Japan Proposes Tougher Fuel Economy Regulations; Passenger Car Fuel Economy to Increase 23.5% by 2015
China Joins FutureGen; Signs Efficiency and Renewable Energy Protocol with US

California Energy Commission Awards $3 Million to UC Davis for Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research

The California Energy Commission has approved $3 million to University of California, Davis for a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) research center. The funds will be allocated over three years and use the UCD Institute of Transportation Studies as its hub.

The goals of the research center are to: enhance the commercial viability of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles; identify strategies to accelerate an effective adoption of PHEVs; support demonstration and related activities; and provide information on decision making and alternative vehicle and transportation technologies.

These goals will be achieved by creating a roadmap which will identify, conduct, and contract the necessary R&D; developing an advisory council to provide strategic direction; establishing partnerships with other institutions; and fostering connections with stakeholders.

Funding this technology represents a significant milestone for California. The center will serve as a magnet for innovative research by advancing and demonstrating technology which will greatly reduce our dependence on petroleum.

—James Boyd, Energy Commission Vice Chair

This funding comes from the Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. The PIER program, the largest in the nation, awards up to $84 million to conduct energy research annually. The program supports energy research, development and demonstration projects that improve the quality of life in California.


factory rat

I hope this means that Dr. Frank will finally operate on more than a shoestring. He has been doing heavy lifting on PHEVs for a long time, and it is a shame that it took this long for the state to understand just what they have at UC.


Imagine what the good guys could do with adequate funding. I know...let's take the money wasted on the bad guys and get with it :)


This is an idea I've had for years and I would like to see considered in reference to PHEVs: Seems to me that a proper way to implement PHEVs is as a pure light weight EV driven directly by batteries for short trips and add a trailer with an efficient fuel tank/engine/generator for distant trips. That way you only carry the weight of the auxiliary unit when you anticipate powering the auto as a serial hybrid. Lots of problems to work out; however, I believe it makes sense to develop.



The issue you are talking about is by no means trivial one.
Operation of BEV by definition is limited to the areas with access to recharging infrastructure, which severely limits BEV ability to be marketed as anything but city-core delivery vehicles.

Couple of designs already address this problem. Quite cheap and light-weight commercial gasoline generators, generating regular 110V AC power are readily available. Some BEV manufacturers already offer optional small generators for emergency battery run-down.

Trailer is not nearly needed. Current offer of BEV (light truck) for California PZEV requirements by Phonics Motorcars with Altair butteries could easily have small gasoline generator bolted in the truck's bed. In case when buttery will run down, generator could be fired, and after half hour of operation the recharged vehicle could safely be driven home.

John McConnell


Have you looked at the various vehicles the guy who started Tesla has made?? He made an electric car towing a trailer. You have to check it out -- I think it's something along what you are talking about.


It goes back well before Tesla Motors.

Harvey D.

Other variances.

1) On board, plug-in, quickly exhangeable, standardized battery packs to extend range for medium and long trips. The advantage of this option is to give the opportunity to up-grade battery packs with future advanced batteries as they become available. Alternatively, battery packs could be rented to lower car purchase price. Rent a battery pack would become a flourishing business.

2) On board, light weight, low cost, plug-in genset for use on longer trips only. Rent a genset would also apply.

3) A trailer full of quickly exchangeable plug-in batteries (or genset) to extend non-stop range. Rent a trailer would also apply.

4) A combination of 1) + 2) may be the ideal way to satisfy most requirements.



The Tzero at AC Propulsion does this. They used a Kawasaki 600 2 cylinder engine in the trailer genset behind their sports car for longer trips.



To factory rat:

This money is in fact not designated for Dr. Frank's PHEV team. It is for UCD's ITS, which has established a new PHEV center. I wish him luck trying to get a few bucks out of those bureaucrats.


Congratulations to Prof Frank. However I don't think this is going to speed up the adoption of PHEVs. After all his years of research the technical problems are no longer the hurdle. He states that car companies, if they really wanted to, could make PHEVs right now for an added cost equivalent to the usual options of leather seats, GPS, etc ie %15-20 premium. Its hard for me to imagine the costs coming down a lot further from here. So without further regulation it is a marketing problem. The car companies have to be convinced they will sell and the public have to be interested enough to buy. I don't know that this will occur until gas is three times what it costs now.


It has long seemed to me that the real objection to PHEVs that are coming from auto manufacturers and energy companies has to do with auto dependency and energy monopoly.

The PHEV will surely prove to be the most long-life vehicles ever. Automobile manufacturers are not likely to find that prospect in the best interests of profiteering. The PHEV offers the economic incentive of driving less, to patronize and build local economies, whereby more destinations become accessable without having to drive.

