RALEIGH, NC - Progress Energy recently joined with its peer investor-owned electric utilities in a national pledge to help accelerate the transition of plug-in electric vehicles, according to jdnews.com. The company was awarded grant money from the Department of Energy several months ago.

As part of the pledge, Progress Energy is adopting PEVs into its corporate fleet, which now includes seven Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, two Ford Escape PHEV prototypes, and a plug-in electric bucket truck. One Prius is parked at the Jacksonville Progress Energy location part-time.

A typical PEV overnight charge is estimated to cost less than a dollar and the vehicles also produce less carbon dioxide and pollutants than conventional vehicles, according to Progress Energy.

The PHEV in Jacksonville gets between 30 and 35 miles per battery charge, company spokesman Dan Oliver told JDnews.com. By adding the increased battery capacity to the existing Prius hybrid technology, PHEVs have the capability to achieve more than 100 miles to the gallon.

"The majority of us in the U.S. drive less than 30 or 35 miles per day," he said. "Our daily circuit is typically 35 miles or less, so that charge meets our daily need."

To transform a Prius hybrid into a plug-in vehicle, Oliver said the company purchases the vehicles right off the showroom floor and takes them to an after-market company that installs the battery pack, which costs about $10,000. With the battery pack, the vehicle typically gets upwards of 45 miles per gallon of gasoline.

"I think our primary focus now is to get enough of these out there to get good test data," Oliver said. One of the hurdles facing the future widespread use of PEVs is where to charge the vehicles. Oliver said Progress Energy is working with other organizations to help develop ways to address this issue.

 "Across our full system we're testing a number of ideas to look at energy efficiency and a better use of our resources from an environmental standpoint, "Oliver said.

Oliver takes the Prius to various events in eastern North Carolina and said he has gotten positive feedback about it. "Most are interested in what they can do to lower their operating costs but also what they can do from an environmental standpoint in helping the country gain independence from foreign oil," he said.