Xcel Energy, a major U.S. electricity and natural gas company, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have released the results of a six-month study to determine how plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) would affect the State of Colorado if the state saw a massive increase in the use of these vehicles. The study examined electric power grid fluctuations dependent on when and where the cars were charging. Results prove favorable for the PHEVs as Xcel and NREL conclude that the vehicles may reduce the overall expense of ownership as well as eliminate harmful emissions by up to 50 percent with the use of smart-grid technologies.

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With the use of smart-grid technologies, PHEVs can reduce harmful emissions by up to 50 percent. NAFTC Photo

NREL and Xcel Energy’s Utility Innovations group created a cutting-edge computer-modeling program able to measure the effect of a massive influx of PHEVs and how much energy would be required to charge them.

“Hybrid gas/electric vehicles are already on the market and PHEVs are staged for growth, so we wanted to know how that could affect our business,” said Mike Carlson, CIO, Xcel Energy. “Depending on when customers choose to recharge, adding PHEVs to the road may help reduce overall emissions of CO2 without significant increases in utility infrastructure. In other words, PHEVs could be one piece of the puzzle to solving our global climate change problem.”

The team will now focus attention toward a better utility grid system. Emissions reduction would greatly depend on when PHEV drivers charged these vehicles. Incentive programs may be introduced to encourage customers to charge their PHEVs at particular times.

“Successfully managing a charging program will depend on a smart utility grid,” said Ray Gogel, chief administrative officer for Xcel Energy. “This study is one step we are taking to demonstrate how to use energy more efficiently through smart-grid technologies. In order to make a dent in issues like climate change and dependence on foreign oil, the grid must change. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have the potential to help us better use renewable and other nontraditional energy sources while creating a grid that is more interconnected, balanced, and reliable.”

“The research completed by Xcel Energy’s Utility Innovations group and NREL marks a milestone for the PHEV industry,” said Mark Kapner, senior strategy engineer, Austin Energy. “Once the nation fully understands how these vehicles will affect our communities, including utility infrastructure, the market will continue to successfully grow. Plug-In Partners is dedicated to informing Americans about these vehicles, which are able to reduce emissions by 50 percent, and this study greatly assists us in that goal.”

The study is available on the NREL Web site.

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