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San Diego Gas and Electric to Run Two Plug-In Hybrids

by Jack Rosebro

One of two Toyota Prius hybrids that San Diego Gas and Electric will convert into PHEVs next week.

As part of its Clean Transportation program, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), a public utility that is part of Sempra Energy Services, will publicly convert two Toyota Prius hybrids into plug-in hybrids next week.

The two vehicles have been in operation at SDG&E for about six months to collect real-world performance baseline data, which will be compared to data collected in the future. Although the two hybrids initially will not have vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capability, SDG&E has expressed interest in V2G, also referred to by company representative Joel Pointon as “vehicle-to-coffeepot.”

One conversion will take place on Tuesday, with the other occurring on Wednesday. Each conversion will use a Hymotion conversion kit, and will be expected to take about two hours. 

Tuesday’s conversion will give fleet managers an opportunity to view PHEV technology up close, while Wednesday’s conversion is open to the public.

The utility company will release data from the project in 2008.




I want one!


Seems to me that if more utilities in the U.S. would follow the lead and switch their business cars over to PHEVs it would make quite an impression on the public and the car manufacturers; And, help bring down the costs of conversion kits. Each conversion sells more electricity and less fossil fuel and I think the costs to the utilities are an IRS write off. Nothing like creating your own market.


I want one too.


I look forward to the day when plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (or pure electrics) can hit a reasonable price (and performance) point.

But ... I'm a little tired of the demonstration projects. Do they actually push the tech? Isn't it battery research and development in the labs that we need?

Or are they, like so many generations of hybrid cars, more public relations than research?

I mean, when company X proudly a pilot program ... it's almost like it distracts us from what are the best real and available solutions today. You know what those are ... real world MPGs (and prices) are available across the internet.


Oops, meant to say "like so many generations of hydrogen cars"

I suppose there were a few demonstration generations of hybrids to though ... years back.


So do I, but 8-10 grand for a conversion is a bit out
of the ballpark for me. I'm thinking Toyota is going
to let all these guys do the R&D & conversions which
will save them some money, then they''put them into
production themselves when CalCars PG&E & Hymotion
have worked out the kinks. Then we can afford them
when the big T starts mass production. I'm really
pulling for Detroit, but I'm very skeptical that they'll
ever get off the drawing board.

A $4K to $12K grant (tied to fossil fuel consumption reduction + extra cost associated with the production of PHEVs) to purchasers of vehicles capable of going 40 Km to 120 Km on electricity ONLY would do a lot to accellerate PHEVs development and promote sales.

A 10 to 15 year program could be fully financed with a progressive fossil fuel or carbon tax.

It is only fair that polluters (with their gas guzzlers and coal fired generation plants etc ) should pay for the initial transition to cleaner vehicles. A few hundred billion $$ would change hand in the first 15 years. By 2020/2025, the cost of PHEVs and BEVs would come down and the support program could be progressively phased out.


I saw where Southern California Edison teamed up with Ford to run Escape Hybrid PHEVs in southern California. It seems like the electric utilities are starting to realize the revenue possibilities from PHEV popularity.

Gerald Shields

Sooner or later, with gas prices staying above $3.00 a gallon, The Big Three is going to have to respond to this sudden wave of customers "hacking" their own vehicles.


I think the SCE/Ford thing is an example of what I was talking about.

Ford is in it for the PR (and maybe SCE too).

The plug in concept is too simple to require R&D at the car level. It's all about the batteries. And until those are effective at the right price points, these demo projects are just grandstanding.


I see it as an attempt to establish or substantiate a market. Lots of tech types just say, build a better battery and they will come. Most business type might say, show me where I can make my money back and I will think about it. If there is a ground swell of support for this and there is a lot of data showing reliability, the venture community may fund battery technology more completely. We are still mainly a venture funded country in the U.S. when it comes to technology. If they do not see a short term significant payback, they go elsewhere.


