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Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will cut pollution, emissions, oil use

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will cut pollution, emissions, oil use

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will cut pollution, emissions, oil use
July 20, 2007

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality significantly by 2050, reports a new study by The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The assessment says that widespread adoption of PHEVs could reduce GHG emissions from vehicles by more than 450 million metric tons annually in 2050 — equivalent to removing 82.5 million passenger cars from the road — a reduce gasoline consumption by 3 million to 4 million barrels per day in 2050. Further, the shift towards PHEVs would not put a large amount of strain on the U.S. electrical grid: a 60 percent market share for PHEVs would use 7 percent to 8 percent of grid-supplied electricity in 2050.

“This research accelerates our understanding of the interplay of emissions from various sources,” said Steve Specker, EPRI President and Chief Executive Officer. “We now see that widespread use of PHEVs could expand the fuel options in our transportation sector and at the same time yield net benefits to our environment.”

“Our results show that PHEVs recharged from low- and non-emitting electricity sources can decrease the carbon footprint in the nation’s transportation sector,” added David Hawkins, Director of NRDC’s Climate Center.

The researchers say their analysis is “the first to combine detailed models of the U.S. electric system and transportation sector with sophisticated atmospheric air quality models.”

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. Because they rely on electricity rather than oil, plug-in hybrids generally produce less carbon dioxide and pollutants than gasoline hybrids.

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.

Toyota and GM have said they plan to roll out consumer plug-in hybrids by 2010. Other firms have also shown interest in the concept, notably Google Inc., which said it would invest $10 million into the development of plug-in hybrid technology.

The transportation sector current accounts for about one third of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles

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