The odometer on one of Southern California Edison's (SCE) electric vehicles has registered 100,000 miles – claimed to be the furthest any plug-in EV anywhere has travelled in real-world driving conditions.

The EV milestone was “coincidentally” reached as the Coalition for Clean Air held a celebration at Los Angeles’ Union Station marking "30 years of clean-air progress."

SCE and Toyota Motor Sales, USA have been tracking the performance and reliability of five RAV-4 EVs until they each reach the 100,000-mile mark using their original nickel-metal-hydride battery packs. Two of the five vehicles are expected to achieve that milestone in early 2003.

SCE's 275 EVs are used primarily by the utility's meter readers, service managers, field representatives, service planners and mail handlers, and for security patrols and carpools. In 12-plus years of operation, SCE's fleet of EVs has logged nearly 8.5 million miles, eliminating more than 1,000 tons of air pollutants, preventing the emission of 4,500 tons of tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions, avoiding the need for 1,700 oil changes, saving 421,500 gallons of petrol and reducing fuel costs by nearly $US250,000.

Travelling 100,000 miles is the equivalent of driving from Los Angeles to New York City 34 times.

"The performance of these zero-emission EVs demonstrates, once again, that electro-drive technology can play an important role in California's fleet and consumer transportation mix, and can serve as a key tool in addressing the state's still-serious air quality problems," said a manager in SCE's electric transportation division, Bill West.

"There's no question that in many cases, electro-drive technology does the same job as internal-combustion engines," West added. "And due to lower fuel and maintenance costs, it does the job more economically while improving air quality and energy security."

SCE and Toyota began the 100,000-mile RAV-4 EV project in February 2000 to obtain data on costs, maintenance, battery life, charging issues and other factors with EVs that are used continually long-term. Employees with long commutes drive the vehicles daily to and from work -- either SCE's headquarters in Rosemead, California or its EV Technical Centre in Pomona.

The test data also showed that EVs with advanced batteries are cost-effective to operate and have an equal lifecycle of comparable internal combustion engine vehicles.

Not only have the EVs met the employees' driving needs, they have proven reliable, with just minimal routine maintenance required, and have demonstrated the long-term durability of the battery packs, motors, controllers and other components. Given the successful operation of these EVs to date, SCE plans to continue using them even after they roll past 100,000 miles.

To support the 100,000-mile project, Toyota provides technical assistance and any parts needed for the vehicles.

"Toyota commends SCE for their commitment to clean air solutions. As our largest RAV-4 EV customer, we also value our partnership in the interest of promoting electric drive technologies," said Toyota corporate fleet manager Ron Broughman.

Besides operating its EV fleet, which also enables SCE to meet federal alternative-fuel vehicle requirements for utilities, SCE's electro-drive program analyses the potential electric system impacts of various electro-drive technologies, and how to most effectively mitigate those impacts.

More than 300,000 electro-drive products -- mainly forklifts, street sweepers, scrubbers and golf carts -- already operate in California. As neighborhood EVs, electric airport ground support equipment, hybrid vehicles and other devices and appliances are added to the electro-drive mix, that number will skyrocket in coming years.

"SCE will continue to help its customers deploy and safely and efficiently operate and charge these electricity-fuelled clean alternatives to internal-combustion engine vehicles," said West.

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