Government Agencies Consider Plug-in Hybrids
State and local governments are launching programs to see if it's possible to convert their hybrid cars and trucks into plug-in cars, CNET News.com reports. Plug-ins have both electric and gas motors, but they come with more battery packs, so the car can run more on electricity than on gas. They can get about 100 miles to the gallon, get charged from a wall socket and generally emit fewer greenhouse gases than conventional cars or other hybrids, according to CNET News.com. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority recently solicited contract bids for nine plug-ins, said an official at the agency. If the trial succeeds, the state will try to convert the 535 hybrids it owns into plug-ins. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California is conducting a three-year test on a couple of plug-in vehicles, and the city of Austin, Texas, last year teamed up with the local power company to launch a $1 million plug-in incentive program. Currently, minimal availability, high prices (it costs about $10,000 to $12,000 to convert a car like a Prius into a plug-in) and battery life resulting in reduced driving range are roadblocks to a rapid rise in plug-in use. However, range may not be as big a deciding factor for some organizations. School buses only go a few miles a day, and a lot of government fleet cars drive around within fairly limited geographic areas. Some agencies could conceivably start buying plug-ins for fleets before the range problem is worked out.