Austin Powers Up Green: 'Plug In My Hybrid Baby'


Image credit: Austin Powers "Shaguar" Channel 4

A Plug-in 'Shaguar'?

Via Wall Street Journal (subscription only) comes news that the Mayor of Austin Texas has a formal plan to have the entire city integrate plug-in hybrid vehicles into a load balancing scheme designed to satisfy daytime peak power demands. The kernel is this: Austin gets a good chunk of power from the Texas wind, which peaks it's output at night. Cars go home, charge up overnight; owners drive to work and plug back in to the local grid, sharing the wind-accumulated juice to help light and cool the daytime work experience. This sounds a lot like the scheme RMI has been talking about for a decade, with fuel cell powered vehicles sharing hydrogen power with the grid during the commuter workday. Might even go back as far as the 1960's with 'Plug-In, Turn-On, Walk-Out.'

Previous extensive coverage of Plug-In Partners can be found here, and here, or here and here.

We could go on linking back to the TreeHugger plug-in archive; but, the important point is that mainstream print media has seemingly caught the climate fever. Looks a like about a year-long gestation period for the infection."Austin, a city of 719,000 and the capital of Texas, is becoming one of the nation's biggest promoters of plug-ins. To give the market a push, it has launched a campaign -- called Plug-In Partners -- to line up people to buy the cars when they reach the market. Organizers say they've secured 8,000 pledges from individuals and organizations around the country to buy one when they're introduced".

"Plug-ins will have a niche market," says Red Cavaney, president of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the oil industry. "They're certainly not going to replace the family car." [Thanks for letting us know Red.]

"The city will have to install a computer-monitoring system to make sure the utility doesn't leave car owners without enough battery juice".

"This two-way process could be used on the nation's electric-power grid, according to a study released in January by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The national grid has enough spare capacity at night to fuel as many as 180 million electric cars, which is equivalent to 84% of the nation's current automobile fleet, the study says. Fuel for cars powered by electricity would cost customers only about 30% as much as fuel for gasoline-powered cars, the study estimates".

With the right incentives, parking lots and garages will take on an entirely new role in urban culture. Now we need to to make some serious progress with vehicle batteries: perhaps like this company is doing.

NOTE: our highly-recommended reading list for understanding plug-in hybrid cost effectiveness includes this post.

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