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SoCal Edison Joins Plug-In Hybrid Development Consortium

Southern California Edison has joined the Plug-In Hybrid Development Consortium as a founding member. The consortium is made up of a growing number of automotive suppliers, manufacturers and other organizations working together to accelerate the commercial production of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV). (Earlier post.)

Unlike more conventional hybrids that have limited (or no) all-electric range, PHEVs feature a more robust grid-chargeable battery system and controls that provide the ability to drive 25–50 miles with no engine support.

Southern California Edison joins San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric in working with the consortium to accelerate the development of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles.

Another recent new member is the Japanese lithium-battery company Enax (earlier post). Enax offers a high power battery technology capable of 5 minute rapid recharge and robotic manufacturing techniques.

Other companies that have joined the Consortium include:

  • A123 Systems, a leader in advanced battery technology using nanoscale science to create ultra high-power batteries. A123 Systems’ battery technology is specifically suited for plug-in electric drive systems with one of the highest power to weight ratios available and well established high volume manufacturing. (Earlier post.)

  • Daiken, a Japanese chemicals company and maker of a proprietary ceramic-metallic powder used in high power lithium batteries;

  • Delta-Q Technologies, a supplier of light scalable onboard battery charging systems, that can recharge high power lithium batteries overnight at home from a standard 110V outlet;

  • Thunder Sky, a Chinese high-volume manufacturer of lithium batteries used in US military and in the hybrid electric fleet of buses built for the Beijing Olympics in China.

Raser Technologies, Maxwell Technologies, Electrovaya, and PG&E organized the consortium to help reduce the R&D gap between component suppliers and OEMs and to coordinate and accelerate the development of critical new solutions while reducing the development time for the next generation hybrid vehicles.

Members of the consortium plan to develop compatible components and cost-effective working designs that would enable a plug-in hybrid that achieves 100-200 total mpg gasoline fuel economy by driving the first 25–50 miles in all electric zero emission mode. This “Dual Mode” PHEV will then continue to operate in a high-efficiency hybrid electric mode to achieve conventional range of operation.


An Engineer

This could be huge - using low cost electrical power (charging overnight) to reduce oil imports.

Now the concortium just needs a carmaker...

Harvey D

You're right E-P. Wonder why a major carmaker is not on board yet. Is that approach already protected by international patents similar to large NIMH battery packs.
Mike - Are you aware of existing patents on PHEV concept?


I agree, plug-ins could (and I would say will) be huge! If you want to see how huge, I've run through the numbers here.

To make a long story short, adopting plug-in hybrids could cut our oil consumption for transport by more than 75% and would allow us to fuel the bulk of our fleet with domestically produced electricity from a variety of sources (ideally clean renewables) rather than being dependent on one energy source (namely oil) with dwindling domestic reserves.

A full electric fleet could be completely independent from oil and would be even more efficient but suffers from range limitations that plug-ins avoid.

I would argue that a plug-in fleet with the liquid fuel component coming from cellulosic biofuels (or if we have to, coal-to-liquids fuel with co2 sequestration) is probably the best path to an oil-independent and efficient transport fleet. Hydrogen - i.e. turning electricity into hydrogen via electrolysis and then back into electricity at the fuel cell - is simply far too inefficient when you compare it to simply utilizing that electricity in the first place in batteries onboard plug-ins or electric vehicles. (In fact, as far as my math goes, using electricity to charge batteries for EVs and Plug-ins is over 3.5 times more efficient than using it to produce hydrogen...).


I read this and I said oh, dear
There's been a great confusion here
    While it's cause for hilarity
    There's not much similarity
Between me and "An Engineer"

Jesse:  I think your calculations are a bit off but your conclusion is largely correct.  I reached similar numbers and the same conclusion some time ago.  So have many others.


PHEV potential goes far beyond its advancement of vehicle design. When a multitude of home owners and apartment dwellers install rooftop solar photovoltiac panels and store electricity in PHEV batteries, they create a homepower supply that can also become a collective public power source, able to influence local electric utility; very important in these "Enronian ripoff" times. Having such a homepower supply offers an education in conserving household electricity. And in an emergency or grid failure, this homepower will prove invaluable, even a lifesaver.

PHEV's perhaps greatest advantage is its capability to direct development, whereby all means of travel, (walking, bicycling, mass transit), become a viable choice alongside the personal car. We must admit that increasing motorized travel is unsustainable, environmentally degrading and economically untenable. With PHEVs, comes an economic incentive to drive shorter distances on battery power alone, to patronize and build local economies. In time, more destinations become accessable without having to drive. Stonger local economies can also orchestrate means to provide for local needs, lessening the need for goods imported from afar. A PHEV eventually becomes a car that need not be driven, used more as a reliable power source. People should understand this potential?

Jesse Jenkins

Wow, E-P, I didn't know you were a poet! I was going to correct Harvey on his misidentification but I thought I'd leave it to you. Now I'm glad I did... :)


Jesse, you gotta be kidding me.

