Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Oconomowoc Utilities hopes to help car manufacturers along the way by joining Plug-In Partners,

Oconomowoc Focus
August 8, 2006

Public power utilities, like the city's, are leading the effort to demonstrate that a market exists for PHEV technology. And not just because PHEVs would use their services.

"We are committed to promoting energy-efficiency and conservation," Oconomo-woc Utilities Electric Manager Dennis Bednarski said. "We believe the PHEV is an important emerging technology with great benefits for our environment and our economy."

According to Bednarski, since 78 percent of Americans live within 20 miles of their jobs, drivers of PHEVs would need to fill up with gasoline as rarely as a few times a year, versus the current 24 to 36 times a year on average.

Bednarksi said an "electric" gallon of gasoline would cost less than $1.

"Compare that to current gas prices soaring to well over $2.50 per gallon in Wisconsin," he said.

A PHEV is a hybrid car that has additional batteries that can be recharged by plugging them into a standard 120-volt outlet.

The extra batteries allow the hybrid car to travel a longer distance solely on battery power, while still allowing it to operate as a normal hybrid car whenever necessary. The ability to plug in to recharge the batteries adds convenience.

When the PHEV drives on battery power alone, it produces zero emissions, making it environmentally friendly. The further it can go on battery power alone, the less the hybrid car needs to use its gas engine.

A PHEV can travel 30 miles on battery power alone. That means, if it's driven only 20 miles, it only uses battery power and, at the end of the trip, could simply be plugged in to recharge the batteries.

If that same PHEV needed to travel more than 30 miles, then the first 30 miles of the trip would be taken care of by the batteries and the rest of the trip it would operate as a normal hybrid car. Again, recharging the batteries by plugging them in at the end of the trip.

"Along with reducing fuel costs for consumers and businesses, this technology would decrease dependence on foreign oil and significantly reduce automobile emissions," Bednarski said. "Air pollution is easier to manage at a central point such as a power plant, rather than from millions of tailpipes."

Bednarski said an added environmental benefit would be that no additional power plants would be needed to support the use of PHEV technology, because charging would typically occur at night, when consumption is lowest. He added that when electricity is produced by renewable energy such as hydropower or wind, PHEV users would be using pollution-free energy to deliver pollution-free transportation.

Bednarski said there are no commercially produced PHEVs on the market yet, though Toyota Motor Co. recently announced plans to pursue the technology.

PHEV prototypes and after-market modifications to existing hybrid cars are already out there.

In California, a nonprofit organization is turning the standard Toyota Prius into a PHEV by adding extra batteries.

Bednarski said the Electric Power Research Institute and Daimler Chrysler have built a PHEV delivery van and plan to test 30 of the vehicles in cities across the country by the end of 2006.

Proponents say battery size and weight, as well as other factors, have made PHEVs somewhat cost-prohibitive, but maintain that as battery and hybrid technology advance, PHEVs could become the cars of the future.

Bednarski said community members who want to voice support for development of PHEV technology can sign an online petition at the Plug-In Partners Web site at

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