The online magazine of science, technology, socioeconomics, politics, and the future
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The Plug-in Hybrid Revolution
by Marcel F. Williams
General Motors yesterday introduced the production model for their new plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) which they believe will be on the market by the year 2010. The four door Chevy Volt hatchback will be able to travel up to 100 mph and will be able to run solely on its lithium-ion electric batteries for up to 40 miles before its gasoline or E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) engine kicks in.
The Chevy Volt can be fully charged in 8 hours using a standard household 120 volt outlet. But if you have a 240 volt outlet, a full charge takes less than three hours. On average, it will be six times cheaper per mile to drive the Chevy Volt on electricity than on gasoline. But even the Volt's gasoline hybrid engine will get 50 miles to the gallon. Of course, for those who drive less than 40 miles per day, they will use no gasoline at all.
However, General Motors will not be the only major automobile company coming out with a PHEV in the next few years. Toyota says it will also be coming out with it own plug-in hybrid vehicle by 2010.
A report from the Pacific Northwest National laboratory in 2007 has estimated that 6.5 million barrels of oil per day equivalent could be displaced if most cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans were plug-in hybrid vehicles. The US currently consumes about 21 million barrels a day of oil. So approximately 31% of our total petroleum consumption could be replaced or more than half of our oil imports. It would also equally reduce carbon dioxide pollution from petroleum use in the US by 31%-- if electricity generation in the US is eventually totally replaced by nuclear and renewable energy resources within the next 25 years.
PHEVs in the future could reduce our total fossil fuel transportation needs by more than 50% if they ran on methanol fuel cell technologies which are approximately twice as efficient as gasoline engines.
While the PHEV's would only be a partial solution to the problem of using fossil and foreign fuels in our transportation system, they still would be a big step forward that would allow future carbon neutral synthetic fuels from biowaste, nuclear and renewable energy systems to only have to replace 50% to 71% of our future transportation fuel needs. Now its time for the Federal government and state governments and the future president of the United States to step up and help this revolutionary transition to a new mode of light vehicle transportation.
Links and References
1. Michael Kintner-Meyer, Kevin Schneider, Robert Pratt IMPACTS ASSESSMENT OF PLUG-IN HYBRID VEHICLES ON ELECTRIC UTILITIES AND REGIONAL U.S. POWER GRIDS PART 1: TECHNICAL ANALYSIS Pacific Northwest National Laboratory November, 2007
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