Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Utilities Collaborate with Electric Vehicle Companies

Electric utility companies and General Motors have agreed to collaborate on comfortably, cost-effectively and reliably integrating plug-in electric vehicles into the grid. Toyota Motor Corporation and Ford Motor Company are also working on producing plug-in cars. Some of the utilities that operate in 40 states that are collaborating with GM include:

American Electric Power Company
Austin Energy
Consolidated Edison, Inc
Dominion Resources, Inc
Duke Energy Corporation
DTE Energy Company
Edison International
New York Power Authority
PG & E Corporation
Progress Energy Inc
Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc

GM's Chevy Volt (pictured) is due out in 2010. The Volt will go 40 miles on a full charge of the lithium-ion batteries before the gasoline engine kicks in. Plug-in electrics are using Lithium-ion and Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. The prospect for using nickel has caused the price of the commodity to rise, which is making the battery more expensive. The lithium-ion battery is like the one in laptops and cell phones and has a tendency to oveheat. Some have even exploded. Tesla Motors has designed a system to keep the batteries cool and under control however in its Tesla Roadster. Lithium-ion batteries also love to be recharged.

Utilities do not want to inadvertenty undermine grid reliability by not anticipating the increased demand from the addition of a significant number of plug-in vehicles to the grid. Research shows that there is enough excess electrical capacity at night to recharge tens of millions of vehicles without increasing capacity. Moreover, utilities and car makers want to benefit from Congressional legislation that will ultimately regulate carbon dioxide. If credits are given for replacing gasoline and cutting overall emissions, it might be cheaper to recharge a car overnight than to buy the equivalent amount of gasoline.

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