Technology Review on Plug-in Hybrids

Lynne Kiesling

Kevin Bullis at Technology Review has a nice post that dispels some misunderstandings about plug-in hybrid vehicles. I encourage you to follow his links and to learn more about plug-in hybrids, how they work, and what benefits they introduce into the entire electricity ecosystem, in particular, their article on “how plug-in hybrids will save the grid”.

Kevin’s not entirely correct when he says that PHEVs cannot cause blackouts, because depending on how many of them plug in and either draw or provide current relative to the other activity on the network, they could be a destabilizing factor. The interconnection of distributed devices that can either take current or produce current is a complicated physical problem for which the existing distribution system is not built, so there are some tweaks required to make sure that bad things don’t happen. But for the most part, PHEVs are not a destabilizing force, but will instead contribute resilience to the network ecosystem.

If you are intrigued by PHEVs, check out Tesla, which makes electric vehicles that are downright sexy. Think of a network of Teslas providing power to buildings from their batteries in a hot-hot-heat high peak hour during the day, and then recharging in a cheaper hour. The mind boggles at how cool this could be …


5 thoughts on “Technology Review on Plug-in Hybrids

  1. I really think that the hybrid fad was based on excitement about the Prius. It really was a brilliant car design, from stodgy Toyota no less. They hybrid part of the design was necessary to differentiate the Prius from a “normal” car, but the futuristic design of the interior and exterior (but not TOO funky, i.e. the Honda Insight) are what really generated the excitement. And then driving a Prius became a socio/ political statement, kind of like driving around with the windows down blaring “Air America”.

    I also think that the Prius fad is over. The model is getting a little long in the tooth. Let’s see if Toyota can pull off a model change, or if the Prius is more like the PT Cruiser or New Beetle, a fad that the carmaker can’t replicate in a new model. Remember that the Prius that everyone loves is actually the 2nd generation model. No one liked the first gen Prius. So design does matter.

    Now, if Chevy comes along with its PHEV, “The Volt”, can it create the buzz that Toyota did with the 2nd gen Prius? Good luck with that. GM is awful with product introductions. The Tahoe hybrid is a couple of years late.

    And if PHEVs need some interaction with your local power company in order to be a successful product, what’s the likelihood of that?

  2. “Think of a network of Teslas providing power to buildings from their batteries in a hot-hot-heat high peak hour during the day, and then recharging in a cheaper hour.”

    They can’t be connected to the grid and driving home at the same time.

  3. Fat Man,

    Somehow, I don’t see the Tesla as a commuter car, except perhaps for those who now commute in Porsches and Lamborginis. Maybe it’s just me.

  4. Hi, Lynne… long time, no visit. Interesting couple of papers recently on the state of plug-hybrids from the standpoint of the one of the principle underlying components necessary to make it go, i.e., lithium. William Tahil claims world known reserves are inadequate to replace the world automobile fleet:

    http://www.meridian-int-res.com/Projects/Lithium_Problem_2.pdf

    There are other metals (niobium for instance) currently being used in the Toyota Prius that I would suspect (without looking closely) are in short supply and wouldn’t hold up for large-scale implementations.

  5. Hi, Lynne… long time, no visit. Interesting couple of papers recently on the state of plug-hybrids from the standpoint of the one of the principle underlying components necessary to make it go, i.e., lithium. William Tahil claims world known reserves are inadequate to replace the world automobile fleet:

    http://www.meridian-int-res.com/Projects/Lithium_Problem_2.pdf

    There are other metals (niobium for instance) currently being used in the Toyota Prius that I would suspect (without looking closely) are in short supply and wouldn’t hold up for large-scale implementations.

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