Saturday, August 26, 2006

Plug Mo'

Green Car Congress
Michael Millikin
August 21, 2006

Wider interest in plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)--outside of the tight community of developers and advocates who have been evangelizing for the technology for a number of years--appears to have picked up the pace.

A just-released study by global market research company Synovate found that--once the concept of a plug-in hybrid was explained to them—49 percent of consumers said they would consider purchasing one. This is roughly the same level of consideration given to standard hybrid technology by these same consumers.

Also according to the study, 37 percent of US consumers would consider purchasing a flex-fuel vehicle that runs on E85. However an important note is that more than one-third of those same consumers lose interest in E85 when they learn that there is a reduction in fuel economy.

In the study, consumer consideration for diesels ran at roughly half the consideration of hybrids.

In other words, at least according to this survey, plug-in hybrids would be top contenders for consumer market share of fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles.

Paralleling the increasing consumer support for PHEVs reflected in this study, this past week saw a number of announcements related to the development and deployment of PHEVs:

AFS Trinity signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Austin Energy that will give the participating fleets in the Plug-in Partners (PIP) consortium first access to the AFS Trinity Extreme Hybrid (XH) plug-in currently under development. The AFS Trinity XH hybrid is being designed to offer a full all-electric 40-mile range with acceleration and highway speed performance equal to as when operated as a conventional hybrid.

Launched by the city of Austin, Texas, and its municipally-owned and operated electric utility, Austin Energy, Plug-in Partners' goal is to demonstrate to automakers that a market exists for plug-in hybrid vehicles by recruiting partners in local governments, national security organizations, utilities and civic and environmental groups.

Since its launch in January 2006, most of the 50 largest U.S. cities, other municipalities, many states, Councils of Governments (COGs) and more than 200 of the nation's electric utilities have become participants in Plug-in Partners.

AES Corporation, one of the world's largest global power companies, has joined the Plug-In Hybrid Development Consortium in support of the development of PHEVs.

The Consortium is made up of a growing number of automotive suppliers, manufacturers and other organizations working together to accelerate the commercial production of PHEVs.

Hydrogenics, a global provider of hydrogen and fuel-cell products, has also joined the Consortium, with its focus being on fuel-cell plug-in hybrids. An optimized battery-dominant plug-in hybrid vehicle would allow the size of the fuel-cell system to be kept to a minimum, keeping overall system and vehicle cost down. This approach could provide a logical path toward the accelerated commercialization of fuel-cell technology.

Lithium Technology Corporation (LTC), a global provider of large, rechargeable lithium-ion power solutions, announced it is developing a 12 kWh Li-ion battery system. This battery system should support a plug-in hybrid application in a four-passenger vehicle with an all-electric range of 60 miles. LTC says that its Li-ion system will be comparably sized to existing battery packs of about half the capacity.

There remains a very great deal of engineering, development and deployment work to be done to make plug-ins widely viable. But after years of the industry operating on the assumption that consumers would not plug in, it's great to see the momentum building.

No comments: