Wednesday, December 20, 2006

PHEVs on the Horizon

The next hot shit to hit the street will be PHEVs. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles combine the best of both worlds: electric car world and hybrid car world. These puppies are essentially souped up hybrid electric/internal combustion engines with an extra lithium ion battery that gets plugged into a 120volt outlet. That means you can plug it into anywhere, preferably at night when the overall demand on the electric grid is low and power is cheap. This killer combo means that total carbon dioxide emissions will be almost half of what they are with straight internal combustion engines. MPG can reach 90 to 100. That's amost 5 score miles to the gallon at an equivalent cost of what amounts to about 1$/gallon. That's strictly unfathomable, right? Today, I hath seen such glory with my own eyes. The deadly PHEV is here to stay, and eventually this whip will be able to handle flex-fuel, i.e., some combo fuel of gasoline, biodiesel, and ethanol.

The county government of Fairfax VA had the environmental wherewithal and the unexpected prescience to order hybrid vehicles in 2002. However, this uncanny sense of ecological responsibility was not cashed in for a PHEV until several weeks ago, when Hymotion in Toronto shipped the folks down in Fairfax their brand new battery pack to slap down in the trunk of one of the fleet's 2004 Priuses. The car takes about 3-4 hours to charge up, and the charge will last about 30 some miles, after which the hybrid engine will take over completely. There is a manual switch that can take you back and forth, but the engine automatically goes on from electric only when there is significant giddy up needed. The car has the performance of any other Prius, low long-term maintenance costs, and becomes greener and greener as it ages. The theory goes that as the grid becomes more and more replete with renewable energy in the future, the plug-in takes advantage of these green changes as well.

PHEVs are going to be the viable way we transport ourselves in private motor vehicles in the medium to long term. Eventually, we will most like have the hydrogen distribution system and cheap hydrogen fuel cell technology to power our cars like so. But, in the meantime, get used to the concept of a PHEV. Though they cost around 15k to equip if you've already got a hybrid on hand, the price of the battery kit is decreasingly rapidly. The battery technology will continue to improve immensely, as one automaker after the other begins to commit to plug-in hybrids. GM has already promised to release a Saturn Vue PHEV, and "Who Killer the Electric Car" inspired New York State to order the electric conversion of 600 vehicles in its hybrid fleet. One day, fleets of PHEVs will power buildings and machinery in the event of electrical outages. If you want serious fuel mileage and a smoothe electric ride, get your body electric on down to the PHEV paradise. Fight the Axis of Carbon with your zip zap zooom.

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