Monday, April 30, 2007

Plug-In Hybrids

Increase the battery capacity of a hybrid like a Toyota Prius so it charges while parked, then operates on batteries for 20-50 miles without needing its gasoline engine, and you have a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

Half of Americans travel 25 miles or less per day. PHEVs use electricity instead of gasoline for many of their miles, yet retain the range of a conventional car when needed. Their electricity can be sustainably generated from wind and solar, and there is ample off-peak capacity in today's electricity grid for charging.

Although the only PHEVs available today are aftermarket conversions of Priuses (as in the photo; also note the plug-in cord), major auto manufacturers including Toyota and others have announced plans. See the LA-based Plug In America and Austin-based Plug In Partners for two national campaigns to push the car companies to build them.

Sherry Boschert, author of the excellent Plug-in Hybrids will speak on Thursday, May 10, 7:00 p.m., at the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter office, 3435 Wilshire Boulevard, suite 320 (the tall Equitable building across from the former Ambassador Hotel; park free after 6 p.m. under the building off Mariposa, or on 6th Street, or ride the Wilshire Purple Line subway or Metro Rapid bus #720 to Wilshire / Normandie). Office phone is 213-387-4287.

The batteries of electric vehicles and PHEVs could also be used for distributed storage in a smart electric grid, to balance peak demands and intermittant generation from wind and solar. Saturday's LA Times noted:

California power companies are salivating at the idea of plug-in hybrid vehicles that would provide extended all-electric travel using bigger batteries that are recharged from the conventional power grid. ...

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. demonstrated bidirectional, or vehicle-to-grid, technology in San Francisco this month, using a Toyota Motor Corp. Prius modified by Energy CS, a Monrovia firm that develops plug-in hybrid conversions.

After the car's extra lithium-ion battery was charged, a PG&E technician flipped a switch and the power in the battery started flowing back onto the grid, causing the electric meter monitoring the activity to start running backward.

... plug-in hybrid owners could recharge their batteries at night, when most electric rates are lower, said PG&E environmental spokesman Keely Wachs.

Then on hot days, when demand for power soars, owners not using their cars could plug them in and transfer electricity from the batteries to the commercial grid. Utility companies would pay hybrid owners for that power, and at the higher daytime rate. ...

See New Energy News for more on vehicle-to-grid.

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