Deron Lovaas, who heads the vehicle campaign at the National Resources Defense Council, says that several such tax-incentive bills will likely be submitted this year. “There are sure to be others, because there’s a lot of enthusiasm about this in D.C. right now,” he says.
Lovaas says that tax credits could have a significant impact on plug-in hybrid sales. He cites the success of tax credits for conventional hybrids, whose sales have doubled every year since 2001. (See a summary of current tax credits here.)
Automakers have recently expressed increased interest in developing plug-in hybrids. Late last year, General Motors (GM) announced an upcoming plug-in version of its Saturn Vue. (See “GM’s Plug-In Hybrid.”) A123 Systems announced an agreement with GM to help develop a prototype battery pack for the Vue. The packs are scheduled to be ready for testing in vehicles by the end of the year. In January, GM also revealed its Volt concept car. The vehicle takes plug-in hybrids a step further by using an all-electric drive train. The battery pack can be recharged by an onboard gas-powered generator or by plugging it into the wall. (See “Powering GM’s Electric Vehicles.”)
A study released last week suggests that over time, plug-in hybrids could cut overall vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide in half, while saving owners about $450 a year in fuel costs. According to a press release announcing the study, which was done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, CO, and the utility company Xcel Energy, based in Minneapolis, although plug-in hybrids would draw power from the electricity grid, they would not necessarily increase the need for electrical infrastructure. That’s because they could be recharged at night when much of the capacity of power plants isn’t being used. Another study, by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, also suggests that plug-in hybrids could be charged using existing power plants, at least in most of the country. (See “How Plug-In Hybrids Will Save the Grid.”)