Frisch Findings–Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Hybrid Electric Vehicles
With policy changes before the House and Senate, positive feedback from fleet maintenance professionals, and a major cooperative contract in the works, 2003 may yet become the Year of Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV).
As this year’s Energy Bill makes it way through the amendment process, HEV advocates rally for recognition. Because hybrid technology was in the developmental stage when the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) was passed, hybrids were not included in the legislative definition of alternative fuel vehicles (AFV). The omission left HEVs out of the Act’s AFV procurement requirements. Senator Ron Wydem (D-OR) will offer an amendment to the Senate bill to include hybrids in EPAct, thus bringing HEVs under the AFV umbrella. If adopted, the amendment will eliminate this barrier to state and local HEV purchases. The amendment will also define the amount of EPAct credit that public entities receive for HEV fuel efficiency and the purchase of specific types of HEV batteries.
Additional legislature in the form of amendments to the 2002 CLEAR ACT (Clean Efficient Automobiles Resulting from Advanced Car Technologies) proposes tax incentives for AFV purchases, including HEVs. The incentive will go to the seller, with the hope that savings will be passed on to the buyer. If adopted, the amendment may result in financial incentives for local and state government.
During a conference call on February 26, 281 participants expressed interest in the purchase of hybrid electric vehicles. The call, hosted by the Center for A New American Dream, was supported and endorsed by the National Association of Counties (NACo). The Center, a nonprofit organization, works with individuals, institutions, communities, and businesses to conserve natural resources and promote positive changes in the way goods are produced and consumed.
The call included presentations by Diane Pirkey from Environmental Defense; Andrew Frank, a researcher from the University of California at Davis; Windell Mitchell, King County’s (WA) Director of Fleet Management; and Steve Swendiman of the U.S. Communities national purchasing cooperative. State and local governments made up 40 percent of the participants, which also included federal government agencies, colleges and universities, and nonprofits, as well as consultants and automotive companies.
Though HEV technology continues to evolve, Andrew Frank noted that it is vitally important for purchasers to begin buying hybrid electric vehicles now. Without sufficient consumer support for these vehicles, manufacturers will have no incentive to continue their HEV research or ongoing research into fuel-cell vehicles.
King County began its Alternative Fuels Program in 1991 with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquid Propane Gas (LPG) vehicles. In a more recent phase of the program, the County purchased 40 HEVs. Windell Mitchell described the County’s HEV experience as a positive one. King County has found that the life-cycle cost of HEVs in 2001 and 2002 is comparable to or even lower than conventional vehicles. Mitchell attributed the favorable findings to HEVs’ lower fuel costs and repair and maintenance costs. A survey of King County employees driving fleet HEVs indicated an overall “very satisfied” rating for performance.
Also during the Center’s call, Steve Swendiman introduced an opportunity to participate in a collective HEV purchase. U.S. Communities is currently putting together a contract for HEVs. The group’s goal is to purchase 10,000 HEVs in the first year of the contract and 40,000 by the third year. If successful, this will be the largest purchase of HEVs to date. Of those callers eligible to participate in a U.S. Communities contract (city, county, and state entities; special districts; K-12 schools; public and private colleges and universities; and nonprofits serving state and local government), 100 percent expressed interest in the HEV cooperative purchase.
For information on future conference calls addressing the U.S. Communities’ contract on HEVs, contact Naomi Friedman, the Center’s Director of Sustainable Markets, via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone: 301 891-3683.