The Diamond Bar, Calif.-based South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has received a $45.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle PHEV. The grant is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

AQMD's proposed PHEV would be a fully integrated, production system for medium-duty utility and delivery trucks, and shuttle buses. "Currently, utility vehicles, such as bucket trucks, run at idle to produce enough power to lift a utility worker into the air," said AQMD Executive Officer Barry Wallerstein in a statement. "These next-generation plug-in hybrid vehicles will do this using battery power alone to reduce smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions. This also reduces the exposure of workers to harmful tailpipe emissions."

The ARRA grant, which is designed to accelerate the development of U.S.-manufactured next-generation batteries and electric vehicles, covers approximately half of the total $90 million project cost. The additional $45 million comes from several private and public sources, including $5 million from the California Energy Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, and $32 million from utility and fleet participants.

AQMD, along with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), will oversee the development of 378 demonstration vehicles over three years. More than 100 of the vehicles will be demonstrated in California with the remaining vehicles delivered for nationwide testing in daily long-term fleet use. EPRI estimates that the fleet demand of PHEVs will grow to more than 46,000 vehicles by 2015. "At the end of the demonstration project, our partners will have a fully operational production line that will pave the way to the commercialization of PHEV vehicles," said EPRI Director of Electric Transportation Mark Duvall. "The benefits of commercialization will be fully realized as fleet providers retire their polluting vehicles and trade-up to the cleaner plug-in hybrid systems."

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