions of a “smart grid,” in which a plug-in hybrid, or pure electric, can plug in anywhere. The utility system will recognize it, charge it up and bill the owner of the car, not the owner of the outlet. The arrangement would be somewhat like a person with a telephone credit card using any phone at his own expense…
    - “The cost-benefit relationship has got to be there,” said Mr. Hermance of Toyota. “If you can’t sell them, they can’t do anybody any good.”

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