Site icon Conservation news

Google will put $10M towards plug-in hybrid cars

Google will put $10M towards plug-in hybrid cars

Google will put $10M towards plug-in hybrid cars
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
June 19, 2007

Google.org, Google Inc.’s philanthropic arm, unveiled an initiative to convert hybrid cars to plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), a move that will cut carbon dioxide emissions, reduce oil use, and help stabilize the electrical grid.



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.

Besides reducing demand for oil, plug-in hybrids are seen as an attractive way to augment the electricity grid since they generally charge at off-peak hours (night-time) and can feed the grid at peak hours (day-time) when the cars are parked. Amory B. Lovins, a renowned energy efficiency expert and cofounder of the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, estimates that a large fleet of plugins could have the capacity to displace electricity generated from new coal and nuclear plants with 6-12 times total U.S. electric generating capacity.



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.

Also on Monday Google.org announced $1 million in grants to fund development, adoption and commercialization of plug-ins, fully electric cars and related vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. Recipients included Brookings Institution for a spring 2008 conference on federal policy to promote plug-ins; CalCars to support its work to educate the public about plug-ins;
Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI) to support its plug-in research and development program; Plug-In America to raise public awareness and advocate for plug-in transportation;
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to enable RMI to launch the design of a practical plug-in hybrid electric vehicle; and Dr. Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware for megawatt scale vehicle-to-grid research and implementation planning. Google.org said it will publish a formal request for proposals (RFPs) on its web site later this summer, looking for “investment opportunities in companies and projects accelerating the commercialization of alternative transportation that reduces vehicle fossil fuel use and climate emissions.” Google.org said it is seeking to invest $10 million.



Related

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.