American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma officials parked the 2008 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid vehicle outside its downtown offices on March 17. The company bought the vehicle and spent $10,000 more to have it outfitted with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack.
Officials said the vehicle can be driven up to 40 miles on the battery, if it is charged within six hours from a common 120-volt outlet.
The company is the first to test-drive a vehicle with a such a plug-in option. Most hybrids use a gasoline engine and have a battery that is recharged while the engine is running, but the plug-in hybrid uses three batteries.
Company officials said when the lithium-ion battery is fully utilized, the vehicle could get 70 miles per gallon.
"Even if you have diesel trucks, finding a station in town is a a little bit of a hassle," said Chuck Walker, AEP-PSO's fleet manager. "The infrastructure for this is already in your garage."
Company spokesman Stan Whiteford said using electricity for cars could be a part of the nation's overall energy plan.
AEP-PSO's chief operating officer, Stuart Solomon, drove the vehicle from the AEP corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to Tulsa, a trip of about 820 miles. He said the vehicle could be historically significant.
"We're really pleased to have the opportunity to demonstrate a promising new technology here in Oklahoma," Solomon said. "The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology will help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve our environment by lowering emissions, and it can also allow us to make more efficient use of the electrical grid."
The company will be able to use the vehicle for a couple of months and has plans to take it around Oklahoma. Solomon is driving it almost every day.
"It's definitely an attention-getter and a great way to help introduce this new technology to our customers," he said.