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Minnesota Legislators Introduce Bill to Accelerate In-State Development, Production and Purchase of Plug-in Hybrids

A bi-partisan group of Minnesota state senators and representatives have introduced a bill designed to encourage the development, production and purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles in the state.

The legislation defines a plug-in hybrid as including the ability to transfer electricity to a utility (vehicle-to-grid, or V2G—earlier post), and to have the ability to travel at least 20 miles powered substantially by electricity.

The provisions of the bills include:

  • Establishment of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Task Force. The task force will comprise 11 members from a range of organizations, including:

    • Xcel Energy and Great River Energy;
    • Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency;
    • Travel Management Division of the Minnesota Department of Administration;
    • University of Minnesota Department of Electrical Engineering;
    • Minnesota-based manufacturers of electric batteries, automotive parts, and power-electronics; and
    • An environmental advocacy organization active in electricity issues.

  • The Task Force will identify barriers to the adoption of PHEVs by state agencies, small and large private fleets, and Minnesota drivers at large and develop strategies to be implemented over a one-, three-, and five-year time frame to overcome those barriers.

    The task force also prepare requests for bids for the state and political subdivisions of the state to purchase a significant number of PHEVs over several years, based on their availability, performance and price. The bids will become effective only if the specified performance specifications and target price per vehicle are met.

  • Ford Plant Enhancement Commission. The commission is to develop a package of financial and other incentives to encourage the production of plug-in at the Ford plant in St. Paul, Minnesota. That plant currently manufactures the Ranger, sales of which are dropping steadily, raising local concerns that Ford will idle parts or all of the plant.

  • State procurement policy. State solicitation documents for the purchase of motor vehicles will stipulate the intention of the state to begin purchasing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as soon as they become commercially available, meet the state’s performance specifications, and are priced at no more than ten percent above the price for comparable gasoline-powered vehicles.

    Once those conditions are met, the state will purchase at least 500 PHEVs within one year, and at least 5,000 PHEVs annually for at least five years beginning two years after the conditions are met.

  • Flex-fuel PHEV retrofit grant.The state is to appropriate $100,000 from the general fund for a grant to the Automotive Engineering Program at Minnesota State University–Mankato for the purpose of retrofitting two flexible-fuel vehicles to enable them to also operate as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

  • Public Utilities Commission proceeding. This provision instructs the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to open a proceeding to investigate how utilities can best develop the infrastructure to connect PHEVs to the electrical grid and to allow utilities to purchase electricity from PHEVs (V2G).

  • Independent study on PHEV and utility V2G economics. Under this section, the Public Utilities Commission will order an independent study of (1) the economics of using electricity purchased from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) (V2G), and (2) how such purchases may impact the reserve needs for wind-generated electricity purchased by the utility.

    The study must examine the economic impacts on PHEV owners and utilities of different prices for electricity purchased from PHEV's and rates for recharging PHEVs, including time-of-day pricing and substantial discounts for off-peak charging. The study is to be completed by 1 April 2007.

  • Cost-recovery of investments in PHEV infrastructure. Expenses incurred by a utility to install infrastructure necessary to connect PHEVS to the electrical grid to allow the vehicles to recharge and to also allow the utility to purchase electricity from PHEVs are to be recoverable from ratepayers of the utility.

The bill also establishes a flexible-fuel mandate in the state, requiring 10% of each automaker’s new cars offered for sale in the state be flexible-fuel vehicles beginning in 2008. This requirement increases to 20% in 2010, 25% in 2011 and 30% in 2012.




This is really great news! I commend Minnesota State officials for their action on this important subject. However, one minor requirement seems off the mark: "priced at no more than 10% above the price for comparable gasoline-powered vehicles"??!

Ok, I believe a 2006 Prius is about $3000 more than w/o hybrid, which is, say, 15%. This is for a reasonably priced hybrid in mass production, which achieves a very good 45-50 mpg (I'm getting about 46). We're hearing that a plug-in Prius, would get 100 mpg for the first 20 to 30 miles, and up to 500 mpg if driven at moderate speeds, of course, with near zero tail pipe emissions.
Further, the car must also provide power back to the grid! Wow!

My rub is, "and they are only willing to pay 10% over the cost of a gasoline engine car??!

Rafael Seidl

George -

the only 10% requirement I see is that fraction of vehicles sold need to be flex-fuel capable. I'm not sure what you are referring to.

