June 25, 2005

PLUG IT IN, PLUG IT IN:

Plugged-In Hybrid Tantalizes Car Buffs: A Southland company comes up with a system that lets Toyota's Prius burn even less gasoline by connecting it to a regular electrical socket. (John O'Dell, June 25, 2005, LA Times)

Toyota Motor Corp. boasts that its hot-selling Prius gasoline-electric hybrid doesn't have to be plugged in.

But a growing number of hybrid buffs interested in further boosting the car's fuel economy are asking, "Why not?"

By replacing the Prius' batteries with a more powerful array and recharging it using a standard electric outlet at home, engineers have enabled the hybrid to get more than 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.

"We want to get people thinking of [plug-ins] as a real alternative" in the country's long-term energy plan, said Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars.org, an advocacy group in Palo Alto.

The idea of plug-in hybrids is generating a lot of buzz in energy circles because of the work of a start-up Monrovia firm, Energy Control Systems Engineering. The firm bought a Prius and converted it with its own system.

Co-owner Greg Hanssen now tools around Southern California in the bright blue plug-in Prius prototype. The car can deliver 150 to 180 mpg for up to 35 miles of low-speed, around-town driving and can average 70 to 100 mpg on longer trips at higher speeds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 25, 2005 8:02 AM
Comments

And that electricity was generated how?

If this article wasn't completely ignorant, it would cite the mileage in some energy unit, such as BTUs.

Unfortunately, it is.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at June 25, 2005 9:38 AM

As long as it's not by burning oil it doesn't matter. Whether oil is or not, energy is infinite.

Posted by: oj at June 25, 2005 9:46 AM

Where does the electricity come from? If it is from another fossil fuel, what's the point? We could just as easily produce gasoline from coal.

Posted by: bart at June 25, 2005 9:59 AM

that'd be fine too. we have coal.

Posted by: oj at June 25, 2005 10:44 AM

Bart and Jeff:

From the electricity fairy, of course!

Posted by: Rick T. at June 25, 2005 10:48 AM

The problem with coal is the pollution and the expense, although a realistic appraisal of national security would result in us telling those who would oppose coal gasification to go ride a camel.

Rick,

Only in San Francisco.

Posted by: bart at June 25, 2005 11:12 AM

Good points above. Right now the 87 different blends of gas and not enough refinery capacity cause high gas prices.

If electric cars really take off and demand for electricity jumps and new power plants (coal, nuclear, other) that are needed to produce this additional electricity are blocked by the usual groups then you'll have an electricity shortage.

Posted by: AWW at June 25, 2005 2:10 PM

Good points above. Right now the 87 different blends of gas and not enough refinery capacity cause high gas prices.

If electric cars really take off and demand for electricity jumps and new power plants (coal, nuclear, other) that are needed to produce this additional electricity are blocked by the usual groups then you'll have an electricity shortage.

Posted by: AWW at June 25, 2005 2:11 PM


OJ is on the same side as well known dufus, Tom Friedman
:

"Therefore, the key to reducing our dependence on foreign oil is powering our cars and trucks with less petroleum.

"There are two ways we can do that. One is electricity. We don't import electricity. We generate all of our needs with coal, hydropower, nuclear power and natural gas."

When OJ agrees with him watch out. P.S. Friedman is wrong about not importing electricity. Most of his part of the country is lit up by Ontario Hydro.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 25, 2005 2:24 PM

Robert,

Oil is also a significant portion of American electricity production.

Wasn't there a blackout of the Northeast a while back that was caused specifically by a problem with transfer of electricity from Canada?

I guess if you're 'the world's greatest foreign policy expert' and on a first name basis with every world leader of importance, you don't have to get even the most basic facts right.

Posted by: bart at June 25, 2005 2:51 PM

Bart:

The blackout was caused by poor maintenance on high-voltage lines (and switches) in Ohio. The connection(s) with Canada were a secondary issue.

Very few generating plants burn oil anymore - that was dealt with after 1973 and especially 1979. I think the figure now is around 3%, if not less.

There used to be neighborhoods on Long Island where LILCo paid to have people's cars repainted every 12-18 months because the smoke (and particulates) from the oil burning plants corroded the finish pretty badly.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 25, 2005 3:25 PM

Jim: Bart is thinking of the 1977 blackout. Or maybe the 1968. It doesn't make any difference. NYC imports lots of electricity from Canada, from which the US also imports oil and natural gas.

Oil fired electric plants may be few, but there a lot of gas fired plants, especially as they are the only kind that can be built these days. Natural gas is also imported, from Canada and the from farther away, as LNG.

LNG will be more important because demand for gas is outstriping supplies. Unfortunately, it is politically impossible to build LNG terminals.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 25, 2005 3:43 PM

In the NY Metro area, we've de-nuclearized closing Oyster Creek and Indian Point. I had thought we were using oil but if we aren't what are we using instead?

Posted by: bart at June 25, 2005 3:44 PM

Bart:

You must be reading The New Yorker fiction section. Indian Point is running strong, as is Oyster Creek (which is about to apply for 20 more years from the NRC). Shutting down those plants means paying for probably 8-10 gas turbines, whose fuel costs will be borne entirely by the consumer. Ask the folks in San Diego if that is a good idea.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 25, 2005 4:15 PM

What's the figure for natural gas imports? This does have some upside in that if people recharge overnight they're using base load power (coal, hydro, nuclear.)

Posted by: joe shropshire at June 25, 2005 4:17 PM

Joe is onto the right answer. As long as you're tied to gas to power cars, you can't substitute other fuels, except maybe ethanol. But if the car is rechargeable, you can eventually swap out the fossil fueled power plants with nuclear or hydro or wind or tidal or solar without impacting transportation.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 25, 2005 9:19 PM

We can abolish cars and instead have illegal immigrants pull us around in rickshaws.

Posted by: carter at June 25, 2005 10:28 PM

Carter - spooky. I just saw the Seinfeld episode where Kramer and Newman come up with the rickshaw idea (pulled by the homeless).

Posted by: AWW at June 25, 2005 11:32 PM

Diesel/electric hybrids will be the next step for municiple/suburban driving.

My daughter has an electric (not hybrid) Toyota she recharges with a solar array. She rides a bicycle to work on nice days. Drives the car about 400 miles a month. Needless to say they have a second vehicle. Lives in Northern CA and thinks we all should live that way. My son lives within Seattle city limits and drives a BMW SUV, primarily for his once a year ski vacations. He thinks we all should live like his sister. Hah! Where have I gone wrong?

Posted by: Genecis at June 26, 2005 11:09 AM

Genecis,
How big is her solar array? I think that as photovoltaic cells become more efficient, people will be able to recharge their cars using home-produced electricity.

For a good read on the future of automotive energy technologies, read "The Bottomless Well".

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 26, 2005 12:54 PM
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