Surplus electricity could 'fill up' plug-in vehicles
An added benefit of plug-in hybrid vehicles is their capacity to store energy, which allows them to serve as a back-up power unit. The battery of a typical PHEV can produce enough electricity to power a home for about 10 hours. So, while the vehicle is parked in the garage or at work, its energy reserves could be used by utilities for a fee.
Plug in your car. Unplug foreign oil,
greenhouse gases and other emissions
that contribute to urban smog.
A new study by Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory has found that
off-peak electricity production and
transmission capacity could fuel 70 percent
of the 220 million cars, light trucks, SUVs
and vans on the road today—if they were
plug-in hybrid electrics.
The study, performed for the
Department of Energy, also suggests
that replacing gasoline-powered vehicles
with vehicles powered by off-peak
electricity could improve urban air
quality and potentially reduce expected
increases in electricity rates by using the
current infrastructure more effectively
without building new power plants and
Batteries for plug-in hybrid electric
vehicles, or PHEVs, will easily store
enough energy for the national average
commute, about 33 miles a day.
Researchers found that if drivers charged
up overnight when demand for electricity
is low, most regions of the country would have plenty of off-peak generation,
transmission and distribution capacity to
provide for that region’s PHEVs.
The impact on national security
could be significant. “Since gasoline
consumption accounts for 73 percent
of imported oil, it is intriguing to think
of the national security benefits if our
vehicles switched from oil to electrons,”
said PNNL energy researcher Rob Pratt.
The extra electricity needed to power
PHEVs would come from coal-fired and
natural gas-fired plants. Even though
these power plants emit greenhouse
gases, overall levels would be
reduced because it is more
efficient to move a car one
mile using electricity than
producing gasoline and
burning it in the car’s engine. Another long-term benefit is that
the steady demand for electricity is likely
to spur investments in cleaner coal-fired
“PHEVs would increase residential
consumption of electricity by about
30-40 percent depending on how many
PHEVs we will own. The increased
generation could lead to replacing aging
coal-fired plants sooner with newer, more
environmentally friendly versions,” said
PNNL scientist Michael Kintner-Meyer.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.