Plug-in Hybrid Autos Could Put Off-peak Power Generators to Good Use

Michael Giberson

If all the cars and light trucks in the nation switched from oil to electrons, idle capacity in the existing electric power system could generate most of the electricity consumed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

A new study for the Department of Energy finds that “off-peak” electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 84 percent of the country’s 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

That’s the conclusion of researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Lab, a DOE-funded facility in Richland, WA. Under base case assumptions the researchers concluded it would take five to eight years for consumers to recover the extra costs of the hybrid vehicle from savings on fuel.

The study cites two ideas popular among your KP bloggers: time-sensitive electric power rates and smart grid technology. The researchers suggest that if a utility offers off-peak pricing, it would speed up cost recovery for consumers. (Of course, if everyone switched to PHEV and charged their cars at night, it would sort of obliterate the idea of an “off peak” period. However, since recharging could be spread over the course of a night, it would be relatively easy load to serve.)

The study indicated that smart grid technology, to allow recharging devices to be temporarily interrupted by the system as a way to provide grid reliability services, would be another way to create value from a large scale deployment of PHEV technology.

UPDATE: See the Scientific American report on the study here.

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  1. p90x

    Cindy Philips is the founder and director of Island Yoga Space. She\’s been teaching \’movement arts\’ since 1986 and holds a BA in Performing Arts from Southern Oregon University, Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Certification from White Lotus Foundation and a 20…

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