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President Bush Pushes for Plug-in Hybrids

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.



Bush stole the hydrogen agenda from the Democrats and the anti-Bush crowd ran to anywhere but hydrogen...some landing on ethanol, some landing on bio-diesel, and some landing on plug-in hybrids. Now Bush is stealing that agenda as well.

When will the Democrats learn that if they want to beat Bush they shouldn't just turn and run to another soup du jour...they should instead jump on the band wagon and get him to fund it. He'll never provide any real funding, so why don't the Democrats embrace hydrogen, ethanol, bio-diesel, and plug-in hybrids and call him at his bluff. It's time to stop bad mouthing good technology for the sake of politics and instead get this yahoo to put some funding behind his photo ops.



In general I agree with you. We should have a Manhatten Project for alternative energy, not a few pennies and a press conference. In addition, where's the call for conservation, which can make a huge difference *today*?


What is the solar funding level? About a week of the Iraq war. Bush gets behind all kinds of initiatives, but doesn't deliver where the rubber hits the road. I hope I'm wrong this time, but am not impressed with the FY2007 funding level or the fact that people are being liad off at the Renewable Energy Lab as we speak.

Note that he is still spending way more on fossil fuels than alternative fuels. They call it "energy diversity" as if it were an affirmative action program.

We don't need funding of energy diversity; we need funding of alternatives, period. We need funding of clearn energy, period.

It's like mass transit funding. As long as you make it easier to travel by car, it's very difficult to get people out of their cars and into mass transit.

Let's fund at least 10,000 PHEVs now. Yes, they will be more powerful and have longer ride times on electric in the future. But let's get with the program now so that the hybrid and battery makers of the world know they will be supported well for the indefinite future.

But without funding and incentives that will kick start renewables and PHEVs, it's all just more smoke. And I mean that literally.

Felix Kramer

Here's's statement in response to this very immportant speech.

We're delighted that Pres. Bush is now "plugging" plug-in hybrids. The President is right to say that "hybrids are a good deal for consumers" and that "plug-in hybrids will make a big difference" so drivers can fuel with cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity.

Continued R&D funding is welcome -- but why wait? We already have the "amazing breakthroughs" the President cites. DaimlerChrysler plus volunteer engineers and entrepreneurs have already put a few plug-in hybrids on the road. Mercedes, UC Davis, and EDrive Systems all use batteries we have right now. Plug-In Partners has fleet buyers asking for cars now.

We hope the President will call up the CEOs of car companies and find out how he can help them build PHEVs right away.

factory rat

I agree with the comments so far. Funding skew to fossil and nukes gives the lie to Bush's priorities. But the dithering Dems better move soon or he will establish credibility on this issue. The oil security hawks have clearly been heard inside the administration, and the Dems are slow to grasp the import.

I also say enough already with research as the first priority, let's find a way to start making product.

What I don't get is why politicians spend gazillions on war and tax cuts, yet offer paltry sums that don't match our problem/opportunity in this area. Can we change this anytime soon?

fred dzlsabe

How much more R+D can we take? The promising tecks are here...they need gummint and commercial orders. Then the final step....~.25/g tax on imported crude to fund worthwile transport projects...maybe even level tollbooths.

Harvey D

Why do politicians spend billions in the wrong place? .... simply to get elected. Politicians only care about GHG, Hybrids, PHEVs, EVs, Wind power, Solar etc when they think that they may get more votes by saying/doing so. A few millions for PHEVs, cleaner energies and alternative fuels is all it takes to convince the majority that he really means it. With less than half the 200 to 500 hundred billions being spent on oil wars, USA, with proper R&D + Production Incentives, could have had extended range PHEVs and EVs on the road 2 or 3 years ago instead of 2010+. Production of cellulosic ethanol and other forms of alternative fuels could also have been here in large quantities to replace a significant portion of the imported fossil fuel and reduce the huge trade deficit. When will the American voters tell the politicians what they realy want?


Good words (Bush). The government does not really need to invest in these things as the private sector appears to be doing an all but Manhattan project on its own. The US government should instead raise taxes on petrol and adopt European style emmissions targets and mandates for biofuel use.

Hampden Wireless

Wow. I have never agreed with "W" before. I DONT LIKE HIM. Is he seriously thinking about doing smart things now? Nukes and plug ins are what we need.

