Poughkeepsie - With growing concerns over higher gasoline costs and greenhouse gas emissions with traditional automobiles, Central Hudson is testing two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, to assess their cost savings, environmental benefits and potential effects on the electric utility system. “Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles may be the next step in transportation, and we want to be ahead of the curve in knowing how these cars perform in real-world applications, and in understanding their needs in terms of the electric infrastructure,” said Carl E. Meyer, President and Chief Operating Officer of Central Hudson.
Central Hudson purchased and converted two standard hybrid vehicles – a Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid – to operate as PHEVs as part of a research and development project. “Like typical hybrids, these cars use both a gasoline and electric motor, but these plug-in models recharge using a standard household outlet,” explained Meyer. “The advanced batteries and electronic systems boost vehicle performance up to 100 miles per gallon when operating on a full charge. Furthermore, recharging a PHEV from the electric grid reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent compared to a traditional gasoline-powered car, at an average fuel cost of less than $1.00 per equivalent gallon,” he said. A PHEV has to potential to save more than $1,800 per year in fuel costs over a gasoline vehicle, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 7,000 pounds when driven 40 miles per day or less on a full charge.
“Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are not yet commercially available from automobile manufacturers, but may one day soon be in high demand if they prove viable,” said Meyer. “We want to be ready. Operating these two converted vehicles in our fleet will allow us to determine what changes, if any, might be needed to the electric system if plug-in hybrids were to be in widespread use. Electric vehicles may also have applications in Central Hudson’s fleet, and testing these vehicles in our daily routines will help us identify their potential future use,” he said. “Already, our large trucks are successfully using a biodiesel blend to help reduce our dependence on petroleum-based fuels, and we’re interested in learning how plug-in hybrid electric vehicles may also benefit our operations.”
Central Hudson is also is participating in a nationwide research project in conjunction with the Electric Power Research Institute, other utilities and major car manufacturers to assess the feasibility of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the utility system.