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Obama Visit Juices Up SoCal Electric Vehicle Plant


By John Rogers
San Jose Mercury News
March 19, 2009


POMONA, Calif.—Whether President Barack Obama's California
visit rallied sufficient support for his economic stimulus
package remains to be seen, but his arrival Thursday
definitely juiced the spirits of those who have toiled for
years here building, testing and maintaining the kind of
electric-powered cars Obama says are the nation's future.
In the 16 years since it opened, Southern California Edison's
Electric Vehicle Technical Center has quietly logged a number
of firsts. Among them, first consumer field test of General
Motors' pioneering EV1 electric vehicle and first conversion
of a heavy-duty, gasoline-powered boom truck to gas-electric hybrid.

Edison itself maintains a fleet of more than 300 electric and
gas-electric hybrid vehicles that it says has logged more than
17 million miles.

But at a company whose name often lands in the news only after
a power blackout, there was some concern over whether anybody
was paying attention.

"We've been at times feeling maybe a little lonely out there
with our support for electric transportation," Edison
International Chairman Ted Craver Jr. said after showing Obama
around the plant. "To have this recognition, this exposure of
electric transportation and what we have been able to
accomplish is just a real thrill for the company."

At the center, located in a gritty industrial neighborhood
sandwiched by auto repair shops and rattled by passing freight
trains, more than a dozen employees test, maintain
and repair vehicles, including those in Edison's fleet.

"We're not just driving 'em around the track," Craver said.
"We've got our own meter readers using electric vehicles, have
been for years. We've got utility vehicles, the bucket trucks
and that type of thing."

During his visit, Obama made the case for government
investment of billions of dollars to develop fuel-efficient
cars and provide an electric grid to support them. He called
for putting 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on America's
roads by 2015.

"It's certainly doable," Craver said of that figure.

"Whether you capture everybody's enthusiasm and get the
adoption, of course, is part of what all of this is about," he
said of Obama's visit. "To get people to understand what the
benefits are and how it could really be good for the system
and good for the individual."

 

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