Andy Frank: Working Towards a Better Hybrid

Interview with U.C. Davis plug-in hybrid pioneer, Dr. Andy Frank.

Published: 11-May-2006

e been talking a lot lately about people choosing hybrid cars as auto options. We meet a scientist who is working on a hybrid that relies even less on gasoline.

Andy Frank loves to drive and isn't bothered by high gas prices. He says those prices are fueling interest in hybrid vehicles with all the power and size of the cars and SUVs we love, but with one simple difference - a plug. "If the car companies were to make plug-in hybrids we could begin reducing foreign oil immediately, because each car would reduce the gasoline consumption by up to 90 percent on an annual basis."

Frank's team at the University of California, Davis, converts commercially available hybrids into plug-ins by installing smaller gasoline engines, bigger electric motors and more storage batteries. He wrote in "Scientific American" magazine that at current gasoline and electricity prices, his plug-ins are easier on the wallet. "Current cars would cost you about 10 to12 cents per mile to drive that car using gasoline. However, in one of these plug-in hybrids, you're using electricity for the first 60 miles, then it's about three to four cents a mile.

He adds that really industrious drivers could make money by selling energy back to the power company. "We could charge the batteries in this car at night at very low rates and feed it back to the grid during the middle of the day at a higher rate, and we could actually make money."

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