But battery research is huge right now. FireFly's news is an example of that.

Our ultimate outcome with electrics will come from work like that, not from "photo opportunities" by Ford, GM, or SCE.


Huge compared to Exxon/Mobiles market valuation of $500 billion dollars? It depends on what one calls huge I guess.


What the heck?

Suddenly you are comparing battery makers to those entire companies?

Is that what they get for putting one or two demonstration PHEVs on the street?

I guess that proves my point. With a couple cars, a $100K in investment, they convince you that they are all about PHEVs.


(either that or you lost me. the point was how much substance there is in "showcase" PHEV deals.)


My point was what attracts investors. The demonstration projects can do that, especially when large brand names are involved.

R&D investment is one thing, but $1b investments in automated factories to produce 100s of millions of batteries is another.

It has to do with getting vast quantities of batteries to market and that takes substantial investments.


I hope some valuable vehicle to grid and grid load leveling research results from this, otherwise I think it tilts more towards PR than anything real.

There are a lot of codes and standards issues that need to be sorted out, and some intricate software and hardware that needs to be developed to make PHEVs work with the grid as more than mere loads. There is so much promise in the technology, but I doubt that Ford's primary motivation is the technology it this point. They need a PR boost, and increased sales of anything to keep afloat.

One thought on energy policy - if you compare the cost savings of a PHEV over a regular HEV to the consumer, I think you will never recover the battery cost, so there is no incentive to the consumer.

However, as a society we benefit with every drop of oil that is not imported at high cost (better trade balance, stronger dollar, lower interest rates, reduced military spending to "protect interests abroad...").

I think it would be prudent policy in the US for the federal government to underwrite the cost of ALL BEV, PHEV, FVC, V2G, battery, stack, and electrolyzer development and especially manufacturing implementation for the first X years until manufacturing costs reach commercial levels. Otherwise we will never see any of these technologies meaningfully displace gasoline engines, because the markets will never bear the costs involved, and the manufacturers can't afford to subsidize the products.

Just a thought,



nice thought James but our country is no longer ruled by
our "society". Big money runs our country now. You can
not get elected to office without the "campaign contributions" from big money that comes from the big oil companies. Ford says it would take them until 2009
to convert 20 hybirds into plugins. As you can see this
company can do one in less than a day. I am becoming increasingly angry by what I see coming from the big
3 car companies, the big oil companies and our government.


You are absolutely correct. "He who has the gold makes the rules". There is no incentive for big oil to push electric vehicles unless they can somehow share in the revenue and that won't happen. PHEV's seem like a logical step in the evolution to all electric vehicles but we need a revolution rather than an evolution. Now is the time to lobby a company like TESLA to quickly put out the specification for an affordable sedan and with a reasonable deposit stucture for purchasing. Then groups who are interested could get on the bandwagon by helping signup prespective buyers so that we can cause a seismic shift in the Auto industry. Statis quo and snails pace development won't do.

Joel Pointon

Clarification on the quote attributed to me in the article relative to V2G - "vehicle to coffeepot" will the the initial step in demonstrating this type of capacity for the cars, followed by "vehicle to home" and finally "vehicle to grid". Thank you.


The huge advantage of PHEV for me is that (like many people) I make many short trips (local shops, take kids to school, etc) which would be well within the range of electric-only. In Australia where I live I can pay a premium to get my electricity from 100% renewables. Then my PHEV would be 100% renewable-powered for the vast majority of my trips.

Of course I sometimes take longer trips across the city or interstate, then a PHEV is just another fuel-efficient hybrid. So this technology gives me maximum renewable power while also being practical for my occassional (but essential) longer trips where a pure electric vehicle, hydrogen or any other alternative won't work.

I see plug in hybrid as the key technology for the medium term, until batteries are good enough to go pure electric. I don't know if that will be 2 years or 20, but in the mean time, the only question, is how do I get my hands on a PHEV here in Australia?

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