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hybrid cars

City goes for electric cars

This is cool.

A deal between the city and Reliant has the electric retailer converting 10 of the city’s new Toyota Prius gasoline-electric hybrids into plug-in vehicles with greater fuel efficiency and the ability to recharge through a standard home power socket. Reliant is also installing 10 charging stations for the cars around the city, including seven that will be available to the public.

The project is designed to raise consumer awareness about plug-in electric cars and promote the city and state as a hub for future advances in the industry, said Jason Few, president of Reliant. The company also benefits through the possibility of more electricity sales, Few said, and more information on how customers will use public charging stations.

“We firmly believe there’s a business model behind this,” Few said. “The more we know about consumer habits, the better we can provide the infrastructure and the products and services to meet the needs of electric vehicle owners and drivers in Texas.”

[…]

The city of Houston already owns one of the largest fleets of gasoline-electric hybrid cars in the country, with 750 of its 12,500 vehicles powered by such systems.

The new Priuses were part of the city’s ongoing car purchase plan, but the $10,000-per-vehicle conversion and the charging stations are being covered by Reliant.

“Without Reliant we never would have done this project” said James Tillman, the city’s assistant director of finance. “We anticipate saving about $1,400 per year per car, including fuel and maintenance costs. Even if we had to pay for the conversion ourselves, we likely would have broken even.”

Presumably they’ll keep doing more of this as they buy more replacement vehicles. It’s a good idea, and I’m glad to see it happen.

Prius problems

Really interesting cover story in the Press about issues Prius drivers have had with their previously-beloved vehicles. Seems they have this strange habit of accelerating at unpredictable times, with the extra bonus of the brakes not working too well. I wish the story had gone into some of the technical details – surely there’s a mechanic or an engineer somewhere with a theory as to what might be the cause of this – but it did get a variety of tales of failures from a bunch of people, some of whose experiences were pretty harrowing. You have to figure it’s just a matter of time before a big lawsuit is filed. Anyway, it’s a good read, so check it out.

Senate passes clean air bill

This sounds pretty good.

New plants in heavily polluted areas like Houston’s Ship Channel could have a harder time getting state permits under a clean air bill tentatively passed Wednesday by the Texas Senate.

Environmental regulators would have to examine the effect of a new facility on the region’s overall pollution before granting permits. They also could decide that a company has to close an older plant in the same area or otherwise offset the additional pollution caused by a new plant, said Sen. Kip Averitt, author of the bill.

“We’re not just looking at the individual plant all by itself, which is what we do today. We look at all of the effects,” said Averitt, R-Waco.

Averitt denied that the bill represents a “cap and trade” system for companies seeking air pollution permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“We’re looking at the big picture and if there is a permit that’s going to create a problem somewhere, the TCEQ going to be able to say, ‘Give us some offsets or a new strategy on how to reduce emissions.’ ” Averitt said.

The bill in question is SB16. It still has to pass on third reading before going to the House, but I’m optimistic about its chances. There hasn’t been enough done recently by the Lege to improve air quality, so this is a big step forward.

The bill, which also includes rebates for buyers of hybrid vehicles, was tentatively passed on a vote of 22-9. Houston-area Republicans Joan Huffman, Mike Jackson and Dan Patrick voted against the bill.

Not that any of that is a surprise, but it’s always good to be reminded who likes pollution around here. I’m glad to see, as Floor Pass makes clear, that Sen. Averitt gets it. Kudos to him for his work on this bill. Postcards has more.