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Cool Hybrids, Smart Grids and Renewable Energy

This article was written by Alex Steffen in January 2008. We're republishing it here as part of our month-long editorial retrospective.

This is interesting:

In an analysis of the potential impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles projected for 2020 and 2030 in 13 regions of the United States, ORNL researchers explored their potential effect on electricity demand, supply, infrastructure, prices and associated emission levels. Electricity requirements for hybrids used a projection of 25 percent market penetration of hybrid vehicles by 2020 including a mixture of sedans and sport utility vehicles. Several scenarios were run for each region for the years 2020 and 2030 and the times of 5 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., in addition to other variables.
The report found that the need for added generation would be most critical by 2030, when hybrids have been on the market for some time and become a larger percentage of the automobiles Americans drive. In the worst-case scenario—if all hybrid owners charged their vehicles at 5 p.m., at six kilowatts of power—up to 160 large power plants would be needed nationwide to supply the extra electricity, and the demand would reduce the reserve power margins for a particular region's system.
The best-case scenario occurs when vehicles are plugged in after 10 p.m., when the electric load on the system is at a minimum and the wholesale price for energy is least expensive. Depending on the power demand per household, charging vehicles after 10 p.m. would require, at lower demand levels, no additional power generation or, in higher-demand projections, just eight additional power plants nationwide.

Of course, there's a mechanism for helping people plug their cars in at the right time: pricing energy in response to demand, through miracle smart grid technologies that will be available sometime in the very near future like, well, yesterday.

Of course, even the coolest of hybrids plugged into the smartest of grids won't save our bacon if we don't change the sources of our energy and the design of our communities.

Vehicle-to-Grid Plug-In Hybrids, for Free is part of our month long retrospective leading up to our anniversary on October 1. For the next four weeks, we'll celebrate five years of solutions-based, forward-thinking and innovative journalism by publishing the best of the Worldchanging archives.

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Thanks for citing a reputable source (Oak Ridge National Labs, run by U. of Tennessee for the DOE) to point out that the millions of plug-ins that begin charging after 10 p.m. would not likely require much, if any, extra power plants be built. Most plug-in chargers will likely be equipped with timers to allow charging to take place at midnight for even better KW rates, without owners actually having to plug in at certain times. The article might have mentioned that, by 2020, many more on-site, grid-connected solar and wind systems will be in place for both daytime (solar) and night/day time (wind) power generation. There will be a need, however, for a more capacious and controllable (smart) grid to manage more energy transfer from these new sources -- including the occasional sell-back of power (at favorable net rates to owners) from plug-in batteries during times of little or no travel use.

Posted by: Gary Hubbard on 1 Oct 08



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