If all the cars and light trucks in the nation switched from oil to electrons, idle capacity in the existing electric power system could generate most of the electricity consumed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. A new study (Part 1, Part 2) for the Department of Energy finds that "off-peak" electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 70% percent of the U.S. light-duty vehicle (LDV) fleet, if they were plug-in hybrid electrics. (Note: an earlier version of this release referenced 84% capacity based on LDV fleet classification that excluded vans). . .
Researchers found, in the Midwest and East, there is sufficient off-peak generation, transmission and distribution capacity to provide for all of today’s vehicles if they ran on batteries. However, in the West, and specifically the Pacific Northwest, there is limited extra electricity because of the large amount of hydroelectric generation that is already heavily utilized. Since more rain and snow can’t be ordered, it’s difficult to increase electricity production from the hydroelectric plants.
“We were very conservative in looking at the idle capacity of power generation assets,” said PNNL scientist Michael Kintner-Meyer. “The estimates didn’t include hydro, renewables or nuclear plants. It also didn’t include plants designed to meet peak demand because they don’t operate continuously. We still found that across the country 84 percent of the additional electricity demand created by PHEVs could be met by idle generation capacity."
“Since gasoline consumption accounts for 73 percent of imported oil, it is intriguing to think of the trade and national security benefits if our vehicles switched from oil to electrons,” added PNNL energy researcher Rob Pratt. “Plus, since the utilities would be selling more electricity without having to build more plants or power lines, electricity prices could go down for everyone.”
Lightner noted that “the study suggests the idle capacity of the electric power grid is an underutilized national asset that could be tapped to vastly reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
"I get it. A lot of people don't like GM because: 1) the bailout, or 1a) Obama; or 2) the United Auto Workers; or 3) because some Monte Carlo or Cutlass Sierra or deuce-and-a-quarter left them walking a long time ago. That's understandable. These are sour times. But for the moment, we should suspend our rancor and savor a little American pride. A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet. And they did it in 29 months while the company they worked for was falling apart around them. That was downright heroic. Somebody ought to make a movie."
The main finding of this study is that the impact of a Li-ion battery used in [a battery car] for transport service is relatively small. In contrast, it is the operation phase that remains the dominant contributor to the environmental burden caused by transport service as long as the electricity for the [battery car] is not produced by renewable hydropower ... A break even analysis shows that an [internal combustion vehicle] would need to consume less than 3.9 L/100km to cause lower [impact] than a [battery car] ... Consumptions in this range are achieved by some small and very efficient diesel[s], for example, from Ford and Volkswagen.
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