From: World Business Council for Sustainable Development
Published January 7, 2010 06:19 AM

Is there a plug-in hybrid in your future?

Hybrid car advocates have taken aim at a government study that predicts it will take decades and hundreds of billions of dollars before the vehicles reach viability.

The report, released last month by the National Research Council, concludes that plug-in hybrid cars, or PHEVs, probably won't make a meaningful impact on carbon emissions or oil use before 2030.

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The result stunned a pro-hybrid community for which 2009 was a banner year of government support.

"This report is an incendiary tool that others are using to undermine support for PHEVs and EVs [electric vehicles]," said an online posting by CalCars, a nonprofit that has long promoted plug-in hybrids. "Its science and economics need to be refuted -- and its implications need to be responded to publicly and politically."

According to the council report, PHEVs remain expensive mainly due to lithium-ion batteries -- their costliest component.

The NRC report says billions of the batteries are already being produced for cell phones, laptops and other devices -- so scale is not the reason costs aren't coming down. But without a breakthrough in the basic science of the battery, it says, costs will remain high, severely limiting the number of hybrids that can be sold. But the cars' advocates have taken issue with that assumption, saying the study deliberately uses battery costs out of line with what industry and government researchers have found.

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