The city of San Francisco took another step into electric vehicle territory by installing "Smartlet" electric vehicle charging stations outside of City Hall today. The Smartlets are on loan from Coulomb Technologies and will be used to charge up cars from ZipCar, City CarShare and "a plug-in car in the City of San Francisco municipal fleet." Mayor Gavin Newsom made the announcement this morning.
Mayor Newsom, one of the few to actually own an EV1 back in the day, also wrote a post for Gas2 in which he says that he believes battery electric vehicles - not hybrids and he did not mention hydrogen - "are the quantum leap we need to make."

One thing about this caught my eye. A ZipCar with a plug? Huh? The San Francisco ZipCar site doesn't list any vehicles that can get juice from the grid, so I called the San Francisco ZipCar office. They told me that they have just one plug-in model, specifically designated for city hall, which is a converted PHEV Prius.

Thanks to Natasha M. for the tip!

UPDATE: We just found a press release announcing ZipCar's PHEV program. It's pasted after the jump.


[Source: Gas2.org]

PRESS RELEASE:

Zipcar Launches Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Pilot Program in San Francisco

Company joins Mayor Gavin Newsom's efforts to drive awareness and use of environmentally friendly electric vehicles

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Zipcar, the world's largest provider of cars-on-demand by the hour or day, today announced it has launched a pilot program for plug-in hybrid vehicles in its Bay Area fleet through a partnership with the city of San Francisco. The company made the announcement at a press conference with Mayor Gavin Newsom, which showcased the converted Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid at a special charging station across the street from City Hall.

Zipcar is supporting the Mayor's drive to increase the awareness and use of electric vehicles (EVs), while also providing a convenient, cost-effective solution to consumer transportation needs. Zipcar's legacy of offering clean cars dates back to 2003, when it was the first commercial fleet to widely introduce hybrids in Seattle.

"Zipcar encourages sustainable lifestyles in several ways -- fewer personally owned cars, less driving overall, and now the addition of these super efficient plug-in cars," said Mark Norman, President and Chief Operating Officer of Zipcar. "Our members strongly support the notion of adding next-generation clean cars, and this program is an important first step in exploring the potential."

In a member survey last month, more than 80 percent of the respondents voiced support for the addition of electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and alternative fuel vehicles to the fleet.

To meet member interests, Zipcar is looking for ways to increase the percentage of these types of vehicles in the fleet in 2009. The pilot program and partnership with the city will provide existing and new Zipcar members with an easy, convenient and cost-effective way to test drive the next generation of clean vehicles, helping the City and Zipcar both gauge interest and use of EVs and PHEVs.

"Electric vehicles are the future of transportation and the Bay Area is the testing ground for the technology," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "We began using plug-in hybrids in the city's fleet last year. Now, for the first time the public can plug-in to the next generation of cars through car sharing organizations and take them for a drive in San Francisco."

The plug-in hybrid for the San Francisco Zipcar fleet is a Toyota Prius converted with the Hymotion(TM) L5 Plug-In Conversion Module (PCM) provided by A123 Systems. The addition of the Hymotion L5 PCM battery provides the Prius with up to 30 - 40 miles of electrically assisted driving on a single charge from the utility grid. During those first 30 - 40 miles, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by up to 66 percent and fuel economy of up to 100 mpg or greater can be achieved. When the L5 PCM battery is depleted, the Prius automatically reverts to standard HEV operation, so driving range need not be a concern.

"We are gratified to help Zipcar and their members realize the benefits that plug-in technology can provide today," said Sanjeev Choudhary, General Manager of PHEV Systems at A123. "We thank Mayor Newsom and Zipcar for their pioneering efforts in demonstrating this technology in San Francisco."

Zipcar's award-winning car sharing service provides members with on-demand access to a diverse fleet of vehicles conveniently located throughout major metropolitan areas. To use the service, members reserve a vehicle online or via a mobile device, use a smartcard to open the doors, take their trip, and then return the car at the end of the reservation. A simple hourly or daily fee covers gas, insurance, maintenance, parking and 24-7 emergency service.

About Zipcar

Zipcar is the world's leading car sharing service with 250,000 members and 5,500 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout 26 North American states and provinces as well as in London, England. As a leader in urban transportation, Zipcar offers more than 30 makes and models of self-service vehicles by the hour or day to savvy city residents and businesses looking for an alternative to the high costs and hassles of owning a car in the city. For more information, visit Zipcar.com.

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