Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hybrids economical, but will impact power supply in cities

ZAP Claim 120 mpg For Their Hybrid Car

13th March 2008

Electric car pioneer ZAP is now offering plug-in hybrid conversion systems for the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid through a collaboration agreement with Hybrids Plus.

Hybrid vehicles retrofitted with systems from Hybrids Plus of Boulder, Colorado can achieve a significantly greater fuel economy. In tests these systems increased hybrid fuel economy up to 120 miles per gallon in the city and up to 90 mpg on the highway. The cost for the conversion ranges from $24,000 to $36,000 depending on the vehicle and size of battery pack.

All gasoline electric hybrids currently produced by major automakers today are essentially gasoline-powered vehicles. They reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency compared to conventional cars, however they are fueled exclusively by gasoline. The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) will allow the owner to charge their vehicle from a normal household wall outlet. By integrating a larger battery pack and a plug-in charging system, it becomes a new vehicle drawing energy from two fuel sources.

Hybrids Plus has sold PHEV systems to private individuals, fleets, power companies, and governmental entities. Deliveries can be provided in approximately four weeks from the initial order.

"This is a natural extension of our growth plans," said Hybrids Plus CEO Carl Lawrence. "ZAP has sold more city speed electric vehicles than any other company and has an established, growing dealer network that can provide sales and service for our vehicles."

"This collaboration allows more hybrid owners to have the most efficient vehicles on the road today," said ZAP CEO Steve Schneider. "ZAP dealers are preparing to offer a new level of service in the coming years involving mass-market hybrid and electric cars from Detroit Electric, so experience with plug-in hybrids can accelerate this process."

Meanwhile a recent Oak Ridge National Laboratory study, featured in the current issue of the ORNL Review examined how an expected increase in ownership of hybrid electric cars and trucks will affect the power grid depending on what time of day or night the vehicles are charged.

Some assessments of the impact of electric vehicles assume owners will charge them only at night, said Stan Hadley of ORNL's Cooling, Heating and Power Technologies Program.

"That assumption doesn't necessarily take into account human nature," said Hadley, who led the study. "Consumers' inclination will be to plug in when convenient, rather than when utilities would prefer. Utilities will need to create incentives to encourage people to wait. There are also technologies such as 'smart' chargers that know the price of power, the demands on the system and the time when the car will be needed next to optimize charging for both the owner and the utility that can help too."

In an analysis of the potential impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles projected for 2020 and 2030 in 13 regions of the United States, ORNL researchers explored their potential effect on electricity demand, supply, infrastructure, prices and associated emission levels. Electricity requirements for hybrids used a projection of 25 percent market penetration of hybrid vehicles by 2020 including a mixture of sedans and sport utility vehicles. Several scenarios were run for each region for the years 2020 and 2030 and the times of 5 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., in addition to other variables.

The report found that the need for added generation would be most critical by 2030, when hybrids have been on the market for some time and become a larger percentage of the automobiles Americans drive. In the worst-case scenario—if all hybrid owners charged their vehicles at 5 p.m., at six kilowatts of power—up to 160 large power plants would be needed nationwide to supply the extra electricity, and the demand would reduce the reserve power margins for a particular region's system.

The best-case scenario occurs when vehicles are plugged in after 10 p.m., when the electric load on the system is at a minimum and the wholesale price for energy is least expensive. Depending on the power demand per household, charging vehicles after 10 p.m. would require, at lower demand levels, no additional power generation or, in higher-demand projections, just eight additional power plants nationwide.

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