Unfortunately, neither flex-fuel systems nor PHEVs nor V2G make a whole lot of sense if you think them through:

Any excess ethanol produced in Minnesota would be better spent increasing the biofuel percentage in the gasoline sold nationwide (up to 10%) than in ramping up suplly and demand for a new E85 grade. There is simply no need for flex-fuel systems just yet.

PHEVs are just EVs which also lug around an ICE that is shut off most of the time. Batteries that are cycled frequently feature atrocious energy density compared to a liquid fuel like gasoline. Ergo, hybrid batteries should be optimized for high power and used for no-idle, recuperative braking, boost acceleration and managing engine operation points. Optimizing for all-electric range is inefficient engineering. Instead of a PHEV, get a regular hybrid if you live in a city or else a turbodiesel with DPF.

V2G makes no sense because as a grid operator you cannot predict when cars will be connected and feed power into the grid (cp. wind energy). Therefore, you must still build enough traditional power plants or secure enough imports to meet worst-case demand. Moreover, large power plants will always have greater thermodynamic efficiency, and the fuels cars burn are all far more expensive to produce and distribute.

IMHO the proposed bill has little to do with genuine concern for the environment and everything to do with drumming up business for sundry local industries in an election year.

Instead, Minnesota should fund research on scaling up cellulose ethanol production and, in power-centric hybrids systems (ultracaps, hydraulic and/or pneumatic).

Adrian Akau

PHEV vehicle promotion is the right way to go. I also think that cities would need parking meter type installations or even modified coin operated parking meters that could deliver charging power. EV and PHEV cars would be able to charge up more easily this way, doubling the range for people coming in from the country to shop or to work.

Limitations right now seem to be because of battery technology but that should change in the next few years.

I would also encourage the use of wind generators to provide power for charging.

I am not too keen on flex fuel cars because I am not sold on ethanol as the way to go for oil independence.

[email protected]


Plug-in Hybrid technology offers the most advantages in vehicular design. Period. It is applicable to the widest range of weight class, from compact to heavy freight. It offers the most safety features, including how the larger battery pack lowers vehicle center-of-gravity, improving stability, reducing the potential for accidental rollover; a perfect application for top-heavy SUVs.

The Plug-in Hybrid vehicle will always have a limited range on zero-emission battery power alone, but this too is an advantage: they offer an economic incentive to drive less, patronize and build local economies which in time develop more destinations accessable without always having to drive. Ultimately, the most efficient means of travel, (walking, bicycling and mass transit), become more viable options instead of the automobile infestation, monopoly, inequity.

The Plug-in Hybrid is Power to the People! GM, Exxon and Enronian energy corporations are plotting to kill it with preposterous fuel cell prototypes, pseudo-hybrids, and bio-fuels. Our real problem is that we drive too much. The Plug-in Hybrid is the best solution for reducing the need for long-distance travel and transport.


The state really is asking for PHEVs that cost only 10% more than similar gasoline vehicles. George spotted this correctly, and Rafael missed it. I copy the relevant paragraph below:

"State procurement policy. State solicitation documents for the purchase of motor vehicles will stipulate the intention of the state to begin purchasing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as soon as they become commercially available, meet the state’s performance specifications, and are priced at no more than ten percent above the price for comparable gasoline-powered vehicles."

Regarding the subsequent points:

1. Promoting E85 before the majority of the country goes over to E10 is indeed probably premature. The usefulness of small amounts of ethanol as an oxygenate and octane booster has already put price pressure on it as a commodity, to the point where the US is now a net importer of it. Until production and ramps up further the distribution system improves, and cellulostic technologies mature, it probably does not make much sense to try to tip the system over to widespread E85 acceptance.

There would be advantages to widespead E85, however. Engines could be optimized to work with its higher octane qualities, improving performance and mileage. Until E85 becomes widespread, engine manufacturers will continue to have to optimize for lower-octane gasoline, which will reduce the ability to extract maxiumum efficiency from the engine.

2. A plug-in optimized for electrical operation would carry its combustion engine around without using it most of the time, but that is not a deal breaker. Most people buy cars that are at least somewhat larger and heavier than they need for their average commuting use, against the day when they decide to take a family road trip or something and need the extra room. Drivers of large SUVs take that to an extreme, but buyers of mid-size Fords and Chevrolets are often doing the same thing. Similarly, the buyer of a plug-in might expect to do most of his driving on battery power, but would be happy to know that he can set out on a longer trip and use widely available gasoline to power a <40 hp generator, extending his range indefinitely. The marginal cost of lugging around 300 or 400 pounds of extra weight is not actually unduly large.

