ST. PAUL - State Senator Scott Dibble, Representative Frank Hornstein, and the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC) unveiled the first plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) to hit Minnesota streets. It will be on public display at this year’s Minnesota State Fair. A PHEV is made by transforming a regular hybrid car into an almost entirely electric car (in this case, a Toyota Prius) via a battery that can be recharged at any regular outlet. The car burns very little gasoline and produces almost no pollutants. The NEC seeks to join with state leadership to put more PHEVs on the road.
“This is the cleanest, most energy-efficient sedan on the road today," says NEC Board member Jeffrey Stites, a Minneapolis attorney. “It proves that the technology exists for us to move away from depending on expensive and polluting gasoline. Minnesotans are ready for this-who wouldn’t like a car that gets better than 100 miles per gallon and keeps our air clean?”
Hornstein and Dibble passed a bill this year that encourages plug-in vehicle market development. H.F. 3718, endorsed unanimously by both houses and signed by the Governor, instructs the state to buy plug-in hybrids for the state fleet when they become available, encourages local research, and creates a task force of policy, academic and business leaders to devise strategies on how to bring about manufacture of the vehicles in Minnesota.
"Minnesota already has the resources available to bring plug-in hybrids into wide use and the new law makes a first step," Hornstein said. "The plug-in HOURCAR is an incredible advance in fuel efficiency, and there’s no reason to stop with just one PHEV. With this car, and our legislation, the first of its kind in the country, we are sending a message to the car companies that if you build it, we will come."
With Ford beginning to ramp down its operations at the St. Paul plant, both lawmakers said now is the perfect time to look at bringing PHEV research and production to Minnesota.
“Having this car traveling the streets of the Twin Cities is a concrete reminder of the market and job opportunities that grow from our own University research and Minnesota technology companies,” Dibble added. "Not only would it be great to have more Minnesotans behind the wheels of these vehicles, but we have a great opportunity to manufacture them here too."
The NEC will display the PHEV at the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco Experience exhibit. The car will then be integrated into the NEC’s car-sharing fleet, in a program called HOURCAR. HOURCAR makes automobiles available to its members in the Twin Cities for personal or business use.
The PHEV HOURCAR will be available at a new HOURCAR hub sponsored by the Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op at its Selby-Dale location in Saint Paul. Mississippi Market will purchase enough “green power” from Xcel Energy to offset pollution from the car’s electricity use.
More information on HOURCAR is available at www.HOURCAR.org.