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Making room for plug-in hybrids

July 28, 2009

What will it take for the average driver to purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV?

According to a new UMTRI report on PHEV market penetration, it would take financial assistance in the form of government subsidies, tax rebates, and sales tax exemptions. The right combination could result in PHEVs garnering up to five percent of the automotive sales market in ten years and approximately twenty percent of the market in thirty years. Thatメs the equivalent of one PHEV out of every fifty vehicles on the road in ten years, and one out of every six vehicles on the road in thirty years.

Those are significant numbers, according to UMTRI research scientist and principal report author John L. Sullivan, particularly as the United States addresses energy security and climate change issues.

モIf these numbers are realized in the fleet and sales percentages, this could go a long way in helping the United States reduce its carbon footprint and reduce its dependence on petroleum,ヤ said Sullivan. モThis follows from the fact that PHEVs are fueled both by petroleum products (gasoline or diesel) and grid electricity.ヤ

Two key objectives for the U.S. government to incentivize PHEV sales are to improve overall energy efficiency of the U.S. fleet and reduce carbon emissions. According to the report, making the existing fleet of conventional vehicles more fuel-efficient will not, in itself, adequately address energy security and climate change issues. Increased use of PHEVs could reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated fifteen percent.

Results were generated using an UMTRI computer model called an agent-based simulation, which characterizes new vehicle penetration into the marketplace under a variety of consumer, economic, and policy conditions. The model simulates the automobile marketplace and the interaction of four classes of decision-makers, or agents, including consumers, government, fuel producers, and vehicle producers/dealers.

The report is based on a two-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. According to the report, a gasoline tax increase would help government fund the financial incentives needed to stimulate PHEV introduction and penetration into the U.S. auto marketplace.

The report, PHEV Marketplace Penetration: An Agent Based Simulation, by J. L. Sullivan, I. T. Salmeen, and C. P. Simon is available online.

See: Full report.