The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) test drive on Capitol Hill. Flexible-fuel PHEVs offer a promising opportunity to reduce dependence on imported oil, decrease greenhouse gas and other transportation emissions, revitalize local economies, and lower fuel costs. The single largest contributor to America’s foreign oil dependence is the transportation sector which accounts for two-thirds of US oil consumption. Moreover, the transportation sector is 97 percent dependent on petroleum.
The vehicle, an XH-150, was developed by the Bellevue, Washington-based AFS Trinity Corp. and is a modified 2007 Saturn Vue Greenline SUV that gets up to 150 miles-per-gallon. Its energy storage system combines lithium-ion batteries with ultracapacitors. Adding ultracapacitors allows the vehicle to achieve top speeds and rapid acceleration in electric-only mode equal to a conventional hybrid. For a typical daily commute of 40 miles round trip, the vehicle does not use its internal combustion engine at all. The XH-150 was unveiled in January at Detroit's North American International Auto Show.
A September 2007 Harris National Study found that more than one quarter of vehicle owners would consider purchasing a PHEV for their next vehicle purchase. On January 31, GM's vice president for global program management, Jonathan Lauckner, said GM plans to build "tens of thousands" Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric cars by 2011. A shift to manufacturing flexible-fuel PHEVs could be central to revitalization of the American auto industry by positioning domestic automakers as leaders in this emerging technology. Plug-in hybrids can be recharged in standard electric sockets, then driven 20 to 60 miles without the use of gasoline. This means the commute of millions of Americans could be completed with the use of little, if any, gasoline. Such savings are critical in these tight economic times.
Federal and state support of this technology can accelerate commercial deployment. The FY 2008 current appropriation for the Department of Energy (DOE) includes $94.1 million for Hybrid Electric Systems. Of this, $48.2 million is devoted to Energy Storage R&D. The FY 2009 budget request for DOE’s Hybrid Electric Systems program is $103.4 million. More than 45 bills have been introduced in the 110th Congress that include provisions for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
A national campaign to raise awareness of PHEVs has received tremendous response from state and local governments, businesses, utilities, as well as national security, environmental and public interest groups. More than 630 entities have joined the National Plug-In Partners Campaign (spearheaded by Austin Energy), including a number of the nation’s largest cities including Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Memphis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. In addition, the campaign has now surpassed 8,000 fleet orders, helping to prove to automakers that if they build plug-in vehicles, Americans will buy them.
This event was open to Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and Federal Agency employees. No RSVP was required