Houston, Reliant plug-in for gas/electric hybrids * update

The City of Houston it teaming with local electric retailer Reliant Energy to add ten plug-in hybrid electric cars to the city’s current fleet of vehicles, plus several public recharging stations.
The city has purchased the ten 2009 Toyota Prius’, (with five more to follow) which have been converted to charge via plug-in. Reliant will set up ten recharging stations, with seven of them being made available to the public.

prius_plugin_display 99 MPG: The display of one of the City of Houston’s new plug-in Toyota Prius’ as I sat in the passenger seat going North on I-45.

The project is designed to “raise consumer awareness and education about plug-in electric cars and to promote Houston and Texas as an electric vehicle center.”

“Our pilot project gives both Reliant and the City of Houston the opportunity to learn more about the performance of electric vehicles and the needs of drivers while promoting consumer awareness and education about plug-in electric cars,” said Reliant Energy President Jason Few in a statement.
“The more we know about consumer habits, the better we can provide the infrastructure and the products and services to meet the needs of electric vehicle owners and drivers in Texas,” said Few. “Ultimately, this is about providing consumers the tools – in this case the charging infrastructure – and information – like that we will get from this trial – so they can make informed choices about how they use energy.”

It’s not a cheap pilot project: each car is about $23,100 standard, plus another $10,000 for the A123 plug-in conversion.
“It won’t happen in a day, it won’t be coerced and it won’t be mandated,” Mayor Bill White said at the press conference this afternoon. “But this I will predict. In the next decade one of the biggest changes you’ll see in energy use in this country will be the adoption of plug-in hybrid vehicles.”
The city currently has one of the largest hybrid vehicle fleets in the country, with 693 vehicles, many of them Prius’. There are 55 more Prius’ on order plus seven hybrid garbage trucks.
The big difference betwen these converted Prius’ and the standard Prius’ is fuel efficiency — the new vehilces could get as much as 100 mpg and won’t need to use the onboard gas engine to charge the batteries as frequently.

prius_plugin_display2 Another lousy camera-phone shot of the Prius display.

The public charging stations will be located at City Hall, the Health Department office at 8000 Stadium Drive, and at the Mayor’s Citizens Assistance Office at 9615 Rustic Wood, Kingwood.
Two of the vehicles will be used by the Mayor’s Citizens Assistance Office, two by the General Services Department, one by the fire department and five in the health department.