Plug-In Hybrids Saving the Environment and the Grid

According to the Technology Review, supporters of plug-in hybrid vehicles could potentially lessen the chance of brownouts, reduce electricity costs and encourage more green energy consumption.

Plug-in hybrids are similar to hybrid cars because they use both electric motors and an internal combustion engine, though they make greater use of their electric batteries. Drivers can rely exclusively on plug-in hybrids’ electric motors after the battery is charged. However, critics worry that the electric grid could be taxed beyond its capacity if too many owners of plug-in hybrids charge their vehicles at the same time.

Supporters cited a study by Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory (PNNL) that concluded enough surplus energy is present on the grid during nighttime and morning hours to provide in excess of 80 percent of vehicles traveling the nation’s roadways with power. PNNL’s conclusion means that utilities could sell power to owners of plug-in hybrids without having to build more generators.

Smart chargers could be used to prohibit the vehicles from charging during peak periods of demand, which could protect the grid. Utilities could also help prevent the overtaxing of the electric grid by tracking customers’ energy use through the use of smart meters. Such a system would enable utilities to discourage power usage during peak hours by charging more for power during periods of high demand. The vehicles could also provide utilities with an emergency source of power in the event of a disaster, such as a hurricane.         EC


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