Pennsylvania legislation to push plug-in hybrids
HARRISBURG, Aug. 31 -- State Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Phila., announced today that he is seeking co-sponsors for three bills that he will introduce to promote and increase the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Pennsylvania and is introducing a web site www.keystonehybrid.com to put up information regarding this technology.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are similar to today’s Toyota Prius and Ford Hybrid Escape, but have larger batteries that can be charged overnight by plugging them in. With plug-in hybrids, the first 20 to 30 miles of driving each day are powered mainly by electricity rather than gasoline. This reduces gas costs for consumers to the equivalent of about $1 per gallon.
"As Pennsylvania drivers face the prospect of paying up to $3 for a gallon of gas this Labor Day weekend, we need to do more to find a better way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil supplies," Cohen said.
People testing plug-in hybrids have reported getting fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, have the potential to reach fuel economy levels of 250 to 500 miles per gallon when ethanol or other alternative fuels are also used, with fuel economy figures at about 80 to 100 miles per gallon for normal commuting.
Cohen cited a speech by Takehisa Yaegashi, Toyota’s chief engineer for hybrids, who said that computer chips are the heart of a hybrid. Cohen said: "I believe we can use technology to make gasoline engines more efficient and to make electric motors more powerful."
In one of the first legislative proposals in any state legislature to specifically promote plug-in hybrids, Cohen’s bills would exempt sales taxes on the conversion of existing hybrids to plug-in hybrids, or on the battery portion of a mass produced plug-in hybrid for three years; establish a state task force with representatives from the state Environmental Protection, Transportation and Revenue departments, along with the Public Utility Commission, to examine how this technology can be promoted within the Commonwealth; and a resolution asking car makers with plants in the United States to make, market and sell plug-in hybrids here.
While the cost of additional batteries may be high today, Cohen believes that if Pennsylvania can provide incentives for the broader use of PHEVs and help convince major auto makers to mass produce them, the state’s businesses and residents would benefit.
Companies interested in this technology may be able to apply for grants under Pennsylvania’s Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program. The application deadline for the program is Oct. 1.
To provide additional information on this issue, Cohen announced the creation of a Web site at www.keystonehybrid.com, and suggested people interested in plug-in hybrids also visit the Web site www.calcars.org to learn about the efforts of a nonprofit group, The California Cars Initiative, to convert and promote an actual plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.
"Hybrid owners today are getting real savings at the gas pump, but with plug-in hybrids we could see a person filling a tank once a month." Cohen said.