Plug-In Vehicles Offer Benefits

July 3, 2006
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The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) says the U.S. electric power sector is uniquely
positioned to help wean the nation from its dependence on foreign oil and, at the same
time, ensure continuing air-quality improvement — and a simple 120-volt outlet and backing
from the federal government are two of the ingredients necessary to make this happen. A
spokeman for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an independent, non-profit
research organization that has spearheaded R&D efforts on electric transportation,
recently told lawmakers that while plug-in technology currently was in the prototype stage,
the outlook for near-term commercial deployment was excellent. One of the main benefits of
plug-in vehicles is the prospect for transferring some of the transportation sector’s heavy
reliance on petroleum to the power sector’s diverse portfolio of fuels used to generate
electricity. Unlike automobiles and trucks, which rely heavily on imported petroleum-based
gasoline and diesel fuel, electricity is produced from a variety of domestic fuels,
including coal, nuclear power, natural gas, hydroelectric power and other sources of
renewable energy. Fuel diversity has been a cornerstone of efforts to maintain electric
reliability and control costs in the power sector, and plug-in hybrids can replicate some
of these benefits in the transportation sector. Commercialization of plug-in vehicles could
“significantly reduce tailpipe emissions, save money at the gas pump, and help consumers
avoid price fluctuations associated with reliance on a single fuel to power their cars,”
the EEI said. Before this can happen, EEI cautioned, Congress must ensure full funding for
programs to promote smaller-scale demonstrations of plug-in vehicles and help address
remaining technical challenges, such as reducing the cost and extending the life of PHEV
batteries.

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