C. Scott

While I take heart at these announcements I still have concerns about the emission consequences of a shift from gasoline to electricity. As long as most electricity is produced using fossil fuels - natural gas (nice price jump, huh) and coal with a relatively small percentage of petroleum - we still have an environmental consequence from the shift that is not likely to be solved by solar cells or windmills anytime soon.
By implementing bioconversion technologies we can simultaneously generate green electricity, dramatically increase landfill diversion of urban waste, clean up our agricultural and forestry waste problems, produce gasoline extenders (cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel), and pave the way toward even cleaner future fuels.
Maybe So. Cal. Edison can replace their electricity plants with clean alternatives but I wouldn't hold my breath - I'd hold my nose.


Looks like I'm going to need more solar panels. :)

Dave Zeller

The concept of plug-in hybrids seems to be just another example of what may be described as a thermodynamic sink; i.e., an energy process that requires a greater energy input all the while realizing a lessor energy output.

How does this relate to hybrid plug-in vehicles?

For example, consider the car that gets 30 m.p.g. when driven at 60 m.p.h. In one hour this vehicle uses 2 gallons of gas, for a total of 240,000 B.T.U.s at a cost of about $5.50. This assumes 25% vehicle efficiency, thus only $1.38 or 60,000 B.T.U.s is actually used to move the vehicle.

Let's say that now one decides a plug-in electric vehicle is the answer. If you assume 20% efficiency battery charging, you will need to buy 300,000 B.T.U.'s of electricity, which is the same as about 88 kW-hrs. of electricity. Electricity from So-Cal Edison currently costs about $ 0.089/kW-hr, which translates to a total cost of about $7.82.

1) Gasoline car: $5.50 to drive 60 miles.
2) Plug-in hybrid car: $7.82 to drive 60 miles.

It costs around 42% to drive the plug-in vehicle versus the standard gasoline car.

It sure is obvious why SoCal Edison thinks this is a wonderful idea!


I'm not questioning your analysis but note that the phev enthusiasts are talking about one or two cents per mile. Also, at least initially, most of the charging can be done with off peak eletricity.


Perhaps I don't understand what is meant by efficiency of battrey charging, but this reference claims that the charging efficiency of a lithium-ion battery is 99%.



Are you using retail or wholesale rates there? If SoCal Edison still charged only $0.09/KWh then we'd probably never have installed our PV system on our house here.

According to my last power bill before we switched to net metering :) however, SoCal Edison has (had?) a tiered rate structure that charged $0.13/KWh for "baseline" usage of up to 472KWh/month, then between $0.15 to over $0.25 per KWh after that, depending on how far over baseline you went. With 4 adults living in the house (one on night shift), our "marginal cost" for electricity was easily more than twice the $0.089/KWh you cite.

BTW, I'm curious what exactly is your definition of a "thermodynamic sink"? According to the second law of thermodynamics, -all- systems take in more energy than you can get out of them.

Harvey D

Battery charging systems efficiency vary a lot depending on the charging profile, type of charger and battery. Most of the chargers (millions) around the house have an efficiency of 6% to 38% only. Vehicles on-board battery chargers (generators) are 40% to 60% efficient. Manufacturers of newer pulsed intelligent chargers with current limiting claim 96% efficiency but it is more like 70% to 96% depending on the charge level attained. The average efficiency is more like 86%. The total average Power Plug to Wheels efficiency for EVs will most probably be around 70% to 80%.

Dave Zeller

John, I got the So-Cal Edison rates from this document:

If this source doesn't indicate all of the costs which you describe, then indeed my calculations are off.

In that case, based upon your information:

1) Gasoline Car: $5.50 to drive 60 miles.
2) Plug-in Hybrid Car: $11.42 to drive 60 miles
Under these circumstances the plug-in hybrid would cost 207% more to drive than the conventional gasoline car.

However, this would probably still be too optimistic. Using more electricity to charge up a plug-in hybrid could indeed drive up one's electric bills even more, since it's apparent that in California they charge you even higher rates as a penalty for using more electricity. Absolutely insane!

Also, the term thermodynamic sink refers to those processes in which there are many conversions or transfers from one type of energy to another; for example, in an electric vehicle, you would observe: potential energy (fossil fuels) to heat, heat to kinetic, kinetic to electrical, electrical to chemical, chemical to electrical, electrical to kinetic, then finally kinetic to heat (entropy).The more conversions you have from one type to the other, the less efficient a process is, as entropy always increases during a transition due to the waste heat produced. Compare this to a conventional vehicle, which would see potential(crude oil) to heat and potential (oil refining), potential to heat, heat to kinetic, and finally kinetic to heat (entropy), minus some of the total for getting the fuel to market.

Thus, overall, electric vehicles will cost more to fuel per mile compared to conventional gasoline and diesel cars, when operated in California, where much power is generated using expensive gas ($12 to $15 per 1,000,000 B.T.U.) In places where coal ($1.35 per 1,000,000 B.T.U.) is used to generate electricity, electric cars could indeed be economical.

I base my estimates of overall battery efficiencies upon this:
1) Battery efficiency rapidly declines at first, then slows. A battery that is 80% efficient when new will be 0% efficient at the time of its demise; most average 20%.
2) Reports concerning commercial (mass transit) hybrid fleets.

NONE of the hybrid buses have yet to meet the manufacturers claims of economy, and likewise many private hybrid owners report less than anticipated results. Cold weather only worsens the problem, we are told. The manufacturers and municipal operators know this is a problem, but I suspect it would make bad press for both parties to mention declining battery efficiency as the root cause.

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