Rollerblading to a PHEV future?

Sometimes we learn in rather interesting ways.  Well, to give credit where credit is due, I bumped into Rollerblading glimpse of the future credit Roller-blading in the Google parking lot led to early awareness that something was up when it came to Google and PHEVs, as solar panels were going up over parking spots with plugs hanging from the roof structures. 

So my wife and I play rollerhockey. That’s hockey on rollerblades. The trick is to find a good parking lot without obstructions that’s the flat, the right length, and that has curbs that can serve as boards. For 10 years Stephanie has played with a group of friends in what was the SGI HQ parking lot in Mountain View.

It just so happens that this is now Google. And the group, now including me, continue to play there.

Recently Google installed an impressive set of solar panels over the lots but Sunday we noticed that a bunch of the arrays had new power cables hanging down from them with plugs. Only one thing they could be for… plugging in cars.

Two weeks after announcing a major initiative to Green the Computer, Google announced RechargeIT  with the tag line: 

“Recharge a Car, Recharge the Grid, Recharge the Planet”

How do they describe the bumper stickers?

Recharge a Car: Google.org is working with A123 Systems and Hymotion to convert our growing fleet of hybrid cars into plug-in hybrids and to collect performance data to demonstrate their efficiency.

Recharge the Grid: We are demonstrating vehicle-to-grid technology and funding research to make this smart energy idea a reality.

Recharge the Planet: By adopting cleaner sources of energy, such as Google’s 1.6 MW solar installation that charges our own fleet, we will help mitigate global warming by reducing the use of fossil fuels.

PHEVs are potentially a critical part of a path toward a sustainable energy future.  There are real efforts going on — from Austin, Texas, to plugged-in school buses in Florida (also on buses) now to Google’s campus in California — to help move the nation toward a smarter grid, where V2G (vehicle to grid) using PHEVs provides a path for balancing out peak/low demand, for helping to bridge intermittency of renewable energy sources, for helping to foster the electrification of America’s transportation.

Now, Google has real power, financial (where is its stock today, $530 or so?) and otherwise.

This initial, $10 million investment might a critical step for moving from cracking the door open to accelerating PHEVs into the market space (helping to make the VOLT a reality), to Crashing the Gate toward efficient car transport. 

As noted by one climate scientist,

just getting this embryonic technology demonstrated by a company with Google’s heft was a victory in itself. “These guys have clout with hundreds of millions of young and middle-aged people,” he said, adding that what was necessary to jump-start a new type of car was a combination of reliability, affordability and “cool.”

What sort of impact could there be? According to one USG study,

  • The integration of hybrid cars with the electric power grid could reduce gasoline consumption by 85 billion gallons per year.
  • That’s equal to a 27% reduction in total U.S. greenhouse gases,
  • 52% reduction in oil imports
  • $270 billion not spent on gasoline 

To learn more about PHEVs, take a few minutes on the video.

 For more discussions, seen Celsias and The New York Times.

One response to “Rollerblading to a PHEV future?

  1. Batteries, batteries, batteries.

    Looking at the Star Trek equipment room, we have communicators, we have tricorders, but we don’t have phasers. Certainly not because the DoD isn’t interested in complete vaporization of opposing forces, but for the simple fact that the amount of heat needed to burn something into gas represents a massive energy storage challenge. Moore’s Law may apply to integrated circuits and hard drives, but there’s nothing like that in the battery world.

    Jimmy and I hold out some hope for nanocapacitors, a memory-less and (in theory) infinitely-renewable power storage system, but the thing that will change the world to electric vehicles the fastest is a battery that lets you drive an electric car like one with a gasoline engine, in any climate, in a manner transparent to the operator.

    Like most problems in the US, what’s holding back electric cars is not a supply problem for electricity, it’s a distribution problem.

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