Archive for the ‘plug in hybrids’ Category

West’s energy security ever-more at the mercy of foreign governments

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Set America Free Coalition member Frank Gaffney writes in the Washington Times:

As the Communist Chinese and fascistic Russian regimes move to forge close relations with energy-rich nations like Iran, Libya, Sudan, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Saudi Arabia, and as the Kremlin consolidates its control over Russia’s own vast resources, America and her allies will find themselves increasingly imperiled by their dependency on such sources for oil products and/or natural gas.
As a result, President Bush needs to make increased U.S. energy security a central part of the overhauled war-fighting strategy that he is set to announce next month. To do so, he must clearly go beyond the lip service that he paid to our “addiction to oil” in last year’s State of the Union speech by taking steps that will make a difference.
Done properly, energy security could be one of the most promising areas for cooperation between the Bush Administration and Democrats in Congress. By concentrating on areas where considerable progress is possible (rather than on such neuralgic issues as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or increased CAFE fuel-efficiency standards), America — and in particular its gas-guzzling transportation sector — could be made significantly less reliant on oil supplied by unstable or hostile regimes.
Such a course of action has been laid out in a blueprint produced by the Set America Free Coalition — a group spanning the political spectrum — that forms the basis for the bipartisan, bicameral Vehicle & Fuel Choices for American Security Act (introduced in the last session of Congress as S.2025 in the Senate and H.R. 4409 in the House). It entails two principal steps: (1) ensuring all cars sold in America will be Flexible Fuel Vehicles, capable of burning not just gasoline but ethanol and methanol (or some combination thereof); and (2) assuring the availability of substantially increased quantities of such alternative fuels.
This legislation would also help make electricity a true transportation fuel, by promoting the manufacture of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Since scarcely any electricity is generated in America by burning oil, the widespread use of such vehicles could greatly reduce our dependence on foreign sources of petroleum. To realize the full potential of this option, however, President Bush and the Congress will need to join forces on one other important initiative: assuring large-scale U.S. production of advanced lithium ion batteries, an essential ingredient for our future energy — and national — security and the competitiveness of our auto industry.

Recent remarks by President Bush

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

President Bush puts it bluntly:

In my judgment, we’re going to have to get off oil as much as possible to remain a competitive economy.

And I’m looking forward to working with Congress to do just that. I’m optimistic about some of the reports I’ve heard about new battery technologies that will be coming to the market that’ll enable, you know, people who — people to drive the first 20 miles, for example, on electricity. That’ll be the initial phase — and, then, up to 40 miles on battery technologies. That’ll be positive, particularly if you live in a big city. A lot of people don’t drive more than 20 miles or 40 miles a day. And, therefore, those urban dwellers who aren’t driving that much won’t be using any gasoline on a daily basis. And that will be helpful to the country.

I’m pleased with the fact that we’ve gone from about a billion gallons of ethanol to over five billion gallons of ethanol in a very quick period of time — mainly derived from corn here in the United States. But there’s been great progress and we need to continue to spend money on cellulosic ethanol.

That means new technologies that will enable us to use wood chips, for example, or switch grass as the fuel stocks for the development of new types of fuels that will enable American drivers to diversify away from gasoline.

Good plug in news!

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

The Dept. of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory reports that there is sufficient spare “off-peak” electricity production and transmission capacity tofuel 84 percent of the country’s 220 million vehicles were they plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: “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.”

In the meantime, big kudos to the Senators and Representatives, led by the co-sponsors of the bipartisan Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act, who sent letters to the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asking them to work together toward allocating $90 million in budget year 2008 to speed the commercialization of plug-in hybrids. Click to view the House and Senate letters.

GM announces plans for plug-in hybrid vehicle

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

From GM’s announcement:

“GM has begun work on a Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid production vehicle,” said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and CEO. “The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable. I can’t give you a production date for our plug-in hybrid today. But I can tell you that this is a top priority program for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement.”

A plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle differs from non-plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles by offering extended electric-only propulsion, additional battery capacity and the ability to be recharged from an external electrical outlet. The Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid is expected to offer electric- only propulsion for more than 10 miles. At higher speeds or when conditions demand it, such as brisk acceleration, a combination of engine and electric power or engine power only will propel the vehicle.

In addition to plug-in capabilities and the modified 2-mode hybrid system, the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid SUV’s powertrain will feature Lithium Ion battery technology, two interior permanent magnet motors and GM’s 3.6L V-6 gasoline engine with direct injection.

When ready for production, the Lithium Ion energy storage system will be replenished when the battery charge is depleted to a specified level by utilizing the 2-mode hybrid system’s electric motors and regenerative braking systems. When the vehicle is parked, the battery can be recharged using a common household exterior 110-volt plug-in outlet.

The 2-mode hybrid system will be altered for use with plug-in technology. It maintains two driving modes — one for city driving, the other for highway driving — and four fixed mechanical gears to maximize efficiency while maintaining performance. In addition, special controls will be utilized to enable higher speeds during electric-only propulsion and maintain electric- only propulsion for longer periods of time.

Good start. Faster please.

Do plug in hybrids mean we need increased baseload capacity?

