(January 2007) Batteries/Automotive/Plug-in Hybrid
Probably the biggest challenge plug-in hybrids have is the cost and weight of the batteries. NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) is extensively researching thermal management, modeling, and systems solutions for energy storage technology. Even at today’s battery costs, however, plug-ins may be able to repay their costs within a few years. NREL scientists and engineers also research improved power electronics critical to hybrid efficiency and conduct sophisticated modeling and analysis essential to showing the economic viability of plug-ins while identifying key areas for improvement.
NREL researchers are also seeking to carry the plug-in hybrid concept a couple of steps further by making the plug-in reversible. Called a “vehicle-to-grid” or “V2G,” such a two-way plug allows the home and vehicle batteries to meet peak demand, provide grid support services or respond to power outages. In addition, utilities pay premium rates for peak and backup power and might pay commuters to plug their vehicles in while at work to ensure their employer has high quality power throughout the day. NREL transportation analysts are quantifying the potential value of such systems.
Another next step is for a plug-in based renewable community. Drive home and plug your car into a house that requires little or no electricity and gets most of what it does need from renewable sources. Such “zero-energy homes” are readily available today -- wouldn’t whole communities of them together with plug-in hybrids be the perfect model for the future? (All information is from NREL.) BD