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Easley Announces Program for Plug-In Hybrid Cars

Posted February 12, 2008
Updated February 13, 2008

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— Gov. Mike Easley announced Tuesday that he wants the state to start utilizing North Carolina State University's Advanced Transportation Energy Center.

N.C. State will partner with Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Corp. General Motors Corp. may also join the program.

During the speech, Easley talked about the creation of the Wolfpack Power Pack, a reference to N.C. State's mascot. He expects to have some tangible advancements in two to five years.

NCSU already conducts research into the development of the hybrid vehicles. And Easley said that, depending on the support from federal grants, the state may give $5 million to start and $1 million annually to operate the Advanced Transportation Energy Center there.

"This new energy economy is out there just waiting for somebody to pluck it from the vine," Easley said in announcing the plan at a forum on energy at North Carolina State. "I'm going to make sure that North Carolina gets its share. America's ready to go where North Carolina's ready to go."

Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Corp. said they have both pledged to participate in the project and are already developing a grid system that would allow drivers to charge their car batteries while away from home.

The ATEC will focus on three things:

  • A battery that is lighter, stronger and cheaper. This will be a lithium ion technology hopefully going from a current $10,000 price to around $3,000.
  • Set up a grid power system for people to recharge their cars along the highway system.
  • Building a safer and lighter and more aerodynamic car.

The next generation of plug-in hybrid vehicles will run mainly on the battery power with gasoline backup, getting more than 100 miles per gallon, officials said. The batteries can be charged by plugging into a typical household outlet. Today’s Toyota Prius, for example, gets about 50 miles per gallon.

Widespread use of plug-in hybrid vehicles, according to recent estimates, will decrease domestic dependence on foreign oil through greater fuel efficiency.

Improving fuel efficiency on cars in the U.S. by 2.7 miles per gallon would equal all of the nation’s imports from the Persian Gulf. It would also benefit the environment by cutting the greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 27 percent, according to the EPA.

“Growth in the use of plug-in hybrid technology and infrastructure opens the door for North Carolina and N.C. State to be leaders in creating a workforce for advanced transportation,” said N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger. “N.C. State was selected to house the Advanced Transportation Energy Center because of our proven research capacity and expertise in battery and photovoltaic research as well as our ability to build the partnerships needed to make the center a success.”

Easley said North Carolina must be a leader in helping control energy costs, using fuel more efficiently and caring for the environment.

“It is the North Carolina way to take bold steps,” Easley said. “With the dawn of the 21st century, North Carolinians have emerged as innovators and leaders in education, technology and the environment. It is time for us to take the lead in the new energy economy.”

The governor last August signed into law a bill to enact a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. It made North Carolina the first state in the Southeast to do so.

The legislation addresses the need for safe, reliable and environmentally sound electricity in light of growing demand and higher energy prices.

The initial mandate of the center would be the development of cheaper, lighter and more efficient batteries that could be plugged in at home. North Carolina State Chancellor James Oblinger said he expects the center can develop its first battery for a hybrid vehicle in the next two to five years.

Easley and others said they hope to eventually develop a battery that's powerful and efficient enough to replace gasoline.

Cost is a big factor for making the batteries available to the average consumer, and Easley said with the proper research that the department can bring the cost of the battery from $10,000 to $3,000 and make other improvements.

Drivers, meanwhile, would save on the cost of gasoline. For a vehicle with a range of 40 miles, it could cost roughly $1 to charge the battery, said Michael Ligett, the director of market and energy services for Progress Energy. Easley said he would like to see batteries with a longer range such as 150 miles.

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  • flashlight Feb 13, 2008

    "How are you going to arrange it so everybody runs out of "gas" at night? You also mean all that night time energy doesn't require any fuel to generate it?"

    In terms of plug-in hybrids... plugging in at night would leave the gasoline component from running for longer. In terms of an electric-only car, yes, that would present a problem, not necessarily due to a lack of planning, but emergencies do happen. Also, in terms of night production, I was thinking the power generated remained constant 24/7, leaving unconsumed electricity. Apparently not.