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Olivia Albrecht notes that “the United States imports oil at a rate of $400,000 a minute. It is estimated that by 2030, U.S. energy demands will increase by nearly two-thirds, and that by 2050, global energy demand will more than double. Americans must realize the necessity of finding a reliable energy supply in order to sustain economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century and to reduce the security, economic and political risks of U.S. dependence on foreign oil.” She rightly points out that “oil contributes only 2 percent of U.S. electricity [...] Yet analysts agree that as the price at the pump continues to grow, more global consumers will turn away from gas-fueled vehicles and toward alternative-power items to avoid the cost of oil.” And she raises a concern “Imagine if all car owners in the United State traded in their oil engines for electric cars: The drastic surge in electricity consumption could not be sustained by our current electric-output capability.” Not quite.

Actually, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) points out that there is enough reserve electric capacity in our grid, especially at night, that up to 30% of U.S. vehicles could be plug in hybrids before that capacity were exhausted. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to expand baseload capacity, but it does mean that we won’t need to do it in order to accomodate a shift to electricity as a transportation fuel. Since the length of road life of a vehicle in the U.S. is on average 16.8 years (hard to believe but true,) so transitioning 30% of the fleet will take some time.


Thursday, October 12th, 2006

President Bush in Missouri today: “Let me just put it bluntly: We’re too dependent on oil. [...] And see, low gasoline prices may mask that concern.  So, first, I want to tell you that I welcome the low gasoline prices, however it’s not going to dim my enthusiasm for making sure we diversify away from oil. [...] this country has got to use its talent and its wealth to get us off oil. And I believe we will do so, and I believe — I know the best way to do so is through technological breakthroughs.

“[...] we envision a day in which light and powerful batteries will become available in the marketplace so that you can drive the first 40 miles on electricity, on batteries, and your car won’t have to look like a golf cart….In other words, it will be a technology that will meet consumer demand and at the same time meet a national need, which is less consumption of gasoline. These are called plug-in hybrid vehicles. [...]Most folks in the cities don’t drive more than 40 miles, so you can envision consumer habits beginning to change: You drive to work; you go home; you plug in your automobile. And you go — ride to work and go home the next — and you’re still on electricity. It’s going to change the consumption patterns. This new technology will change the consumption patterns on gasoline, which in turn will make us less dependent on crude oil, which meets a national security concern, an economic security concern, and helps us deal with an environmental concern.”

Only 2% of US electricity is generated from oil today – later in his speech the President noted this by saying, “I don’t know if you know this or not, but electricity is generated from natural gas, about 18 percent; coal, 50 percent; nuclear power, 20 percent; and then — solar and wind. “

He also emphasized the ease of manufacturing flex-fuel vehicles: “it doesn’t require much money to convert a regular gasoline-driven car to a flex-fuel automobile. See, the technology is available. It takes about $100-something to change a gasoline-only automobile to one that can use E85. And it works.

President Bush on plug-in hybrids

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

In a WSJ interview: “Conservation will be achieved by new technologies, such as batteries that enable a car to go for the first 40 miles on electricity and your car doesn’t have to look like a golf cart.” 

Especially good since only 2% of US electricity is generated from oil.

Ending Oil?s Stranglehold on Transportation and the Economy

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

A major study by AllianceBernstein embraces hybrids and plug-in hybrid vehicles as a game changer:

“The world is on the cusp of a major transition to hybridpower vehicles, which use highly efficient electric motors to boost the fuel efficiency of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. This is a game-changing technology that promises to increase energy efficiency substantially, make a broad range of fuels available for powering vehicles, and meaningfully reduce demand for oil from the transportation sector.

“Over the last 30 years, many industries have either dramatically improved their energy efficiency or shifted to alternative fuel sources; transportation has been an exception. As a result, the composition of oil consumption has shifted dramatically toward transportation, from 33% of total oil demand in 1971 to about 50% today [...]

“The shift to transportation systems largely powered by electricity will be the next phase in the broad transition away from relatively inefficient mechanical systems [...]

“Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are likely to arrive as an extension of the hybrids available today. Like the latter, plug-ins are powered by both liquid fuel (gasoline or diesel) and batteries. But in addition to being charged by the gasoline engine and regenerative braking, plugin hybrids may be recharged by plugging into standard electric outlets [...]

“If most consumers recharge the batteries in their plug-in vehicles from the electrical grid, the fuel ultimately powering their vehicle is likely to be coal, natural gas or uranium, rather than oil. Such fl exibility would be truly gamechanging. Economic growth, which is inextricably linked to transportation, could be almost entirely decoupled from oil. This could reshape the foreign policies of such oil-importing countries and regions as the US, Japan, Western Europe, China and India. The economic and political implications for the few oil-rich exporting nations, by contrast, are likely to be grim. Indeed, the transition to hybrid power could change the world!”

Read the whole thing.

According to recent news reports GM appears to have seen the light:

“General Motors Corp., losing sales to fuel-efficient cars from Toyota Motor Corp., is developing a hybrid-electric vehicle with a battery that recharges at any outlet, said GM officials familiar with the plan.

“The so-called plug-in hybrid would travel more than 60 miles on a gallon of gasoline, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the research is secret. GM, which had the first modern electric car in 1996, lags behind Toyota in hybrids, which combine electric motors and gasoline engines.”