|Plug-in fever. The White House has this shot of the CalCars plug-in Prius on its website.|
On a week-long swing to promote his Advanced Energy Initiative, announced in the State of the Union address (earlier post), President Bush selected battery-maker Johnson Controls as a venue to make the case for the importance of plug-in hybrids.
Re-iterating his stated intention to reduce and then to eliminate US reliance on oil, the President outlined three ways to do that: (1) invest in vehicles that require much less gasoline; (2) find new fuels that will replace gasoline; and (3) develop new ways to run a car without gasoline at all.
The most promising ways to reduce gasoline consumption quickly is through hybrid vehicles...the twin sources of power allow hybrid cars and trucks to travel about twice as far on a gallon of fuel as gasoline-only vehicles. That is a good start when something that can go twice as far on a gallon of gasoline than the conventional vehicle can.
But there is more to be done, and that’s why I’m here at Johnson Controls, because engineers here are working on ways to replace the current hybrid battery technology with advanced lithium-ion batteries that are now used in cell phones and laptops.
Using new lithium ion batteries, engineers will be able to design the next generation of hybrid vehicles, called plug-in hybrids, that can be recharged through a standard electrical outlet. Start picturing what I’m talking about: you’ve got your car, you pull in, you plug it right in the wall.
Development will make a big difference in the performance of hybrid cars and trucks. Instead of depending on the gasoline engine to recharge the electric battery, the plug-in hybrids will have fully charged batteries as soon as you get in the automobile. And that means plug-in hybrids will be able to travel much greater distances on electricity alone, thereby saving more gas for our consumers, thereby making us less dependent on oil.
The plug-in hybrid, they estimate, can initially go 40 miles on electricity alone. So you’ve got a lot of folks living in cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who generally don’t drive more than 40 miles a day. Therefore, within 40 miles you’ll be on electricity and using no gasoline. Eventually, plug-in hybrids with lithium ion batteries will be able to get 100 miles per gallon. And now all of a sudden you’re beginning to see the effects of this important technology on our national security and on our economic security.
Plug-in hybrids are a really important part of the strategy I’ve announced, and we’re going to provide $31 million to speed up research on these advanced technologies—this is a 27% increase over current funding levels.
The President continued on to touch on ethanol and the important development of cellulosic ethanol from “wood chips and stalks and switch grass, and other natural materials,” as well as on the ongoing research to develop hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
Turning his attention to power generation, the President called for the expansion of the use of coal, nuclear power and wind and solar.
I think we ought to start building nuclear power plants again. I think it makes sense to do so. Technology is such that we can do so and say to the American people, these are safe—and they’re important.
The administration has also launched what’s called Nuclear Power 2010 Initiative. It’s a $1.1 billion partnership between the government and industry to facilitate new plant orders.
We’re also going to work with other nations to help them build nuclear power industries. And the reason why is this is a global world in which we live and demand for oil in China and India affects price here in America. And so, therefore, if we can help relieve the pressure off of demand for fossil fuels, it helps the entire world.
Bush then spoke of the importance of solar and wind power. (Next stop on his tour is Ovonics, to highlight the company’s work with photovoltaic cells.)
The technology—solar technology has the potential to change the way we live and work, if you really think about it. The whole purpose of spending money on solar power—and we intend to spend $150 million next year in funding for both government and private research—is to bring to market as quickly as possible this important and impressive technology. It’s really going to help change the way we live, we think, and we want solar power to become competitive by 2015.
More than $3 billion worth of equipment to generate electricity from wind was installed in America last year. In other words, it’s a new industry, it’s beginning to grow.
About 6 percent of the continental US has been identified as highly suitable for construction of wind turbines. Some have estimated that this area alone has the potential to supply up to 20 percent of our nation's electricity. In other words, they’ve identified 6 percent of the country’s landmass as a good place for wind turbines that, if installed with the right technology, could have a major effect on the electricity that we all use. So we’re proposing additional money for research and development.
Think about how your children or your grandchildren may be able to spend a President’s Day in the future. If you’re planning a trip to visit relatives, you can plug in your hybrid car the night before and drive the first 40 miles on your lithium ion battery. If you’ve got more distance to go, you can fill up at your local ethanol station. If you’re in Wisconsin, you’ll be filling it up with corn product. In Crawford, it may just be switch grass. You may decide to travel in a hydrogen-powered minivan, and refuel at a station with hydrogen generated by a local nuclear power plant. When you finally make it to where you’re going, you can sit at a house that is lit by clean coal, or wind energy, or solar-powered roof over your head.