Google will put $10M towards plug-in hybrid cars
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
June 19, 2007
Google.org will put $10 million towards the effort, which will start by modifying six hybrid cars (4 Toyota Priuses and 2 Ford Escapes) with batteries that can draw and feed electricity to and from the grid. The company says that the cars are outfitted with data recording devices that track technical and environmental performance, use patterns and charging history and post the results to the web.
"Clean energy technology can dramatically shift how we make and use energy for our cars and homes by charging cars through an electric grid powered by solar or other renewable energy sources, and selling power back to the electric grid when it's needed most. This approach can quadruple the fuel efficiency of cars on the road today and improve grid stability," said Dr. Larry Brilliant, Executive Director of Google.org.
Environmentalists say plug-in hybrids may be the easiest next step for improving car fuel efficiency. CarCars,org, a non-profit that promotes plug-in hybrid technology, estimates that current plug-in vehicles get more than 100 miles per gallon of gas -- effectively gas at under $1 per gallon. The group says that improvements in batteries will likely further drive down the cost in coming years. Google.org is using lithium ion hybrid batteries from A123 Systems for the PHEVs.
Google's "Galapagos" Toyota Prius Plug-in: This car is a gasoline-powered Toyota Prius that has been modified by adding a second, larger battery. The additional battery can be charged using a normal 120-volt outlet, ideally at night when electricity demand (and cost) is at its lowest.
The technology is so attractive that both Toyota and General Motors have said they may introduce production PHEV automobiles by 2010.
The PHEV is one of several "green" programs announced by Google in recent months. Two weeks ago, the search giant launched an energy efficiency drive with other tech companies, including Intel, HP, and Microsoft. Google has also built a 1.6MW solar installation on its campus and is actively looking for ways to further offset carbon emissions.
Google's plug-in hybrid. Image courtesy of Google.
Google helps protect Amazon rainforest. Google is working with an indigenous tribe deep in the Amazon rainforest to protect their native lands from illegal encroachment, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. For the first time, Google has confirmed details of the project. "The Amazon rain forest and its indigenous peoples are disappearing rapidly, which has serious consequences both locally and globally," said Google Earth spokeswoman Megan Quinn.