You might expect the announcement of the funding of a plug-in hybrid research center to be boring. Not if North Carolina governor Mike Easley has anything to do with it! The NASCAR governor says, "the Middle East has the U.S. by the tail" and we should "get off the gas and get on the juice." Plug-in cars might sound like "the Jetsons," says Mike but "we are ready to develop the Wolfpack Power Pack."
Translation: Wolfpack is the mascot for NC State University, which may receive an initial $5 million in funding from the Governor for the creation of the Advanced Transportation Energy Center. With another million a year from the state and the help of Progress Energy and Duke Energy, the center will focus on two things for the next five years. The first is the creation of a low-cost battery and second, a recharging network for electric cars.

"This new energy economy is out there just waiting for somebody to pluck it from the vine," says Gov. Easley. "I'm going to make sure that North Carolina gets its share. America's ready to go where North Carolina's ready to go." I wish my governor was that cool.

[Source: Office of the Governor of North Carolina] Press release:

GOV. EASLEY ANNOUNCES TRANSPORTATION ENERGY CENTER AT N.C. STATE

Public-Private Partnership Puts N.C. In Forefront Of Growing Technology Sector

Raleigh - Gov. Mike Easley today announced the creation of the Advanced Transportation Energy Center at North Carolina State University that will serve as a catalyst to attract innovative jobs to the state, contribute to reducing the nation's dependence on imported oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. The center is a public-private partnership to include the university, Progress Energy and Duke Energy to explore and develop practical technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles and other energy-efficient transportation. The announcement came during the annual Emerging Issues Institute's conference: "North Carolina's Energy Futures; Realizing a State of Opportunity."

"It is our patriotic duty to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and become leaders in developing the technology to make our nation energy independent," said Easley. "Just as we have done in the biotech field, we can position our state to be a hub of activity, expertise and a magnet for the new jobs that will emerge as this sector of the economy grows."

The center, to be located on the Centennial Campus, will focus on research to advance more widespread use of plug-in hybrid vehicles, particularly the development of a reliable and dependable source of portable power for electric vehicles. It will seek to:

Develop batteries that are more powerful and less costly (it currently costs about $10,000 to convert a hybrid to a plug in. The goal is to cut that cost to a more consumer-friendly amount);

Create the infrastructure to make use of electric vehicles, including convenient charging stations, etc.

The next generation of plug-in hybrid vehicles will run mainly on the battery power with gasoline backup, getting more than 100 miles per gallon. The batteries can be charged by plugging into a typical household outlet. Today's Toyota Prius, for example, gets about 50 miles per gallon.

Widespread use of plug-in hybrid vehicles, according to recent estimates, will decrease domestic dependence on foreign oil through greater fuel efficiency. Simply improving fuel efficiency on cars in the U.S. by 2.7 miles per gallon would equal all of our nation's imports from the Persian Gulf. It would also benefit the environment by cutting the greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 27 percent, according to the EPA.

"Growth in the use of plug-in hybrid technology and infrastructure opens the door for North Carolina and N.C. State to be leaders in creating a workforce for advanced transportation," said N.C. State Chancellor James L. Oblinger. "N.C. State was selected to house the Advanced Transportation Energy Center because of our proven research capacity and expertise in battery and photovoltaic research as well as our ability to build the partnerships needed to make the center a success."

Building on the work and research already underway, particularly at N.C. State, North Carolina can establish itself as a leader in this new technology to make affordable and convenient battery energy sources to power the next generation of cars. Easley said it is a framework to put the finest minds in the world to work on the project. The center will seek partners, funding and ideas from a variety of sources, including motorsports and transportation industries as well as the federal government. It is anticipated that a modest investment now will begin a cascade of additional support and new research.

"We must face the challenges of global climate change together and this partnership will lead the way in alternative energy innovation," said Bill Johnson, Chairman, President and CEO of Progress Energy Inc. "We are proud to be a key partner in supporting this cutting-edge research center that will seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, secure our energy future and bring new jobs to our state."

The impact of skyrocketing energy costs is a top topic, both around boardroom tables and the kitchen tables in North Carolina. Gasoline costs more than $3 per gallon and home heating costs are high as well. Today, for many North Carolinians, the monthly bill for gasoline and home heating or cooling is approaches their mortgage or rent. Easley said North Carolina must be a leader in helping control energy costs, using fuel more efficiently and caring for the environment.

"It is the North Carolina way to take bold steps," Easley said. "With the dawn of the 21st century, North Carolinians have emerged as innovators and leaders in education, technology and the environment. It is time for us to take the lead in the new energy economy."

[Source: North Carolina State Office of the Governor tipster Domenick]

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