Washington state project smooths way for plug-in hybrid cars

Tri-City HeraldDecember 22, 2008 

Businesses and public agencies in Washington state are testing electric plug-in hybrid vehicles to help smooth a transition away the gas-guzzling variety.

Mass adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will change how we live, said Ron Johnston-Rodriguez, who's helping coordinate a statewide project to assess lithium battery packs that have been installed on 14 Toyota Prius hybrids owned by, among others, Benton Public Utility District, Energy Northwest, Walla Walla Community College, Port of Chelan County and the University of Washington.

The yearlong project, sponsored by the Washington Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development and the Port of Chelan County, will collect data on battery charging and mileage and emissions in different weather and road conditions.

Michael Kintner-Meyer, a staff scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland said that plug-ins could displace 52 percent of net oil imports, and the idle capacity of the U.S. power grid could supply 158 million electric vehicles if they are charged during off-peak hours, he said.

Kintner-Meyer is involved in a separate project with the University of Michigan to study the economic and technical challenges plug-in hybrid vehicles pose for the power grid.

In the long term, plug-ins will change the business model public utilities use to supply power, Kintner-Meyer said. They may move toward what's called "critical peak pricing," or charging a higher rate when the grid is experiencing a higher load, he said.

At PNNL, Kintner-Meyer is working to develop a "smart charging controller" that could help consumers automatically recharge plug-in hybrids during "off" critical hours. That way consumers would not have to remember when to plug in their vehicles.

Read the full story at tri-cityherald.com.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service