Photo by Sylvia Wright, UC Davis.

Andrew Alfonso Frank (Andy Frank) is a professor in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at UC Davis who is working on electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles.

Andy Frank is the inventor of the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV a.k.a. REEV or EREV). His vehicle research programs have been instrumental in the development of the hybrid vehicle as a viable commercial technology. Other programs under his watch have included the Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) team, and several super mileage vehicles that set world records of 3300 mpg on gasoline and 2200 mpg on M85 Methanol gasoline blend. Dr. Frank and his students produced record winning Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles, including a Ford Taurus PHEV that got 68 mpg and a Chevrolet Suburban PHEV that got 32 mpg. Both of these vehicles got 60 miles of All Electric Range. Andy has also worked closely with the late Paul MacReady of AeroVironment, a Monrovia, CA based company responsible for the development of the GM EV-1, as well as various human and solar powered aircraft. It is rumored that he has, or once had, the world's only Porsche pick-up (a modified Porsche 914.)

Andy Frank is also Chief Technology Officer at Efficient Drivetrains Inc (EDI). They have licensed Andy's patents on invention of the PHEV from UC Davis and are working on their commercial development.

Andy Frank's PHEV Lifestyle


Andy Frank received Chevy Volt number 30, the first one purchased in Davis in December 2011. Andy drives the Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) as his only car. He goes to work every day in Dixon 15 miles from his house in Davis along I-80 at speeds sometimes topping out close to 80 mph. In addition, daily errands to the grocery, hardware and drug stores are run in the Volt. Andy recharges his Volt at home and at work with a simple, inexpensive 110 volt Level 1 EV battery charger. With an electric range of 35 miles, Andy's Volt runs purely on electricity on most work days, but automatically switches to running on gasoline whenever a longer distance is driven. There is no sacrifice in the utility of the PHEV compared to the conventional car.

Andy's Volt now has traveled a total of over 60,000 miles, 70% on electricity and 30% on gasoline. The Volt has traveled about 50,000 miles on electricity. The electric use is about .300 kiloWatt-hrs/mile. At a cost of electricity of $.13/kiloWatt-hrs in California the Volt costs $.04 per mile when running on electricity. The Volt has traveled about 10,000 miles on gasoline and used 300 gallons of gasoline at a fuel economy of 130 mpg. With recent gas prices of about $2.50/gallon fuel costs for the Volt are $.07 per mile when running on gas. The fuel costs are dramatically lower for the Chevy Volt PHEV than for a conventional gasoline engine car because the engine is seldom used and when it is used it is a lot more efficient.

In the US our electricity is generated mostly from domestic power sources, so powering our cars with electricity reduces our dependence upon imported crude oil. If everyone were to buy PHEV's like the Volt, this country could become energy independent, using mostly solar and wind power to generate the electricity to run our cars and trucks within about 15 years. As we modernize our electric power grid to use more renewable, green power sources in the future this will also reduce the pollution and greenhouse gases that we produce from our vehicles. Andy is planning to add photovoltaic solar panels to his roof at home in the near future. The best place to add solar, however, is at your place of work where you normally park your car during the daylight hours. Andy will try to convince his employer that it would be to the company's advantage to have 400 square feet of solar panels in the front of their south facing building!! Then the electric cars owned by the employees can be efficiently charged on green, renewable, non-polluting solar power.

Featured in the book "Eco Barons"

Andy Frank and his work on engineering of plugin hybrid electric vehicles is featured in chapter 11 of the book" Eco Barons, The New Heroes of Environmental Activism by Edward Humes (2009)."

Author Interview with Edward Humes from HarperCollins Publishers "Q: One of the Eco Barons you showcase, Professor Andy Frank, has been working for decades to perfect a plug-in hybrid car. Why has Detroit been so ambivalent about this innovation, and will their current financial woes finally force them to embrace it? A: As Andy Frank sees it, Detroit has been slow to embrace electric and plug-in hybrid cars out of fear of change, out of arrogance, and because selling a clean, zero-emissions electric car that really works would make all their other products look dirty and inefficient. This is why the Big Three has continually claimed that electric cars were impractical, even though Frank has been building great prototypes for years (sometimes under contract with the same Detroit automakers). The truth is that technology is no longer a barrier, and that practical electric and plug-in hybrid cars could have long ago been the standard had Detroit put is marketing muscle behind the idea."

Media Coverage

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