Plug-in hybrids generate buzz in San Jose
The plug-in hybrid car is ready for its close-up.
Once known only to a small group of devotees, the ultra-high-mileage cars have generated enough buzz to draw about 650 people to a plug-in conference in San Jose Tuesday.
Major auto companies discussed their plans to mass market plug-ins, which operate like regular hybrids but can recharge off a wall socket, greatly extending their mileage. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed announced that a local startup will install charging stations around the city, for plug-in owners who live in apartments or want to recharge at work.
And Andy Grove, former CEO of computer chipmaker Intel Corp., suggested a government program to retrofit existing trucks and SUVs with plug-in technology.
The conference was a sign that plug-ins may soon hit the mainstream. No big car company currently mass produces them. Until now, the only way to get one was to buy a regular hybrid and pay someone to convert it - or try to do the work yourself.
But General Motors is now developing a type of plug-in car called the Volt, which the company plans to start selling in 2010. GM also plans a plug-in version of the Saturn Vue sport utility vehicle. Ford has its own plug-in program, as do Toyota and Daimler.
For the automakers, plug-ins are a way to address global warming and record gasoline prices at the same time.
"We increasingly believe that the ultimate solution involves the electrification of the auto as quickly as possible," said Jon Lauckner, vice president of global program management for General Motors.
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