April 16, 2005 Many people including the California Cars Initiative (CalCars), see the short to medium term future of hybrid cars as plug-in hybrids – hybrids where you can choose not to use petroleum should you wish. They claim that the biggest problem with the current Honda and Toyota hybrids is that you can’t charge their batteries overnight because they’ve been designed to gently wean the population off petrol. So CalCars decided to jump-start the market for plug-in hybrids itself, taking a Toyota Prius, adding much bigger batteries and modifying it so it could be plugged into the electricity supply and charged overnight. The aim is to harness the collective vision and purchasing power of individuals and corporate and government fleets and get a major auto manufacturer to produce plug-in versions of existing hybrids.

CalCars is a non-profit startup formed by a group of California entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers and its belief is that the car to bridge the gap between hybrids and zero-emission vehicles has already been invented. An example of the type of plug-in hybrid Calcars is seeking to have commercially available is the Mercedes Sprinter

The Benefits of Plug-In Hybrids

The advantages of pluggable hybrids are fairly obvious – they offer drivers the ability to run entirely on electric power but with the choice of using petrol to run at highway speeds and for long trips where the gasoline engine provides the usual unlimited range. The option to recharge at night at any outlet gives drivers a cleaner, more economical daily commute and lets them avoid gas stations for weeks at a time.

Other advantages include lower lifetime service costs, significant fuel cost savings, zero emissions and a vehicle with stored energy. This means the car can offer a power supply alternative to towed generators where grid power is unavailable and in cases of blackout the car can be hooked up via an extension lead to provide emergency backup power for a few home appliances.

In Europe many countries. municipalities and cities are offering significant incentives to electric vehicles, and major American cities are expected to follow suit as the inevitable petrol-price-hikes begin to bite into the American way of life.

These privileges are expected include being allowed to drive solo in the fast lanes during rush hour on a national basis.

Calcars is non-profit and is seeking to create a groundswell of grassroots support by asking members of the public to become Charter Sponsors. The organization is almost entirely a volunteer operation, could use additional resources and is worth supporting!

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