As for our beloved energy companies, being able to recharge a PHEV battery pack off rooftop photovoltiac panels, is one step away from public power, and offers an education in household electricity use as well. Where's the profit in that?

Quick! Get UC Tenants on the line and tell them they must stop PHEV at ALL COSTS!!! Like the bible says, "What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses the ability to pass on those gains to his benevolent Foundation "non-profit?" corporation?"


Why a trailer? Why not a device that attaches just to the hitch? They make these hitch attachments that are like mini platforms. Put the Genset and fuel tank (with appropriate interfacing to the car), and voila! Nice little series hybrid.

kerr  Beaucrt

This looks to be almost pure pork appropriation. The various plug-in configurations are so well known I have to question the sanity of paying someone to examine what everyone in the industry already knows. The idea that this "research" will discover some hidden truths about the various technologies seems flat-out bizarre. Nowadays, if some research proposal has the word "alternative energy"
prominently displayed in the opening text, that's al that's needed. Money right down that drain, right down it.


Power companies seem to favor PHEVs. It would shift some of the revenue flow from oil companies to them. This would pay back existing investments and help fund new ones.


Two comments, first SJC is on the money, Power Companies favor PHEV's because it provides revenue growth without increasing capital investment, at least over the first few years.

Second, as was also observed, the issue is not technical, but a market issue. Only when we establish a pricing structure for transportation fuel that increases the cost per gallon the more you use, will we incentivize the purchase of more fuel efficent vehicles.

What is the hold-up??? We do it with water, we do it with electricity, why not with vehicle fuel???


There is a gas guzzler tax, but I favor a Gross Vehicle Weight tariff done by the states. If the SUV is 5000 pounds and it gets 12 mpg, there is an excise tax at initial and subsequent sales. There is also a dramitic increase in registration fees year after year. You may not be able to have a progressive tax on how much you use, but this may be one way to change behaviors.

Rafael Seidl

Carmakers would happily invest their own money in PHEV research if CARB ditched the arbitrary requirement that any brand selling at least 60,000 vehicles per year in California has to ship at least 2% true Z(T)EV, i.e. BEVs or FCVs - or else a predefined number of FCVs. This assumes that a further 8% are met via ZEV credits.

The path to the large-scale deployment of BEVs needs to be gradual, starting with HEVs and progressing to PHEVs as and when advances in battery technology make that possible. Forget about hydrogen for automotive applications and you will get there quite a bit faster.


I am against a gas guzzler tax and for a useage tax.

Why should someone with a SUV have to pay the tax if they actually only use 500 gallons a year (say 6000 miles of driving using the arbitrary 12mpg given above) while someone consuming 750 gallons a year in a prius (say 37,500 miles of driving with an arbitrary 50mpg figure) does not pay any taxes for consumption? In the end the Prius owner is "wasting" more fuel regardless of their more efficient wasting of that energy. This tells me it is okay to live 50 miles away from work if I drive a Prius rather than live 5 miles away from work and drive a SUV. [disclaimer: I prefer small cars and hate driving large vehicles like vans & SUVs].


By the same reasoning, I could drive that 6000 miles and only use 200 gallons of gasoline. That would save 300 gallons per year. The Union of Concerned Scientists (www.ucsusa.org) designed an SUV that got 30 mpg. This is much better than one that gets 12 mpg. Now why people commute is more about the real problem. Affordable housing where you work, having jobs where you live or telecommuting at least one day a week all make more sense.


Yes, of course. I was just saying that the taxes should be on actual useage and not just because of the potential to use gas at a faster rate.

Even if everyone owned a PHEV I would still like to see something done to reduce commuting. Lower cost housing closer to work places, etc.

Dan Browne

The power companies favor PHEVs and the oil companies don't. The auto companies don't want to make PHEVs because they say they don't want to cover the warranty.

OK. Solution as follows:

1. Auto Companies include PHEV pack as an add-on for $$$$. Explictly mention that it has a three year warranty for say 40,000 miles.
2. Second stage battery pack bought from auto manufacturer with further three year warranty for say 40,000 miles - OEM battery pack manufacturers could come into play, making it cheaper in the medium term.
3. Power companies finance the second stage battery purchases by slightly increasing electricity costs off peak to those customers who agree to the contract. That way the customers get to "spread the load".

direct drive car

ZAP early on, introduced the fastest production electric car in the country, a three- wheeler called the Xebra that can hit 40 miles per hour. By the end of next year, ZAP will introduce the Obvio , a pint- size Brazilian import that will be the nation’ s first commercial car to run on 100 percent ethanol, followed by a Lotus Engineering electric SUV[ the ZAP- X] that will top 155mph. We spoke with Schneider about his thriving eco- dealership and his ambitious vision of a green automobile for every driver in America.

The comments to this entry are closed.