Google and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the utility serving Northern California, recently displayed its six Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrids that partly run on electricity provided by the power grid in order to achieve up to 75 mpg, according to a recent article by The New York Times. One of these vehicles was also modified to give back power to the power company while the vehicle is not in use. The conversions were led by Google's philanthropic foundation, Google.org, which plans to give away $10 million to accelerate the development of battery technology, plug-in hybrids and vehicles capable of returning stored energy to the grid.
The hybrids were given additional batteries that are capable of being recharged when plugged in, but the technology is currently not ready for commercialization because the batteries are not yet durable enough, according to the article. Google is using batteries from A123Systems of Watertown, Massachusetts, a company that sells an aftermarket kit to convert the Prius to a plug-in vehicle. The Prius that is capable of returning electricity to the power grid does so by means of wireless signal sent from PG&E while the car is parked and plugged in to determine its state of charge. It can then recharge the batteries or draw out power.
Plug-in hybrids lower emissions of carbon dioxide and smog-causing gases because they can travel three to four miles on just one kilowatt-hour of electricity. If the electricity used to power these hybrids is produced using natural gas, less than a quarter-pound of carbon dioxide is emitted each mile. In comparison, a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon on unleaded gas emits about a pound of carbon dioxide each mile.
The New York Times article also noted that Google's demonstration of its plug-in hybrid conversions is a great way to make the connection between young consumers and this technology—providing an image that hybrids are reliable and affordable.
Source: Barringer, Felicity. (June 19, 2007). "Google and Utility to Test Hybrids That Sell Back Power." The New York Times. Retrieved June 20, 2007 from www.nytimes.com.