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ELECTRIC & HYBRID CARS THAT GENERATE REVENUE

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Published on Sat, Aug 28, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Move over, Prius. Make way for V2G.

ELECTRIC & HYBRID CARS THAT GENERATE REVENUE

By ROY NAKANO

If you think buying a gas-electric hybrid car like the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight is the state-of-the-art in energy conservation, think again. Mark Clayton of The Christian Science Monitor reports that there's a California electric car company that has modified a Jetta so that it not only uses electricity but generates it for other purposes. Once it's parked, you can purportedly plug it in and sell excess electricity to a utility. It sounds like a great way to mitigate your car payments, but Clayton reports that neither big auto-makers nor utility companies have yet seized on the idea, known as "vehicle-to-grid," or V2G. Evidently, V2G is an idea waiting to happen - and the push toward hybrids today is making it ever more likely, say scientists, entrepreneurs, and economists. "As electric-drive hybrids begin to penetrate the auto market, you now have distributed power generation on wheels," says Stephen Letendre, an economist at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt. "You also have an asset that's sitting idle most of the time - just waiting to be connected." According to a 2001 study by AC Propulsion (the San Dimas, California company that created the V2G Jetta), if automakers were to make 1 million next-generation V2G vehicles by 2020, they could generate up to 10,000 megawatts of electricity - about the capacity of 20 average-size power plants.

What's the likelihood of V2G catching on? According to Clayton, a V2G fuel-cell bus in Toronto will be in service in March. Power company PG&E is working with the electric industry's research arm and a contractor to develop a fleet of V2G "trouble trucks" that could generate and deliver power to entire neighborhoods when a storm knocks out power. DaimlerChrysler has reported it is working on a version of its popular pickup truck with V2G capability for supplying power at a work site. AC Propulsion has plans to make as many as 1,000 V2G electric-drive vehicles starting as soon as next year.

Wide use of V2G electric-drive vehicles could generate enough power to cut the requirement for central generating station capacity by as much as 20 percent by the year 2050, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility industry research center in Palo Alto, California. "Today's Toyota Prius battery pack is too small to make it a viable V2G option," says V2G pioneer Willett Kempton. He estimates it would add roughly $400 to a car's overall cost. "In the long run, fuel-cell cars will far exceed hybrids in their electric generating potential."

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