N.C. seeks research hub for plug-in
Feb 13,2008 - The Associated Press
North Carolina State University plans to launch a
research hub for the development of plug-in cars,
a project that has attracted the interest of energy
and automobile companies.
The school already conducts research into the development
of the no-gas vehicles. And Gov. Mike Easley said
Tuesday that, depending on the support from federal
grants, the state may give $5 million to start and
$1 million annually to operate the Advanced Transportation
Energy Center there.
"This new energy economy is out there just waiting
for somebody to pluck it from the vine," Easley said
in announcing the plan at a forum on energy at N.C.
State. "I'm going to make sure that North Carolina
gets its share. America's ready to go where North
Carolina's ready to go."
Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Corp. said
they have pledged to participate in the project and
are already developing a grid system that would allow
drivers to charge their car batteries while away from
Easley said General Motors Corp. may also join the
program as researchers seek to develop lighter and
safer vehicles that the batteries can power.
The initial mandate of the center would be the development
of cheaper, lighter and more efficient batteries that
could be plugged in at home. N.C. State Chancellor
James Oblinger said he expects to develop a battery
that can power a vehicle without the aid of gasoline
within the next two to five years.
Cost is a big factor for making the batteries available
to the average consumer, and Easley said with the
proper research that the department can bring the
cost of the battery from $10,000 to $3,000 and make
other improvements. Easley dubbed it the "Wolfpack
Power Pack" for its N.C. State roots.
Drivers, meanwhile, would save on the cost of gasoline.
For a vehicle with a range of 40 miles, it could cost
roughly $1 to charge the battery, said Michael Ligett,
the director of market and energy services for Progress
Energy. Easley said he would like to see batteries
with a longer range such as 150 miles.
"This is transformational," said Progress Energy
CEO Bill Johnson. "This really is a bold and aggressive
Progress and Duke, two leading energy companies with
headquarters in North Carolina, said their grids would
allow people to charge their batteries at various
stations. For quick recharges, consumers could swap
out their batteries at a station for one that's already
charged, officials for the companies said.
Johnson said the energy would become a retail commodity
that could be sold anywhere.
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