Wanting hybrid changes

BURBANK ? Burbank Water and Power is joining a coalition to promote new types of cars that combine the technology of gasoline-powered and electricity-powered vehicles.

The idea is to surpass the mileage capacity of a traditional electric car while using regular gasoline more efficiently, said the city's Electrical Engineering Associate John Joyce, with Burbank Water and Power.

These plug-in hybrid electric vehicles use a battery that is larger than existing hybrids for short distance travel, then converts to gasoline for longer trips, Joyce said.

"One of the problems with electric cars is that they didn't have a long enough range," Joyce said. "So people didn't want to buy one car for driving around town and another car to go visit grandma in Phoenix."

For the first 50 miles, the plug-in hybrid relies on the electric battery for 75% of its power, meaning drivers would the get the same mileage for a $3 a gallon of gas for roughly $1, Joyce said.

"The great thing about these plug-in hybrids is that you've got the best of both worlds because you've got the electric vehicle characteristics when you're driving short distances ? say up to 50 miles ? you would be mostly on the battery and use very little or no gasoline," Joyce said. "Then if you needed to go farther than the battery could take you, you would revert to being just a normal gasoline hybrid, so your range would be unlimited."

The hybrid plug-in is also more convenient than a standard electric vehicle because it can be recharged using a standard 110-volt outlet, rather than requiring a special electric charging station, Joyce said.

But as attractive as these vehicles look for consumers, manufacturers are not producing hybrid plug-ins in their auto factories, Joyce said.

"The problem is that no car manufacturer is building them," he said. "So [Water and Power] joined a national campaign to try to get the manufacturers to build these things."

The coalition, American Public Power Assn./Austin Energy Plug-in Partners, includes public power utilities in California and Texas.

The Air Quality Management District, which partnered with Burbank for a hydrogen-fueling station unveiled in March, invested $33,000 to convert a Toyota Prius into a hybrid plug-in, said spokeswoman Tina Cherry. The car has shown strong performance, Demonstration Manager Matt Miyasato said.

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