San Mateo supe charged about hybrids

With a vision of replacing the county’s vehicle fleet with plug-in hybrids, San Mateo Supervisor Jerry Hill on Tuesday will urge local officials to pressure automakers to finally get the rechargeable cars on the road.

Hill’s resolution also looks to a future in which the vehicles are readily available — directing the county to consider purchasing hybrid plug-ins whenever possible.

If the resolution is passed, San Mateo County would join several Bay Area cities and counties sending strong signals to auto manufacturers that there is a large market for the vehicles.

Marin County and Berkeley, Alameda, Los Altos Hills and Sunnyvale have already asked automakers to supply their fleets with plug-in hybrids, according to Plug-in Bay Area, an organization working to bring mass-produced plug-in hybrids to the U.S. auto market.

Two weeks ago, Toyota received approval from the Japanese government to begin testing its plug-in hybrid model on public roads. General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Corp. are also developing models.

The vehicles are conventional hybrids combined with a more powerful battery that allows for between 20 and 60 miles of gas-free, electric driving and can be recharged through a standard wall socket. They are expected to achieve mileage of 100 miles to the gallon.

Hill said he sees plug-in hybrids as an important transition toward a larger goal — zero-emission, completely electric vehicles. In addition to its fleet of conventional hybrids, San Mateo County also has two electric vehicles used to travel short distances.

“There’s the potential that these vehicles may cost a little more, but in the long run, we’re creating the model of what government should be and with the gas savings of getting 100 miles to the gallon, it’ll pay for itself,” he said.

But reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and freeing the United States from its dependency on foreign oil are the most compelling arguments in favor of the technology, Hill said.

A study released last month by the nonprofit research group Electric Power Research Institute, and environmental group the National Resources Defense Council, concluded that if drivers used plug-in hybrids in large numbers, the U.S. could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions sharply by 2050.

A market share of 60 percent or more plug-ins could reduce the emissions by 450 million metric tons, the equivalent of removing about one-thirdof the cars on the road, the study found.

tbarak@examiner.com

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