PSU plugs in

It was announced last week that Portland State is one of six national sites selected by Toyota to demonstrate and evaluate the next generation of Prius plug-in hybrid vehicles.

It was announced last week that Portland State is one of six national sites selected by Toyota to demonstrate and evaluate the next generation of Prius plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The university is working closely with Portland General Electric, its corporate partner on electric vehicles and energy management, to create a sound infrastructure for electric vehicles.

“They are interested in the ‘electrification of transportation,'” said George Beard, senior PSU instructor and manager of PSU’s relationship with Toyota Motor Sales USA.

“PSU was chosen because Toyota likes Portland and its leadership in sustainability. [PSU] has unmatched stature for urban planning and is connected to affairs of the region,” he said. “It is fabulous for PSU to be involved in this program.”

PSU’s Parking Structure 1 currently has an electric car charging station, but it is “not to current standards,” Beard said.

Toyota will be providing 10 plug-in vehicles in late spring to early summer for demonstration by citizens and businesses around Portland.

“PSU will be a kind of program administrator, and will also be collaborating with Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium,” Beard said.

According to the Toyota Prius plug-in demo website, each placement scenario will have a variety of driving conditions (i.e., commute length, usage type and access to charging).

“People to test the vehicles will be chosen based on geography, individual story and driving record,” Beard said.

PSU will be sharing eight other cars with Corvallis and Salem. The car-sharing service Zipcar will be getting two plug-in Priuses as well, one of which may be placed on PSU campus.

“We want to see how well-suited this car is for short-use driving,” said Beard. “And we want it to get visibility.”

Zipcar is a good candidate for determining how feasible electric cars will be for Portland since its users typically use them for short, around-town trips.

Portland Zipcar General Manager Bill Scott said, “Our members tell us they place a high value on the opportunity to drive electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, and the average trip in a Zipcar falls within the range of most batteries, so Zipcar is a good fit for the test.”

“One car will be placed at Shaver Green, a sustainable, affordable new apartment building at Northeast Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Shaver Street,” he said.

“We are working with PSU staff to locate the other plug-in on campus. We believe PSU will be a great location for the test because Zipcar is already so popular with students and faculty and their awareness of sustainable transportation is so high,” Scott said.

The new plug-in Prius has a battery pack that allows the driver to go 13–15 miles on a charge, and then switch over to an internal combustion engine.

“The average driving miles in Portland is about 14 miles a day, whereas Los Angeles is around 80,” Beard said. “So it’s very practical for Portland to have electric cars.”

“Toyota wants to see how often and easily [the electric vehicles] can be used so they are not spewing out emissions,” he said.

According to the Toyota website, in late 2009 Toyota began delivery of 600 Prius plug-in hybrid vehicles, equipped with lithium-ion batteries, to participate in this global demonstration program.

Electric vehicles are being placed around the U.S. to demonstrate “plug-in hybrid technology, educate and inform the public, evaluate performance and better understand the technology’s benefits to future customers,” according to the Toyota plug-in program website.

Other regional demonstration programs are lined up for California, Washington, D.C., New York City and Pittsburgh, Pa.

As feedback from the demonstration programs becomes available, it will be posted to the Toyota website.

“We’re in the early stages of a shift from internal combustion engines to vehicles with a much shorter range,” Beard said. “There is a story unfolding with electric cars…This is a pawn move in a much bigger chess game of electric vehicles in Oregon.”

More information about Toyota’s Prius plug-in hybrid demo program: