The downside of electric hybrids

One of the reasons I like the tech of hybrid cars is that they don’t tax the power grid. You use gas to get them going, but they create extra energy (actually, save lost energy) by the proper use of technology when you brake.

For some reason, lots of people want a plug-in car, instead. I never got that. An electric car just means you need more electricity, which is something we don’t have an awful lot of. Nobody wants an electric power plant in their backyard. They’re not cheap.  We’re just replacing one problem with another. Well, now we have a study that shows a sharp rise in hybrid electric cars could present a problem:

Will plug-in hybrids stress the grid? | Green Tech blog – CNET News.com

Plug-in hybrids are coming. General Motors, Tesla Motors, Fisker Automotive and Toyota are all coming out with gas-electric cars that can be charged from a socket.The question now is can the grid handle it. The latest voice on the debate, Stan Hadley of the Cooling, Heating and Power Technologies Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, says it won’t be easy. Hadley examined 182 scenarios on how plug-ins might be used in different regions in the U.S. between 2020 and 2030. Hadley assumed a 25 percent penetration of plug-ins by 2020. In a worst case scenario, Hadley postulated that the U.S. would need 160 new power plants to handle the requirements of these cars. The worst case scenario, though, assumes that the millions of plug-in owners would want to charge their car at 5 p.m., the tail end of peak power demand.

 
 
 

2 Responses to “The downside of electric hybrids”

  1. Ben
    17. March 2008 at 16:25

    See, here’s the thing. If we moved to nuclear power, we’d have all the energy we need. Yes, the risks are greater than, say, coal or natural gas power, but if properly maintained and operated, they’re extremely safe. You run into the problem of storing the waste, but even that’s not a hugely difficult problem with all the mountains we can cut into. Other than the waste which can be partially refined and reused, the only thing they release is steam, which is unarguably cleaner than what a coal plant puts out. Plug-in cars also remove the need to ship the fuel around by truck to the end user (which means that every bit of fuel that’s moved has an energy cost of its own). Regenerative braking is still employed on them, although it’s not very efficient at this point in time. For an end user, the power itself is a lot cheaper than what you’d spend on gas.

    Personally, I think someone needs to hurry up and put out a diesel hybrid. It releases less greenhouse gases (although more particulates), and is far more efficient even without the electric motor behind it. Europe ships tons of the things for this very reason. For some reason Americans just can’t figure it out, despite the fact that they’re virtually exactly how we like our engines: stout with a lot of low-end grunt.

  2. Roger Green
    18. March 2008 at 06:25

    True that one cannot control human nature. But charging at night could work. I just got finished watching the movie Who killed the Electric Car? and I think it’s more of a tradeoff (fewer gas stations, less gas used, less smog, less noise vs. greater electric use) than just the downside you allude to.