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Austin, Texas, Kicks Off Major Campaign for Plug-In Hybrids

The City of Austin today officially launched “Plug-In Austin,” a community-wide campaign to promote the mass production of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Austin has been in the forefront of pushing for the development and commercialization of plug-ins as a solution. Last October, the Austin City Council passed a resolution in support of working with DaimlerChrysler’s plug-in diesel-electric hybrid Sprinter van (earlier post.)

The Austin plan, viewed as a model that will be used by communities across the country, includes:

  • An Austin City Council resolution supporting the mass production of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

  • Local seed money from electric utilities (Austin Energy will provide $1 million) to help local governments, businesses and the public purchase an initial round of plug-ins.

  • Commitments for fleet orders by the City of Austin, Travis County, other local governmental agencies and businesses.

  • A grassroots petition drive to collect signatures from citizens encouraging automakers to mass-produce plug-in hybrids.

Plug-in hybrids can help significantly address two very serious problems facing communities and our country: the over-reliance of America on oil imports and the need to improve air quality in our cities by reducing pollution from automobiles.

—Austin Mayor Will Wynn

This effort makes more concrete what CalCars and so many others are doing. It helps create a path to what economists call “commercialization”—the ready availability of products on the market.

—Felix Kramer, CalCars

The petition drive is a key component of the Plug-In Austin campaign. Austin environmental, civic and business groups will circulate petitions with the goal of collecting at least 10,000 signatures by December. To sign the petition and get additional information on the Plug-In Austin initiative, visit www.pluginaustin.org.

The DaimlerChrysler diesel hybrid Sprinter is currently the only plug-in targeted for commercial deployment by a major automaker. (Earlier post.)

Undercarriage of the Sprinter hybrid. DaimlerChrysler also has made an all-electric version of the van.

The Sprinter uses a 2.7-liter, five-cylinder turbo diesel engine that on its own offers approximately 25 mpg US. The plug-in version of the Sprinter hybrid features a 70-kW electric motor integrated into the drive train between the transmission and clutch.

It obtains its energy from NiMH batteries (capacity 14 kWh) which it recharges during operation by using regenerative braking. Alternatively the batteries can be recharged overnight using grid power. A complete charge takes about 6 hours.

The operating range under emissions-free electrical operation is up to 30 km (18.6 miles). DaimlerChrysler estimates that, depending upon how it is driven, the plug-in can reduce fuel consumption, and thus CO2 emissions, by up to 50%.

The hybrid Sprinter is entering customer trials this year, where those figures will be tested.



Austin may want to look into Green parking lots as well, may help with recharging batteries.



Austin Texas is an island of light in a sea of dark crude. Somebody please clue Molly Ivins in on this so the word can be spread faster to the rest of the country. Let Carnegie Mellon know too since they have a super process for biodiesel they are implementing now in Pittsburgh. Let Willie Nelson know too and Daryl Hannah and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Nowhar but Texas is way more than a cliche and Texas can embrace the light side of the force every bit as well as anywhere.

Mike Weindl

Turbo-Diesel, Hybrid, Plug-in and a Petition...sounds like Christmas! How do you forward this news on every mayors desk?


Where is the advantage of lugging around an engine and generator that's not being used 90% of the time? Wouldn't a straight electric with a genset trailer for long trips be more efficient in the long run?

Felix Kramer

One minor note: in the description of the Sprinter vans, the first of which is now expected to arrive in LA around year-end, it is, alas, not accurate to say,

>The DaimlerChrysler diesel hybrid Sprinter is currently the only plug-in targeted for commercial deployment by a major automaker.

This remains a prototype/demonstration project. DaimlerChrysler (before the recent management shape-up) committed to building some dozens more, but there is no commitment to production vehicles.


Well, hmm. I may have been overly optimistic in interpreting the stance, represented by the following statements.

From DCX, the Sprinter is going into “near-launch road trials” in 2005.

And, from another piece,

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with plug-in hybrid drive on display at the 2004 Commercial Vehicle Show is far more than study for the distant future: customer trials which can already commence next year are already planned.

So it sure sounds like they’re heading to FCS. It may take awhile, as it did for Daihatsu to get their commercial hybrid out on the market, but for some irrational reason, I have some confidence in DCX on this one—and in the pressure you and Austin Energy are bringing to bear on the issue. :-)

tony chilling

Hybrids, in whatever form are a political compromise with big oil and the present energy distribution system. This means, hopefully, that these corporations will not lobby very hard to stop them.
The individual american has a birth right to roam freely and cheaply in our great land. However, is has created lust for oil.
Heck! Even a highly respected Christian leader recently called for the assassination of the Venezuelan President for fear oil shipments would stop.
Think about it, folks. We are in big trouble, over oil, when our own christian leaders want to kill for oil.
However, Hybrids cannot be built fast enough and be accepted by enough americans to make much of a difference.
most of America needs to go "cold turkey" with oil.

Michael Reily

Ok so what I want to know is where to actually puchase one of these sprinter hybrids or if thats even possible yet? I like the idea but I cant find any information from anyone at a chrysler dealership that seems to know anything about even ordering one for me.

dr. sun

I would like to get in contact with the mayor to bring a new company & franchise to austin, txs. we teach how to convert your classic or not so classiccar or truck to zero em. electric. that will go 900miles on one charge, go 156/mph, get 400mpge. build your own wind gen. or solar juice. contact me at [email protected]

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