UC Davis engineering professor Andy Frank has been called ‘The Father of the Plug-in Hybrid,’ and yesterday he picked up one of the first to be sold. The Chevrolet Volt made by General Motors has both an electric motor and a gasoline engine, and it’s EPA sticker says it can get up to 93 mpg in city driving. That’s because the Volt can drive for up to 30 miles — enough for most in-town commuting — on electric power alone, and can recharge its batteries either from the gasoline engine or from a 110 volt socket.
Frank said he first started looking at plug-in hybrids in the 1970s, but the technology was not yet sufficiently advanced. He built his first plug-in car, Aftershock, at UC Davis in 1991 and with a team of students has built 12 such cars over the past 20 years, including a Chevy Suburban that competed in the national Futuretruck competitions.
In the process, he’s also trained hundreds of students, many of whom have gone to work in the auto industry — including some who have worked on the design of the Volt, he said.
It’s gratifying to see that work pay off and come to a commercial product, he said.
Other manufacturers such as Nissan and Ford are also bringing new electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars to market, Frank noted.
UC Davis Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center; The Center’s Dahlia Garas (a former student of Frank’s) explains plug-in hybrids in this Newswatch video.
Frank appeared in PBS Nova’s ‘Car of the Future’ with Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click and Clack from NPR)