Now is he going waste time with painfully long 'R&D' or is he going to push for things that can be done NOW.

We need ground broken on a US NMIH battery factory. I want to see research in advanced batteries but we need more working batteries made now. A simple design taking a Prius or Escape and adding batteries WITH cooperation from Ford or Toyota can be made today. Half the work on the calcars plugin was defeating Toyotas on board software. With help from them far less electronics and complication would be needed.


You'll get none of it.
Asia and Europe will make all the innovations and progress since they seem to be the only ones who hold any concern for our world. The only environmental initiative is the US buying already made products from them after much public pressure.

PS - Any new nuke plants will not be anything revolutionary like the pebble bed reactor concept that is safe, low maintenance and relatively innexpensive.
It will be weapons grade breeder reactors for that very purpose. US is probably up for an upgrade on its aging arcenal and sees the oportunity to do so with the 'environment' in mind. Enjoy !!


Nukes won't seem so safe once a remote-controlled jet flies into one.


Adrian and Schwa actually voiced two concerns I thought nobody would address, and they're exactly right. Sure, plow down forests and plains to make farmland for virtually worthless Ethanol (further promoting economically unhealthy corporate farming) or to put up nuclear power plants that would be great targets for terrorists -- either way it's a good way to take America's mind off Bush's REAL destructive stand on environmental conservation. Asia and Europe are already ahead of us in the alternative energy game, which will just mean more overseas dependency on other energy forms and an increase in overseas jobs rather than a real increase here. We certainly could have real alternative fuel solutions in a year -- heck, we could've had them several years ago as already stated above. His speech was pretty, but the underlying implications absolutely suck.


Actauly remember anything Bush pushes he must also at the same time push 100 senators pet projects.. well 60 or so senetors pet projects and the most powerful senetors push oil projects and coal projects.

Bush knows the true power is solar on your roof and a plug in ELECTRIC car but he cant say it directly. But he came damn close didnt he.

Bob Tasa

Instead of trying to over analyze the reasons I think
everyone should RUN with it. Use the speech and
everything else the administration has said at face value.. Its a great pry bar. Push your local and
Fed officials harder than ever before because
the President said so. Its a chance a real chance.
Embrace the words and use them dont run from them.
Call a senator today or congressman. Ask what hes doing
to push the Presidents adgenda. When is the last time
this has become front page news?

Roy keane

solar on your roof and an electric car is what the world is waiting for but to make this possible we need better batterys might be the solution but its a few years away at best, i think the real reason bush is talking about oil alternatives is he knows there is a huge oil shock on the way, this year or next oil could go above 200$ a barrel, the US and israel can not and will not let iran have the bomb, if and when they attack there will be a huge oil shock iran will first stop their own exports, they will they take out the ras tanura in saudi arabia (very easy for them to do) next they will block the gulf to stop oil tankers. the oil price will then hit 200$ and everyone in the US will say hey bush why are we so dependent on oil, and his responce will be i've been workin on alternatives for years dont you remember my state of the u speach and all the funding i spend on research. If you need a car to get to work or whatever my advice would be to buy a large supply of gas to last approx one year or more till the price drops back to normal again.Does anyone know if this is true, someone told me that bush powers his ranch in texas on solar is this true i thaught it a bit strange since he is an oil man

Bruk B

I agree with Bob. Now that the President is saying the right words all the conservatives will be using them too. This is an unprecedented opportunity that we can't let pass. Don't focus on what's behind the wave, ride it! Come on, surf's up!


Our transportation energy needs could be cut nearly in half if auto makers would adopt mass prdouced carbon fiber chassis.

The technology to do it affordably has been known for nearly a decade now, but no one wants to re-tool to embrace it.

Combine those chassis with E100 PHEVs, and you have a solution to transpotation energy.

But, the level of funding he has proposed 1: is unikely to happen 2: is a modest amount at best.

I don't expect to see much real-world resaults from this DC-world lip service.


Remember how successful Bush was on social security. Is his support the kiss of death for alternative energy? That's sort of tongue in cheek but given Bush's lack of popularity rating and his general record of failure, I wonder if he is capable of implementing anything without screwing it up.

In any event, someone clearly has gotten to him like Simmons, for example.

