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Subject:   Mayor sees possible future in plug-in vehicles
For Immediate Release:   
11/14/2005  1:00:00 PM
For More Information Contact:
Scott Thomsen  (206) 386-4233

Mayor sees possible future in plug-in vehicles
New type of hybrid car gets 100 mpg with help from extra batteries

SEATTLE - Mayor Greg Nickels wants city departments to study the benefits of a new technology that could increase the fuel-efficiency of hybrid cars by plugging them into to standard electrical outlets.

Seattle officials including Councilmember Jean Godden, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis and City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco joined members of the mayor’s Green Ribbon Commission and representatives from the Apollo Alliance in a close-up look at a prototype Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) during a demonstration today at City Hall.

Simply put, this technology, which is in the early stages of development, adds additional battery power to standard hybrid cars to increase fuel efficiency to as much as 100 miles or more per gallon.

City Light and other departments are evaluating PHEV technology to assess its cost-effectiveness, potential benefits and impacts on the environment, particularly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The city’s motor pool includes about 150 hybrid cars.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a cornerstone of the mayor’s environmental agenda,” Ceis said. “PHEV is a promising technology, and we’ve asked our city departments to look into it.”

The mayor will send a resolution to the council supporting the evaluation of the PHEV technology.

“What could be simpler: plug in and go with zero emissions,” said Godden, who chairs the council’s Energy and Environmental Policy Committee. “These cars will allow people to recharge at home providing maximum convenience with minimal impact on the environment.”

“It’s an intriguing concept,” Carrasco said. “What if we had a big shift toward electrifying private vehicles? How would that affect our utility and the environment? Those are some of the questions we’ll be trying to answer.”

“If we’re serious about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, then we should seriously look at this technology,” said Richard Feldman, Washington State Coordinator for the Apollo Alliance and a member of Mayor Nickels’s Green Ribbon Commission.

The Apollo Alliance is coalition of labor and environmental groups. Mayor Nickels created the Green Ribbon Commission to develop a climate action plan to meet or beat Kyoto’s global warming pollution reduction targets in Seattle. The commission is considering the promotion of PHEV as one strategy to meet that goal.

Current available hybrid vehicles - such as Toyota’s Prius and Ford’s Mercury Mariner - are 100 percent gasoline fueled and use a small battery for power assistance and regenerative braking. PHEV technology, which is currently sold as an upgrade kit by an independent manufacturer, replaces the small battery with a more powerful battery, big enough to provide the power needed to drive the first 20 - 60 miles each day.

Backers say it is like having a second small fuel tank, only this one is filled with electricity at home, from an ordinary 120-volt socket. An “electric” gallon of gas costs about 70-80 cents, based on average national electricity rates.

The batteries are expensive, but operating costs are estimated to be about one-third the cost of all-gasoline operation.

The Austin, Texas, municipal utility is promoting PHEV technology as part of a campaign to reduce oil imports and urban smog and boost economic development. The goal is to convince major car companies that enough demand exists for the technology to consider adopting it.

Founder Felix Kramer and Technology Lead Ron Gremban of the California Cars Initiative, a Palo Alto-based non-profit group of entrepreneurs, engineers and environmentalists brought their prototype PHEV to Seattle for the demonstration. CalCars’ goal is to motivate automakers to build PHEVs.

Visit the mayor’s web site at www.seattle.gov/mayor. Get the mayor’s inside view on initiatives to promote transportation, public safety, economic opportunity and healthy communities by signing up for The Nickels Newsletter at www.seattle.gov/mayor/newsletter_signup.htm

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