Newsom unveils City's push for green transportation
By Ashley Wright
February 22, 2008
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom plugged a modified Toyota Prius
into an electric outlet at a Bayview auto repair shop yesterday
in the first unveiling of the city's recent push for green transportation.
Newsom was enthusiastic about the newly converted electric vehicle,
calling it "game changing" technology, and hopes to
see more green cars on Bay Area roads and more auto companies
manufacturing and selling them at affordable prices.
Newsom and mechanics at Pat's Garage on 26th Street introduced
three city-owned Prius cars that were converted into plug-in hybrid
electric vehicles, or PHEVs. Converting the cars was a quick,
though expensive, process.
Mechanics completed converting the three cars with about $60,000
in funds secured by the city's Department of Environment. The
Bay Area Air Quality Management District contributed $44,000 to
the process, spokeswoman Karen Schkolnick said.
One of the cars will be used for daily use by the Public Library,
one by the Department of Public Health's Hazardous Materials Program,
and the last for public outreach.
Newsom explained that the three vehicles are meant to bring attention
to a technology that could decrease the cost and environmental
impact of driving traditional vehicles.
"The reason this is an important occasion here in San Francisco
is that we are raising awareness," Newsom said. "We
have got to lead by example."
The vehicles contain an internal combustion engine and a Lithium-ion
battery that can be recharged when plugged into a traditional
PHEVs are similar to existing hybrids, but contain a larger battery
that would suffice for a shorter trip and can be fully charged
in five to eight hours. Electricity charged to the vehicle can
also be charged back to the home outlet.
San Francisco will submit a soft fleet order, officials said,
meaning that the city and county will commit to purchasing up
to 250 PHEV sedans, trucks and vans if and when the vehicles become
available commercially from major manufacturers.
Newsom will also send letters to city and county leaders throughout
the Bay Area, encouraging officials to participate in a joint
soft order for PHEVs in order to create a larger regional purchase
order and garner auto manufacturers' attention.
"I think this is where change occurs, on a local level,"
Newsom estimated the cost of converting an existing individual
hybrid vehicle at about $20,000. PHEVs are not currently manufactured,
leaving anyone interested in the technology to foot the bill for
"Yes, this costs more money, and that's why we need to create
a market," Newsom said.
Officials said that introducing the technology to the public
and municipalities will create demand, lead car manufacturers
to build and sell the vehicles, and eventually lower the price
of purchasing a ready-made PHEV.
Pat's Garage doesn't currently offer conversion services, but
is working to make the service available to hybrid owners as soon
as May, said garage owner Pat Cadam.
"Electrification of transportation is really viable,"
Cadam said. "We view our role as the facilitators for this."
Cadam and another hybrid enthusiast, Nick Rothman, founded Green
Gears, a partnership company with Pat's Garage that converts vehicles
for large company and institution fleets. Green Gears has concentrated
on Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrid conversions to PHEVs for
businesses such as Google and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and
is working to develop PHEV conversion technology for light trucks.