The Coming Energy Convergence
By EV World
"What are we doing to change the paradigm," asked Terry Penney, the manager of the National Energy Renewable Laboratory's FreedomCAR initiative?
Penney followed the presentation by Paul Morris on Placemaking and explained that just switching to hybrid cars, while important, is for the moment really insignificant in the scope of things. There are more than 600 million motor vehicles worldwide while there are less than 350,000 hybrid's currently registered in the United States, a country with some 220-plus million vehicles on its road.
"The time constant for these solutions is extremely long", he noted, confirming earlier observations by other oil industry experts at the ASPO USA peak oil conference in Denver last November. He also pointed out that the carbon emissions from the nation's vehicle fleet alone "swamps" the total CO2 emissions of every other country in the world with the exception of the top five industrial nations.
"We talk about vehicles. We talk about and know how to do energy smart buildings; and we talk about we should do something about renewables, but are we putting them together in a system?" he asked.
Having worked in all three areas, Penney believes its time to challenge the nation to begin integrating them. He recognizes that because of regional differences, what works in one area, may not in another, so this needs to be taken into account when developing these integrated systems of clean vehicles, smart buildings and renewable energy like that typified by the Toyota Dream House PAPI in Japan.
He touched briefly on the future of hydrogen vehicles, commenting that they are the "stretch goal" which could be 20, 30 or 40 years away, if ever.
"The good thing about hydrogen is, everybody has it… in different forms; and the energy pathways to it are many. That's the good news".
The bad news is, he went on to explain is, that it's just an energy carrier and if you look at the well-to-wheels efficient of hydrogen, especially from renewable sources, its not all that good. He mentioned that a German researcher had given a talk at the Colorado School of Mines a couple weeks before the Denver conference. The individual explained the problem this way. He could take the energy output of four wind turbines, converting it to hydrogen and drive so many vehicle fleet miles. Or he could use the electrical output of just one wind turbine to charge the batteries of a plug-in vehicle fleet and achieve the same vehicle fleet miles.
Penney said that he's developed a spreadsheet to plot electricity rates vs. the price of gasoline and what he's learned is that if a 10-mile range plug-in hybrid were available, he could "fuel it" with electricity at one-third the price of gasoline.
"It turns out that when I add the cost of batteries in that vehicle, what is my payback? It turns out that I get a positive cash flow in every single state with the exception of a few higher energy states like Hawaii, New York, Connecticut and some of the northeast states. All the rest of the forty-five states that are below the positive cash flow curve come in saying that a plug-in hybrid makes a lot of sense technically and economically".
He acknowledged that batteries are still an issue -- and that all battery salesmen are liars -- but that the fact that carmakers are now warranting their hybrid vehicle batteries for 10 years and 100,000 miles clearly demonstrates the technology is getting better; and nickel metal hybrid, the current choice for hybrids, aren't the final answer.
He said that Toshiba and NEC have both recently announced lithium ion batteries that can be recharged to 80 state-of-charge (SOC) in just two-minutes; and those batteries are intended for an electric car applications.
"That is phenomenal if true and I am going to try to get some data on that very quickly because that's a game changer. That is an enabler to allow things like a plug-in hybrid to really take off.
Exterior of Toyota Dream House
"By the way, while fuel cells are trying to chase the energy density problem to get 300 miles range with 10,000 psi [hydrogen] tanks, hybrid cars docking to houses in a plug-in are going to be finding themselves going thousands of miles and with a smaller tank of case because every night when you go back and dock, you're going to fill that battery up… you don't have to go to the [station] to fill up on gasoline".
Penney goes on in his presentation to demonstrate the energy savings to be accrued by introducing plug-in hybrids as quickly as possible, while we work to develop fuel cell technology. He urges automakers and utility executives to begin talking and understanding each other's markets and distribution, observing that ten cars in a parking lot could generate 1 megawatt of power to the grid.
"If you team them up, you may have a winner," he said.
To listen to this entire 27-minute presentation, use the Flash-based MP3 Player above or download the file to your computer hard drive for playback on your favorite MP3 device.
EV World expresses its thanks to ASPO USA, Steve Andrews and Randy Udall for granting us permission to attend and record this historic event. The next conference will be held in Boston, Massachusetts in 2006.