Friday, October 19, 2007

The Cash Back Hybrid

Not that long ago, the idea that the transportation sector might actually provide energy back into the stationary generation sector was pretty much on the outside of the bell curve of acceptable thinking. Today the VtoG concept is a respectable topic in respectable circles.

Here's an example from Spectrum Online:

Can plug-in hybrid electric vehicles keep the electric grid stable?
By John Voelcker
First Published October 2007

Google, a former CIA director, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S. senator, and the IEEE aren’t often found together in the same room.

But the promise of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) aligns the stars in unexpected ways. The result of their meeting on September 19th (“Plug-In Hybrids: Accelerating Progress”) is an early glimpse at a future with vehicles powered by electricity, emitting far fewer greenhouse gases than those of the last century—and playing a key role in the very stability of the nation’s electric grid. (clip)

The keynote speaker, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), plunged directly into the policy fray. “Many of us on Capitol Hill see the potential of plug-in hybrids,” Cantwell said, describing a bill she has introduced to encourage early production and purchase of plug-ins. It includes tax credits for consumers who buy or convert to plug-ins, tax incentives on tooling for carmakers who sell early models, and incentives for utilities to offer discounts for off-peak car recharging.

It also encourages utilities to upgrade to “smart grid” technology, allowing electric appliances to communicate with the grid and charge themselves based on real-time power prices.

Next up was Jon Wellinghoff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who coined the term “cash-back hybrid,” which clearly describes the benefit to consumers of plug-ins that not only charge themselves when demand is lightest and prices are lowest, but supply energy services to the grid as well.

Collectively, Wellinghoff proposed, the batteries in millions of PHEVs could provide five distinct benefits: lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, improving urban air quality, saving consumers money, bolstering power-grid reliability, and reducing oil imports.

How would those results be achieved?

By making the energy stored in plug-in hybrids an integral part of the grid, using a few percent of each battery’s energy storage capacity to meet peak demand rather than adding new generating capacity—and by paying consumers accordingly.

The notion is called vehicle-to-grid power, or V2G, and its workings, economics, and practicalities were the meat and potatoes of the symposium. (clip)

Clearly such a notion requires radical thinking. Whether consumers are ready to make that kind of leap—let alone the automakers or the electric industry—is open to debate.

But the ghost of Henry Ford was invoked, with his legendary quotation on responding to consumer demands: “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

When consumers were asked about buying a Plug In hybrid, 27% said they would be likely to include plug in hybrid technology in their next vehicle.

In other developments, Odyne Corporation, a leading developer of hybrid electric vehicle technology and Dueco, Inc., one of the largest utility equipment manufacturers in the country, introduced another important step in the greening of the nation's utility companies, the first plug-in hybrid aerial lift truck.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Ford, VW Ante Up

Momentum for a Plug in Future continues.

First, there is this story from Volkswagon. Apparently, VW is set to unveil an Up!-based minivan in Tokyo, followed by a plug-in hybrid sedan at Los Angeles. Since the goal of the Up! concept unveiled in Frankfurt is to give VW a low-cost, rear engine, affordable vehicle, both the minivan and plug-in hybrid should carry a meager price tag if they come to production.

However, if this announcement from Next Energy News is correct( and it apparently is not), virtually all of the major manufacturers are now moving into the Plug-In car business for real.

Ford to bring back ESCORT in 2010 with 100 mpg Hybrid
Next Energy News
Sept. 24. 2007
Ford Motor Company has embarked on a bold mission to bring back the Escort name in a revolutionary new Plug-in Hybrid vehicle.

The new Hybrid only vehicle will compete with the highly successful Toyota Prius which has established a loyal cult-like following since its introduction 7 years ago. The new Escort Hybrid is planned for the model year 2011 and to be introduced in the fall of 2010.

Ford believes a total from the ground up Hybrid Exclusive model is the only way to truly capture the growing market for Hybrid Vehicles since consumers have not fully embraced the idea of retrofitting existing platforms. (clip)

The System Ford has chosen is a single mode Hybrid instead of the Dual-mode Hybrid that is going to be offered by GM and Chrysler. The Dual-mode hybrid uses two smaller electric motors that assist the gasoline engine at different times in the acceleration cycle. Ford believes the Single mode Plug-in Hybrid system will be superior in the future with the introduction of“Super Batteries” now being developed.

Ford is invested in the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium and is focusing most of its attention on A123 systems nanophosphate Lithium-Ion batteries to reach it’s expected 100 miles per gallon target. A123Systems high power battery technology is based on new highly active nanoscale materials that are inexpensive, nontoxic, extremely stable (Non Explosive) and quick charging. The new batteries are expected to have a life of 10 years and 150,000 miles.

Ford is in race with GM to bring out the new Escort before the Chevy Volt hits the market in 2010. Alan Mulally, Ford’s new CEO, realizes that Ford needs tohang on to their perceived lead in domestic Hybrid technology first developed and introduced for the Ford Escape.

With the price of gas hovering around $3 per gallon and with Toyota Prius sales up 56% so far this year Ford now understands where the future lies, and they’re thinking Hybrid all the way. "

Meanwhile, in an unusual move, GM is already advertising its Volt. (See ad)

And, DOE has announced even more funding for Plug-Ins.

Here at Plug In Partners ,we now have 598 Partners, including 71 Cities, 35 Local Governments, 150 Businesses, 166 Public Utilities, and 10 Investor-Owned Utilities.

Update: The Ford Story looks like it is wrong. See comments and read autoblogreen.