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Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles


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Major Topic Sections

Fossil-fueled Power
Non-Fossil Generation
End-Use Efficiency
Electricity T&D
Carbon Sequestration
Non-CO2 Reductions
Other GHG Reductions

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Coal Comb. Products
Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles
Utility Fleet Veh.
Mat. Handling Vehicles
Mass Transit
Other Transit Actions
Other In-House Actions
Education Pgms.


 Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)


Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) offer potential for a vast expansion and transformation of the entire power sector. PHEVs are hybrid cars with additional batteries than can be recharged by plugging them into an electrical outlet. This outlet could be a standard US 120V-volt house current or a higher-power, 220-volt line, depending on the design. 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. Being able to plug in to recharge the batteries adds convenience.

Studies show that what is called the "well-to-wheel emissions" of electric vehicles are lower than those from gasoline internal combustion vehicles. However, the extent of GHG savings is largely driven by the electric power fuel mix being displace – power from a pure coal-fueled utility would offer smaller savings vis-à-vis gasoline, but gas-fueled power would should greater savings. In California, Air Resources Board studies show that battery electric vehicles emit at least 67% lower "greenhouse gases" than gasoline cars even  more assuming renewables. A plug-in HEV with only 20 miles all-electric daily range is 62% lower.

Even when the GHG savings from PHEVs are not large due to the associated electric generation mix, there are many other attractive advantages. A major advantage is the ability to displace a large portion of the petroleum-based fuel with electric power, providing broader benefits in energy security and national security. Additionally, PHEVs promise local environmental benefits in both noise and emissions.

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 Power Partners Projects

Austin Energy
in Texas spearheaded the influential Plug-In Partners national grassroots initiative to demonstrate to automakers that a market for flexible-fuel PHEVs exists today. About 160 other public power systems have endorsed this effort, along with hundreds of communities, businesses, and organizations across the country.

EPRI, working collaboratively with the Natural Resources Defense Council, has begun groundbreaking research to better understand CO2 emissions offsets and air quality impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). As part of this project, EPRI will analyze the impact of PHEV technology on CO2 emissions by overlapping expected technology roadmaps for both new electricity generation and electric-drive vehicle technologies.

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 References, Sources, and Other Useful Data

Austin Energy, “Plug-in Austin”

Austin Energy is the nation’s 10th largest community-owned electric utility, serving 360,000 customers and a population of more than 800,000 in Texas. Under the direction of the Austin City Council, the City of Austin and Austin Energy are leading Plug-In Partners, a national campaign to demonstrate to automakers that a market exists today for plug-in hybrids.

CalCars, “All About Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs)”

CalCars is a group of entrepreneurs, environmentalists, engineers and other citizens working to spur adoption of efficient, non-polluting automotive technologies. The group is building demand among highly receptive markets to encourage auto makers to produce 100+MPG "no-sacrifices" high-performance, clean hybrid cars. the website contains dozens of resources on hybrid cars and PHEVs.

Electric Auto Association, "Plug in Hybrids"

The EAA-PHEV mission is to educate, demonstrate, and proliferate Electric and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles. This website, which formerly lived at SeattleEVA.org, has as its focus enhancing the documentation of Prius PHEV conversions similar to CalCars first PriusPlus conversion.

Electric Power Research Institute, "EPRI's Contributions to the Development of PHEV Technology

EPRI plays a leading role in the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology as a viable alternative to petroleum-based transportation that will eventually lead to commercialization of electric-powered vehicles. EPRI has a long history in the advancement of electric powered transportation. The Institute's Electric Vehicle Program began in 1976 as an effort to understand the benefits and challenges of electricity as a transportation fuel in the U.S. marketplace.

Electric Power Research Institute, "Environmental Impacts of PHEVs: An Integrated Assessment” (March 2007)

EPRI is completing — in the first quarter of 2007 — a comprehensive, collaborative study to quantify the environmental impacts of electric transportation, specifically with respect to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). There are two primary components of the study: the first is scenario analysis using the EPRI nationwide electric sector model to determine the energy and greenhouse gas impacts of PHEVs over a timeframe of 2010 to 2050; the second component is a nationwide air quality analysis for the year 2030 that assumes an aggressive market penetration of PHEVs. EPRI, working collaboratively with the Natural Resources Defense Council, is performing this groundbreaking research to better understand the net CO2 emission and air quality impacts of plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. It is important for this analysis to incorporate present and future energy costs, varying levels of PHEV market penetration, vehicle technologies, and various portfolios of power generation technologies.

Electric Power Research Institute, "Advanced Batteries for Electric-Drive Vehicles: A Technology and Cost-Effectiveness Assessment for Battery Electric Vehicles, Power Assist Hybrid Electric Vehicles, and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles” (May 2004)

Availability of affordable advanced battery technology is a crucial challenge to the growth of the electric-drive vehicle (EDV) market. This study assesses the state of advanced battery technology for EDVs, which include battery electric vehicles (BEVs), power assist hybrid electric vehicles (HEV 0s -- hybrids without electric driving range), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and fuel cell vehicles. The first part of this study presents assessments of current battery performance and cycle life capabilities as well as cycle life prospects and costs of batteries designed for EDV applications. The second half is a life cycle cost analysis for these applications using new information and a refined version of a California Air Resources Board cost model.

Electric Power Research Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council, "Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles" (Report #1015325, July 2007)

This assessment was conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It made a detailed study of the question – looking at a variety of scenarios involving the U.S. fleet of power generation and its fleet of light-duty and medium-duty cars and trucks. The study focused on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and projected changes in power generation technology from 2010 through 2050.

Plug-In Partners, "Plug-In Partners National Campaign"

Plug-In Partners is a national grass-roots initiative to demonstrate to automakers that a market for flexible-fuel Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) exists today. The partners envisioned in this campaign are local and state governments, utilities, and environmental, consumer and business organizations. The National Campaign will demonstrate the viability of this market by garnering support in the form of online petitions and endorsements by cities across the country, procuring “soft” fleet orders, and developing rebates and incentives

Set America Free Coalition, “Set America Free: A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security”

The Set America Free Coalition brings together prominent individuals and non-profit organizations concerned about the security and economic implications of America’s growing dependence on foreign oil. The coalition, organized by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), promotes a blueprint which spells out practical ways in which real progress toward energy security can be made over the next several years. The coalition believes that by spearheading a global effort to transition the transportation sector to next-generation fuels and vehicles that can utilize them, the United States can deny its adversaries the wherewithal they use to harm us. Doing so will also protect our quality of life and economy against the effects of cuts in foreign energy supplies and rising costs of oil.

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Last revised: Dec. 11, 2009.