News & Updates


Prototypes could accelerate plug-in cars

By Carl Orth | The Suncoast News

NEW PORT RICHEY – Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano got a charge out of a recent presentation about prototype all-electric vehicles.

In hopes government agencies might piggyback on the technology for plug-in cars, Mariano has invited Progress Energy experts to explain their pilot program during a Nov. 10 workshop in New Port Richey.

"I’m definitely planting the seeds," Mariano said after attending the Green Partners summit in Tampa last month.

"The key is to get ourselves into position," Mariano said, that "puts us in the forefront of progressive communities."

That could put Pasco and the Suncoast in the driver’s seat when the federal government and manufacturers decide where to install infrastructure for plug-in, rechargeable electric vehicles.

Most people are familiar with the concept of an all-electric car that plugs into a standard 110-volt, electric receptacle at home to recharge batteries overnight, Mariano said.

Commercial charging stations, however, could soon reduce the recharge waiting time to as little as 20 minutes, Mariano believes.

If Pasco decided to add some all-electric vehicles to its fleet, Mariano can envision a charging station at the depot and repair bays at the rear of the West Pasco Government Center. The county already has gasoline pumps there to refuel staff cars and county vehicles.

"PHEVs are not commercially available yet," Progress Energy Florida spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said, using the acronym for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

"Major automakers, such as Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota, are working to have PHEVs ready for the public to purchase by as early as 2010," Grant pointed out.

Progress Energy got a head-start in February by teaming with Ford Motor Co. and the Electric Power Research Institute to test a Ford Escape plug-in hybrid vehicle, according to a company press release from February.

The national PHEV demonstration program anticipates the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the future.

The Ford PHEV, which can get up to 120 miles per gallon, has been hitting the roads in Progress Energy’s service territory in the Carolinas. Charlotte, N.C.-based Progress Energy expects to test a similar vehicle in Florida in the near future.

The parent company of Progress Energy Florida also boasts the Southeast’s first plug-in hybrid electric bucket truck, along with seven Toyota Prius PHEVs for research purposes.

Progress Energy is among a group of seven utility companies joining Ford’s plug-in hybrid vehicles partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute .

Much could hinge on the V2Green Systems, a charging management technology that will help maximize the greenhouse gas-reduction benefits of PHEVs.

Joint research is focusing on battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage and electric grid infrastructure.

More information on the electric car project is available on the Progress Energy Web site.

A Progress Energy expert from North Carolina is scheduled to make the presentation to Pasco commissioners at a workshop at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, at the West Pasco Government Center, 7530 Little Road, New Port Richey. The public is invited.

A similar report is planned the day before, Nov. 9, at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. Pasco is a member of TBRPC.

Carl Orth can be reached at 727-815-1068 or