Is there a plug-in in your future?

centerpoint_phev Can you see yourself behind the wheel of this? CenterPoint Energy’s plug-in hybrid SUV.

A relatively new group, Plug-In Texas, held its first public meeting in Houston on Thursday in an effort to build momentum for their efforts to spur the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Texas. I wrote about the meeting here.

“The vision of the coalition that met at Minute Maid Park, Plug-In Texas, is for a majority of the state’s cars and light trucks to run on both gasoline and electricity. The lower-emission vehicles would plug in to electric outlets and recharge overnight, when power demand typically is lowest.
Combining that change with Texas’ growing supply of wind power generation, which is at its peak capacity at night, the state could make deep cuts into pollution problems in its major cities and reduce its dependence on foreign oil imports.
“Electric vehicles address so many issues for us as a country and a state,” said Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, who spoke at the meeting. “By making your next vehicle an electric vehicle we can improve air quality, enhance America’s energy security, and create new jobs.”

big_black_pickup Or this? I spotted this monster on my way back to the office after the Plug-In Texas event.

The state’s electric grid is in relatively good shape to handle the first wave plug-in hybrids, so a bigger initial hurdle is the higher cost of the cars. There are federal incentives, but the group hopes to get the state to chip in, too, and will encourage R&D that gets costs down.
A big switch to plug-ins could have unintended consequences if not done properly, however. In England, the Environmental Transport Association warns that overall emissions could actually rise if all the power used to charge plug-ins came from coal-fired power plants.
Plug-In Texas says we could avoid that issue here, however, because peak plug-in time at home for most cars would coincide with peak generation time for the state’s nation-leading wind capacity: the evenings.
The Plug-In Texas efforts aren’t happening in a vacuum. Nissan is launching its new electric vehicle, the LEAF, in Los Angeles this Saturday. And on Monday a new group, the Electrification Coalition, will unveil its plans for expanding the nation’s grid to support plug-in hybrids.