New coalition lobbies Big Auto to build plug-in hybrid cars

Plug-In Partners is not, as the name might indicate, a swingers’ club. Rather, it’s a diverse national campaign — encompassing cities, electric utilities, national-security hawks, and others — pushing for plug-in hybrids: gas-electric vehicles with batteries that can be recharged via a regular wall socket. Once powered up (ideally at night, when electric rates tend to be lower) such vehicles could go 20 to 35 miles or more on electricity alone and achieve fuel efficiency of 80 to 100 miles per gallon. The coalition says plug-in hybrids could substantially reduce demand for oil and curb air pollution. Most automakers say plug-in hybrids would cost more than consumers want to spend, so the campaign has vowed to drum up demand. Member city Austin, Texas, led the way on Tuesday by vowing to buy 600 of the next-gen green vehicles as soon as they come to market.