Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Promise and Politics of Plug-In Hybrids

I'm not the first to notice this short article from Wired on plug-in hybrids, but I want to pass it along as it gives a nice overview of a technology that could serve as the next generation of cleaner personal transportation. A couple of interesting things about plug-ins and the buzz growing around them:
  • There's a sort of grassroots movement on the rise to convert standard hybrids to plug-ins, and the big automakers are taking notice:
Toyota officials who initially frowned on people altering their cars now say they may be able to learn from them.

"They're like the hot rodders of yesterday who did everything to soup up their cars. It was all about horsepower and bling-bling, lots of chrome and accessories," said Cindy Knight, a Toyota spokeswoman. "Maybe the hot rodders of tomorrow are the people who want to get in there and see what they can do about increasing fuel economy."
  • The extra electrical charge is generally only good for "the first few miles of driving, but according to engineer and plug-in enthusiast Ron Gremban, "The average for people's usage of a car is somewhere around 30 to 40 miles per day. During that kind of driving, the plug-in hybrid can make a dramatic difference."
  • Finally, security hawks like James Woolsey and Frank Gaffney are plugging plug-ins as an important element of weening the US from foreign oil:
Gaffney, who heads the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy, said Americans would embrace plug-ins if they understood arguments from him and others who say gasoline contributes to oil-rich Middle Eastern governments that support terrorism.

"The more we are consuming oil that either comes from places that are bent on our destruction or helping those who are ... the more we are enabling those who are trying to kill us," Gaffney said.
Of course, this article doesn't mention one of the other promising aspects of the plug-in hybrid: in time, they'll be able to put power back into the electrical grid. According to,
Someday, the larger battery packs used in plug-in hybrids could juggle power back and forth from the car to your household current. If adopted on a widespread basis, a fleet of plug-in (a.k.a. "gridable" hybrids) could offer what are called "regulatory services" (keeping voltages steady, etc.) to a modernized electric power grid. It is estimated that what's called "V2G" could benefit individual car owners by as much as two to three thousand dollars per year for the use of their energy storage capacity—offsetting their purchase and operating costs.

Technorati tags: , ,