Plug-in vehicle purchases by the American public may be slowing down this year, but have faith. Because utility companies will be picking up a little bit of the slack by stepping up their focus on buying electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids for their fleets. A new program touted for both environmental and cost-saving reasons has a stamp of approval from the White House.

More than 70 electric utilities will invest a quarter-billion dollars during the next five years to add more electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to the utilities' fleets. Most notably, PG&E announced the utility industry's first plug-in hybrid Class 5 bucket truck. Each one of those vehicles, which can go as far as 40 miles on a single charge and juices up on-board equipment, will save a typical utility company about 850 gallons of gas per year. PG&E operates almost 1,500 plug-in vehicles it its fleet, so those missing gallons can equal quite a lot of dollars.

US Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, PG&E CEO Tony Earley, Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn and White House Senior Advisor John Podesta were among the dignitaries on hand to announce the program at the White House earlier this week. Check out the official announcement below.
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PG&E Announces Two Major Electric Vehicles Initiatives at White House; More Than 70 Utilities Commit to Clean Electric Fleets

WASHINGTON - During a White House event today (Nov. 18), U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Counselor to the President John Podesta, PG&E Corporation Chairman and CEO Tony Earley and Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn announced two electric power industry initiatives to further commercialize electric transportation technologies.

As part of an industry commitment to electric vehicles and clean energy, more than 70 investor-owned electric utilities will increase investment by an estimated $50 million per year, or $250 million over five years, to add more electric vehicles to their fleets starting in 2015.

"The commitment we're announcing today isn't just about purchasing more vehicles, and it's not just about utilities," said Earley. "It's about encouraging clean energy innovation, growing the marketplace for electric drive technologies and positioning our country - and our customers - to take full advantage of the incredible opportunity that electrification represents."

The initiatives and the vehicle unveiling are part of a broad industry effort to accelerate the adoption of PEVs and technologies by utilities. A white paper released by EEI in June titled, "Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge," offers a road map for a long-term, coordinated effort to further spur the development of electric vehicle technologies in the transportation market. The effort is led by EEI's Electric Transportation Task Force, which is co-chaired by Earley and Portland General Electric CEO and President Jim Piro.

Debut of first plug-in electric hybrid Class 5 bucket truck
PG&E also unveiled the utility industry's first plug-in electric hybrid drivetrain Class 5 bucket trucks at the event. The truck, developed by PG&E in partnership with Efficient Drivetrains Incorporated (EDI), features up to 40 miles all-electric range and "electrifies" all onboard equipment including the boom, eliminating the need to idle the truck engines while at job sites.

(Podesta got a chance to ride in this bucket truck and wrote about the experience in the White House blog.)

White House Senior Advisor John Podesta checked out the view from a PG&E bucket truck at today's event.

PG&E operates the nation's greenest utility fleet, including nearly 1,500 electric and electric-hybrid vehicles and a total of 3,500 alternative-fuel vehicles.

PG&E partnered with EDI and Altec Industries, both based in Dixon to develop the vehicle, which was designed, built and tested in the heart of California at EDI's plant in Dixon. This vehicle will reduce emissions by up to 80 percent compared to conventional fuel vehicles. PG&E estimates that each EDI truck will save the utility over 850 gallons of fuel per year.

PG&E is committed to enhancing economic vitality in its service area, which is why the utility has partnered with these two local companies to develop the most technologically advanced vehicles in the industry.

Driving PEV adoption among utility employees
PG&E and EEI also announced a new Employee Adoption and Education Initiative to encourage EEI member utilities to participate in the Department of Energy's Workplace Charging Challenge and to help drive PEV adoption among utility employees.

An industry first, PG&E's plug-in electric hybrid drivetrain Class 5 bucket truck, was displayed at the White House as part of today's event.

"We are pleased that the Administration recognizes the unprecedented effort and commitment by our industry to lead by example and to drive innovations in the electric transportation market," said EEI President Tom Kuhn. "Advancing plug-in electric vehicles and technologies is an industry priority, and we are proud to undertake our new initiative to encourage PEV adoption among our more than 500,000 employees. Through these combined efforts, we look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to build on the current successes of the electric transportation market and to accelerate deployment even further."

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