NewEnergyNews: AUSTIN’S PLUG-IN PROGRAM

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    Friday, March 30, 2007

    AUSTIN’S PLUG-IN PROGRAM

    First the Journal acknowledges the genius of plug-in hybrids and Austin's Plug-In Partners program and then they acknowledge the genius of NewEnergyNews. Smart people over there at the Journal.

    In Quest for Cleaner Energy, Texas City Touts Plug-In Car; Mayor’s Unusual Plan Links Wind, Batteries; Pitching Auto Makers
    John J. Fialka, March 26, 2007 (Wall Street Journal)

    WHO
    Austin, Texas, Mayor Will Wynn, Austin Energy deputy manager Roger Duncan and 8000 residents of Austin

    WHAT
    Austin Energy, the city’s award-winning utility company, and Roger Duncan, its charismatic deputy manager, are championing the plug-in hybrid auto as a method of expanding the capacity and economic viability of its wind energy resources. Austin Mayor is now on board with the plan and the city has launched Plug-in Partners, a campaign to commit residents to the purchase of the combination electric/internal combustion engine vehicles as soon as they become available. To date, 8000 Austin residents have committed to do so.

    WHEN
    - The idea of tapping the electricity stored in car batteries—called vehicle-to-grid power, or V2G—originated with electrical engineer Willett Kempton in the late 1990s.
    Optimistic forecasts are for plug-in hybrid vehicles to be widely available within 3 to 5 years, though they are currently available to the ambitious. More information on plug-in hybrid vehicles here.
    For Austin to install the necessary infrastructure to complete the V2G scheme requires more time.

    WHERE
    Austin, Texas

    WHY
    - The effectiveness of renewable energies such as wind and solar is limited by their periodicity: Solar is only available during the day and sometimes the wind does not blow. Because it is not economic to build monstrous batteries, there is no efficient way to store these energies when it is being produced, nor any way to get energy when the sun or wind is unavailable.
    - Plug-in hybrid vehicles can be engineered to download and hold electricity. A city full of them becomes a network of energy storage units, though the city would have to be wired to allow the vehicles to plug in ubiquitously. Because the average vehicle is only driven three hours a day or less, if it is plugged into the network the other 21 hours of the day it can hold energy generated by a utility from sun or wind until it is needed and then give it up to the network grid. On-board computers, working in conjunction with a utility’s centralized controller, can make sure the vehicle retains all the charge in its battery required by the driver.

    QUOTES
    - “ ‘I said to myself, “Wait a minute, this is a big storage system,”’ Dr. Kempton recalls.”
    - “Developing the plug in battery ‘is the biggest show stopper, if you want to call it that,’ says Ahmad Pesaran, a battery expert at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
    - “Auto makers haven’t said when plug-ins will reach market, but Mayor Wynn says Austin’s City Council has already set aside $1 million to fund rebates for the first 1,000 residents to buy plug-ins. The city intends to change building codes to require plugs in municipal parking lots, with Internet connections to Austin Energy. After that, the mayor explains, ‘we’ll be able to start harvesting parking garages.’”

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