Tacoma News Tribune: Inside The Editorial Page blog
December 12, 2007
Original blog post
Imagine a network of charging stations, strategically located around the metro Puget Sound region, where drivers could plug in their electric cars – and, in a pinch, utilities could draw power from the cars' batteries.
That's the vision Bruce Agnew and Steve Marshall pitched in a meeting with the ed board today. And it's not so far-fetched. Tacoma Power will soon have two PHEVs – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles – for demonstration use by employes.
Agnew is policy director of the Discovery Institute's Cascadia Center. Marshall, a former legal adviser for Snohomish County PUD, is a senior fellow at the center and passionate advocate of PHEVs.
The failure of Proposition 1, they believe, has created "a perfect storm" of opportunity for the region to try alternative transportation solutions. The region can no longer depend on gas-tax revenue to pay for all the highway fixes that are needed to maintain business-as-usual, they argue.
More extensive use of tolls – not only for traffic management but to raise revenue for transportation work – will be necessary. But Agnew and Marshall are campaigning to create a three-county demonstration project for plug-in cars.
They envision charging stations at truck stops, interstate rest stations and transportation hubs like Tacoma's Freighthouse Square.
General Motors is nearing mass-production of a plug-in car called the Volt, which has a range of 40 miles on a single charge. But a PHEV can go 600 miles on a combination of gas and battery power. Marshal says 78 percent of all motorists dive less than 40 miles a day.
It turns out that Tacoma Power has already converted one Toyota Prius hybrid to a PHEV, and another will be converted next week. Here's a note from Tacoma Power spokesperson Sue Gleason:
We have converted one Toyota Prius hybrid. The second one is scheduled for conversion next week. Both cars will have wraps on the back end that say “Tacoma Power is plugged in for the future.” Anyone who drives behind them won’t be able to miss them.
The company we hired for the conversions is The Green Car Company in Kirkland.
Tacoma Power supports this type of technology because, although expensive, it will do a lot to reduce emissions. Using them for pool cars, particularly, is more efficient because of the duration of the trips. We don’t have specific numbers, but anticipate that the cars will run on electricity most of the time.
It makes a lot of sense to use PHEV technology because of the fact that most of our power supply comes from hydro, which is a green way of generating power.
We partnered on this project with the Department of Energy.
Steve was very passionate when he worked at SnoPud. I’m guessing he has transferred his passion to this new mission. Sounds like he’s making some progress.
You'd feel pretty virtuous driving around in a PHEV, but you'd have to pay for it. Gleason said Tacoma Power's plug-in cars cost about $36,000 each, including the $12,000 conversion cost.