  • Professor Studley Feb 12, 2008

    "Generally speaking, the power network, as it exists now, will never take 2 to 3 cars per household doing a complete recharge every night, not if these rechargeable cars come even reasonably close to reproducing the performance of current oil powered cars."

    Current generation electrics exceed the performance of most gas powered street cars.

  • Professor Studley Feb 12, 2008

    "How is this new method going to cut down on emissions? Electricity is generated from power plants. The more electricity that is needed, the more power plants we will need to depend on. Thus will make our air more toxic than it already is, has the Governor really thought about this?"

    There are "clean" meathods of power production... i.e. Dam Generators, Solar Crops, Wind Farms, and soon, room temperature cold fusion... given the correct processes, even fission power production can be clean! (End product of ALL total fission/fusion is the production of lead, however radioactive, but can be rendered neutral with current technologies.)

    I don't think pollution is really going to be all that much of a concern.

  • colliedave Feb 12, 2008

    colliedave, drilling for oil works great if there is oil to be drilled.

    Try ANWAR, try off the shores of the USA, try uncapping the oil wells that were capped in the 80's, try shale oil.

    Oh, we can mine for stuff for electric cars but we can't mine for coal or drill for oil. Makes no sense. Just like most of liberal "thought"

  • 007KnightRider Feb 12, 2008

    Let me get this straight, the whole purpose of this "to create a power system for people to recharge their vehicles along the highway. This will decrease domestic dependence on foreign oil through greater fuel efficiency and will help benefit the environment by cutting the greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 27 percent, according to the EPA".

    How is this new method going to cut down on emissions? Electricity is generated from power plants. The more electricity that is needed, the more power plants we will need to depend on. Thus will make our air more toxic than it already is, has the Governor really thought about this?

  • Frank Downtown Feb 12, 2008

    What everyone forgets is that we are just trading one fuel for another. We will need more electrical power( ie: power plants) to meet the needs of more electic cars.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 12, 2008

    Okay, to sum this up: The power companies and General Motors would like to thank you for your generous contributions. Thanks for finding another way to waste money Governor. In case you failed to notice, the car makers and other companies are already working on these ideas. I wonder what the kickback is for this boondoggle.

  • Steve Crisp Feb 12, 2008

    "Improving fuel efficiency on cars in the U.S. by 2.7 miles per gallon would equal all of the nation’s imports from the Persian Gulf."

    That statement doesn't even make any sense. What is the basis for that calculation?

    And as far as battery technology goes, there are groups working feverishly on new technology because the first one to make the scientific breakthrough that can convert to commercial application gets to retire on the initial royalties alone. Why are we going to pump tax dollars into an enterprise that is already being privately funded? I mean, for reasons other than enriching someone who has certain politicians in their back pocket.

  • MrPearce Feb 12, 2008

    wildervb:

    Increasing efficiency is always a good thing, but sitting around in sweaters rather than turning up the heat is not a good thing.

    We need a wholesale move from oil to something else. I personally believe that something else should be nuclear, and we should use hydrogen when we can't plug into the wall (we can produce hydrogen from water, using a lot of nuclear and solar energy).

    But I don't agree with Gore. I want us to be off oil, so we can have less of an interest in the middle east. We should protect our ally, Israel, and otherwise not have to be involved in the region. Also, cutting off the oil money to the Saudi's would go a long ways to reducing global terrorism. Additionally, in the remote circumstance we really do *ever* exhaust the world's oil supply, it would be nice to have a fall back.

  • MrPearce Feb 12, 2008

    flashlight:

    We do not run at full capacity at night. The problem the power companies run into is that they have to idle down significant capacity at night, meaning their physical plant is sitting and not producing power.

    Generally speaking, the power network, as it exists now, will never take 2 to 3 cars per household doing a complete recharge every night, not if these rechargeable cars come even reasonably close to reproducing the performance of current oil powered cars.

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