Now is [Bush] going waste time with painfully long 'R&D' or is he going to push for things that can be done NOW.
Look at his record:  in 2001, he cancelled the PNGV (which was about to deliver better-than-Prius hybrids from US mfgrs) and substituted the hydrogen car program which might yield something by 2015, more likely beyond 2020.
Joseph Willemssen

A very simple principle from basketball works well in many occasions -- don't watch the ball, watch the guy's belly button.

Bush loves putting on a dribbling display and it never ceases to amaze me at how many people keep being captivated by the movement of the ball.


It has to become worse (oil at 200$) before people understand that their lifestyle at homes which are far from their jobs is not sustainable with the current order of things.
Corporations are ruling US, they move polititians how it fits them. Even existence of only two parties in US is the way how they save money on not having to support more then just two parties.
WTF, some start up like Calstart could see that plugin is the way to go and GM, Ford and Toyota with their multimillion spending on research didn't? BS, carmakers didn't want to change things and that in itself should be the goverment responsibility to point out to them that american security is at risk and carmakers profits is secondary in this matter.
BUT, unfortunately America is a democracy where coporations are first and public later.
This sprawl of all kind of lobbies (including oil one) in american corridors of power are taking its tall.
What Americans forgot is that if things get ugly then all kind of politial movements based on race, religion
and god knows what will surface all because ordinary people will not be able to feed their kids. Democracy is a luxuary of well fed people. To support
100km home-work-home lifestyle polititians should look not only to those who feed them (corporations) but to
actually look around and see what DOES HAVE to be done
for US energy security due to coming peek oil. I hope Bush finally realized that he is a freaking president and not just a oil puppet, at least I hope so. Corporations, are in a bussiness of making money but its poititians who should constantly monitor their playing field and reshape it accordingly, . I believe today in USA its the other way around and current administration should be accountable for that mess.
Busssiness 'as usuall' (when corporations feeding polititians from hands in goverment corridors) can be carried in hystory for so much till some choke points are reached, then it takes a real leader to reshape the country to the new reality (post oil era in this case).
Bush doesn't look like the one to me even with his green speaches.

jb might be the solution but its a few years away at best,

Unfortunately europositron is a scam. If the pseudo-scientific babble on the website doesn't make that clear to the reader, the guy has been courting investors for about a decade promising to launch his revolutionary battery real soon now. He has been sued by his investors a couple of times as well, but so far he has managed to get away somehow.. :(


This is a fairly significant step forward, and I for one am pretty excited about it. Is the President giving alt. energy the funding and attention is requires? Of course not, and we all know that. However we need to start recognizing progress when we see it and we need to run with it. Our President, a full blown oil man, has received such pressure that he has been forced to act on this. The everyday person is starting to question our oil dependency, and despite a number of attempts to silence this, politicians are seeing this as a huge issue they is there, we know the public will is there, and for the first time we're seeing our government jump on board.

Energy independence and security is an absolute MUST for this nation, and we need to keep pushing it. We CANNOT get into this typical doom and gloom mode that has become a staple of this entire issue. I truly believe that we can move past this, but you must provide people a sense of hope and new direction. As a movement, we must move past the hyper-pessimism that defines us. We are starting to make strides, and the last thing we need is people giving up.

Adrian Akau

I think that President Bush has become more concerned about promoting plug in vehicles mainly because President Chavez (Venezuela) has stated the possibility of his country not supplying oil to the US. We do need to wean ourselves away not just from foreign oil but from oil altogether but it may take another 40 or 50 years. I think this will require the continual development of all forms of renewable energy. President Bush's real assistance should come in the form of encouraging legislation that will increase funding for non-fossil energy development. I think President Chaves did us a great favor by his comments.

[email protected]


If you think solar power and PHEV are the way to go, then spend your own money and stop crying about what others are doing. The alternative energy market will then be driven by the public. Why do you think cars makers are coming out with more hybrid cars every year because customers are buying 1,000s of them? Gee - I think the government should raise someone’s taxes or spend more money on this or that R & D project? It isn't going to happen. OR it must be G.W. Bush, big business, or the oil companies fault. Please leave the blame game to the politicians. Oil has run our nation for well over 100 years and any transition away from it will take a damn long time. The Dems. And Reps. only care about spending tax payers’ money and getting re-elected!!! It's sad, but that's the truth! Maybe they will do something after oil hits >$100 barrel and/or >$4 gallon of gas. The private sector is already spending billions of dollars every year on alternative energy and car technologies, but it will take time before it hits the commercial markets.

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