Tracking Electric Cars
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|John Chapin||September 8th 2008|
Cutting Edge Correspondent
As part of the recent "Beyond Oil" conference in Redmond WA, the newest member of the city of Seattle transportation fleet was introduced. It is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), the first of dozens headed to the state of Washington as part of a demonstration project coordinated by Idaho National Laboratory.
The PHEV's appearance kicked off the alternative transportation conference "Beyond Oil: Transforming Transportation — A National Demonstration Project," co-sponsored by INL as part of its Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity (AVTA) to spark discussion on plug-in hybrids and other possibilities for curbing the country's reliance on petroleum. This is a real-world test of the capabilities of PHEV on the roads and in the workplace.
To evaluate whether PHEVs could help reduce petroleum use and become widely acceptable, INL has teamed with public and private agencies throughout Seattle and the state of Washington to drive plug-in hybrids in real-world conditions. Cities, counties, ports, utilities, colleges and environmental groups have added PHEVs to the vehicle fleets they use for day-to-day activities. INL will analyze data from the cars to evaluate gas and electricity use, average and top speeds, miles per charge, and charge timing and duration.
Like conventional hybrids, PHEVs run on electricity part of the time. But they use larger batteries than conventional hybrids and are recharged from a standard electrical socket. Once fully commercialized, PHEVs should be able to run for 10 to 20 miles or more on electric power alone before reverting to conventional hybrid operation.
Preliminary demonstration tests reveal PHEVs use about as much electricity in a year of standard driving as a three-person household's water heater consumes in five months. Current PHEVs get more than 100 miles per gallon in urban driving for the first 10 to 20 miles after being fully charged. By using PHEVs for day-to-day activities, the fleet demonstrations will provide real-time, real-life information to gauge the practicality of widespread PHEV use.
Seattle-Tacoma-area fleets will test 14 of the more than 30 demo vehicles throughout the state. Washington organizations testing PHEVs as green fleets include the City of Seattle and Seattle City Light, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Tacoma Power, Green IT Alliance, Benton County Public Utility District, Douglas County Public Utility District, and the University of Washington.
Most of the demonstration cars are being converted from conventional hybrids to PHEVs using high-power lithium ion batteries and conversion kits from Hymotion, in cooperation with the Kirkland WA-based Green Car Company. Data loggers, cellular modems and GPS units from Seattle-based V2Green, Inc., will collect data and send it to INL for analysis.
Combined with PHEVs in New York, Hawaii, California, Arizona and other states, more than 140 PHEVs around the nation will feed data to INL by the end of 2008 as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity. INL is the AVTA's lead lab for field performance and life testing of advanced technology vehicles.
The “Beyond Oil” conference was co-sponsored by Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Idaho National Laboratory, PEMCO, Washington DOT and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.