3. Batteries do not need to have nearly the same energy density as gasoline, since their tank-to-wheels efficiency is much higher. They could be four times less dense (not that they are yet that good) and nobody would likely notice the difference at all, and ten times less energy dense without being too much of a deal-killer. The point of a plug-in is that if a battery pack and motor assembly can give a range of barely a third of what a similarly sized gasoline assembly could, most people would find it more than adequate for their daily needs (especially if they could charge it at home for cheap while they sleep). They could likely be induced to buy it if only the range could be extended on those occasions when they needed to take a long trip. Hence the integrated on-board generator.

4. Vehicle to grid works on the law of averages. While it is not easy to predict when and where any given car will plug into the grid to take in or give out electricity, it is actually not that hard to guess where the large average masses of cars are at any given time: At night, many cars will be at home charging. On weekdays during business hours, many cars will be sitting in commuter parking lots, doing nothing. During rush hours, many cars will be on the roads. During weekends, cars will be in and out at more erratic hours. Based on such aggregate figures, an electrical utility could make some conservative bets that, if they install chargers at homes and uptake stations in commuter parking lots, a certain amount of power will be drawn from the grid at night, and some certain amount pushed back in during the day.

richard schumacher

V2G is not a good idea until a significant number of biofuelled vehicles are on the road. Until then V2G systems will be turning petroleum into electricity at low efficiency, which is more or less the worst possible use of that resource.


According to the California Air Resources
Board, electric vehicles in the Los Angeles
Basin produce 98 percent fewer hydrocarbons,
89 percent fewer oxides of nitrogen, and 99
percent less carbon monoxide than gasoline
vehicles when power plant emissions are taken
into account. The Los Angeles Department of
Water and Power has determined that electricity
generation sufficient to power 100,000 miles of
EV driving produces less than 100 pounds of
pollutants compared to 3000 pounds produced by
gasoline vehicles.

This may not be the whole picture. But it seems more promising that what I have read about ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen, gasoline, you name it. And btw, PHEVs emit less GHG than the aforementioned approaches. Admittedly, the battery issue may continue to be a problem, but it is worth pursuing.


It sure would be helpful to see “Made in Mankato” PHEV conversion kits for Crown Vics that comprise 90% of the taxi fleet in the United States.

BTW: I would like to see further elaboration to the contention, "Optimizing for all-electric range is inefficient engineering." Besides being cleaner, it is my understanding that electric drives are much more efficient. Given that PHEVs are currently feasible, it would seem to be inefficient engineering to continue to strive for small incremental ICE improvements.

Rafael Seidl

t, jcwinnie -

as en engineer, you want to achieve adequate performance characteristics with the smallest (i.e. cheapest) possible prime mover. That means keeping the total vehicle weight down - a tough job considering the ever-stricter safety regs and the mod cons like a wide and high passenger compartment, low noise, AT, AC, electric seats & windows etc. Batteries, even the best ones, simply weigh a lot per kWh of energy stored, compared to a chemical fuel.

As for feasibility, I have yet to see data on the longevity of PHEV batteries. Deep cycling them for the sake of adequate range sharply reduces life expectancy. The ZEV legislation, which kicked in with model year 2005, gives generous credits for high electric-only range through 2008.

PHEVs are a popular idea among owners because at current electricity prices, they cut the cost of the daily commute right down. However, scaling up the PHEV fleet would necessitate investments in additional power generation and distribution. Moreover, the treasury would presumably look for a way to plug the hole left by reduced fuel tax income. In other words, the almost-free lunch would probably not last very long.

All-electric vehicles do make a lot of sense for mass transit systems with permanent grid connectivity. Recuperation in such grids can be optimized with stationary ride-through accumulators based on flywheels or ultracaps at key nodes. There was a research vehicle in Denmark that was to make contact with a special feeder rail on selected freeways, and drive electric-only on those. However, there are serious safety issues in setting up conductive rails.

CARB is correct in stating that EVs produce far fewer emissions than ICE-powered vehicles. What is debatable is how low is low enough to safeguard public health. Moreover, you could easily get many gasoline-powered cars to meet SULEV regs by pre-heating the three-way catalyst usng a fan and burner for ~10 secs before starting the engine. It's not done because it's not required and few customers would volunteer to pay extra for the privilege of waiting.

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