Study: Are plug-ins the next wave of hybrid vehicles?

September 25, 2007

Is America ready for rechargeable cars? Teams of researchers at the University of Michigan and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will explore this question and others with $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy's offices of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

U-M's Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute will coordinate efforts among several university departments, industry partners such as General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DTE Energy, and PNNL. The study will explore facets of the future of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The research will be conducted over two years, but a preliminary report will be available in January during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

During the study, researchers will explore:

· Americans' willingness to buy PHEVs.
· When, where and how the PHEV's battery would be recharged with grid power.
· How many PHEVs the current electricity grid could support and how mass adoption of them would influence the way the grid of the future is planned, built and operated.
· The greenhouse gas savings in trading tail-pipe for power plant emissions.
· The optimum design and features of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

"This program provides an outstanding opportunity to address the technical challenges as well as the social issues that will determine the viability of the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle," said Gary S. Was, director of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and a nuclear engineering professor. "The interplay between the vehicle, the nation's electric utility grid and consumer attitudes and behaviors is a microcosm of the complexity of the world's energy problem."

"PNNL's original study on this topic revealed that for the nation as a whole, about 70 percent of the energy needed to operate cars, pickup trucks, vans and SUVs could be supported using generating and transmission capacity that's already available," said PNNL energy researcher Rob Pratt. "The new study allows us to take this one step further and say now that we know there's enough electricity, what other challenges, especially at the distribution level, do we need to address to make PHEVs a reality? We will also look at environmental and grid benefits that we can realize as PHEVs are adopted into the market place."

PHEVs are considered by some experts to be the next logical step in cleaner driving. They are similar to today's gas-powered electric hybrids in that both have a gas engine as well as an electric motor.

In today's hybrid electric vehicles, the gas engine does most of the heavy lifting and an electric motor kicks in to assist during acceleration or to move the vehicle during stop-and-go low-speed driving. The battery that provides electric power can only move the car a short distance and is charged by switching the electric motor to act as a generator during braking.

Conversely, in PHEVs, a larger battery is charged by plugging the car in to a standard household outlet. The electric motor can then propel the car a much longer distance without using any gasoline, until the battery runs low and it reverts to standard hybrid electric vehicles operation.

As part of this study, U-M will utilize its unique expertise in behavioral analysis and consumer choice modeling currently applied for publishing the widely-cited national consumer confidence index. A consumer survey, conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research, will monitor the evolving attitudes of the American public toward PHEVs, and provide the first national-level empirical data on how driving behavior differs with these vehicles compared to conventional gasoline, diesel and hybrid vehicles. The project will be headed by ISR researchers Richard Curtin and James Jackson, director of the institute.

Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Explore further: Three new technologies to make energy cleaner, more efficient

Related Stories

New 'self-healing' gel makes electronics more flexible

November 25, 2015

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a first-of-its-kind self-healing gel that repairs and connects electronic circuits, creating opportunities to advance the ...

China's Geely drives down to electric avenue

November 19, 2015

Chinese carmaker Geely is seeking to shift 90 percent of its sales to hybrid and electric vehicles by 2020, it said Thursday, as authorities in the world's largest auto market encourage manufacturers to go green.

Salty solution to better, safer batteries

November 19, 2015

A team of researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have devised a groundbreaking "Water-in-Salt" aqueous Lithium ion battery technology that could provide power, efficiency ...

Recommended for you

Nevada researchers trying to turn roadside weed into biofuel

November 26, 2015

Three decades ago, a University of Nevada researcher who obtained one of the first U.S. Energy Department grants to study the potential to turn plants into biofuels became convinced that a roadside weed—curly top gumweed—was ...

Glider pilots aim for the stratosphere

November 20, 2015

Talk about serendipity. Einar Enevoldson was strolling past a scientist's office in 1991 when he noticed a freshly printed image tacked to the wall. He was thunderstruck; it showed faint particles in the sky that proved something ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3 / 5 (1) Jul 07, 2008
not rated yet Apr 20, 2009
Mealer American Motors Corp will provide the next wave of what we need to drive. EVs are bad news... What will we do witht he spent nuclear fule from generating electricity for these bad ideas?

The MEALER is non fossilfuel powered and not an EV.

The MEALER will power your home and recharge that EV you might have sitting around.

John Lewis Mealer

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.