Toyota, city partner on plug-in autos

City workers will be hitting the streets in new plug-in Prius hybrids for a pilot project with Toyota.

On Wednesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom accepted the key to one of the two electric vehicles San Francisco will incorporate into its fleet to showcase the cutting-edge technology, which will be sold commercially in 2012.

Newsom, who owns a hybrid, took a spin around the block in the electric vehicle, one of 150 that are being distributed throughout the nation.

“Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are the future of the automotive industry and an economic engine for job growth,” Newsom said. “More than half of the greenhouse gases produced in California come from transportation, and replacing gasoline vehicles with electric vehicles will help transform California’s economy and our environment for the better.”

The Prius plug-in is powered by lithium-ion batteries and can be charged from a standard 110-volt outlet. As part of infrastructure improvements, three EV charging stations in front of City Hall have been upgraded, offering charging at 240 volts in addition to the existing 110 volts.

The vehicle, which takes up to three hours to charge, can travel on electric-only power at speeds of up to 62 mph for approximately 13 miles, after which it shifts to operate as a conventional Prius hybrid using gasoline as well.

Newsom has maintained San Francisco as a pioneer in the green economy. Two years ago, The City passed legislation requiring taxicab companies to convert their fleets to hybrids and compressed natural-gas vehicles. In March, Newsom announced that San Francisco was more than halfway to the goal of having 90 percent or more of its fleets running on alternative energy.

More recently, Newsom came down on his own government, introducing legislation to require departments to reduce the number of passenger cars and trucks used by their employees by 20 percent in the next four years.

It’s these reasons that Toyota selected San Francisco to partner with, said Scott Heyer, Toyota’s corporate manager of fleet sales.

“As a national environmental leader, the city of San Francisco is a natural fit for the Prius plug-in demonstration program,” he said.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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