Hurdles and Hope for Plug-In Hybrids
Never underestimate the ability of market economies to adjust for shortages. With the price of oil at all-time highs, auto makers are moving into high gear (pun intended) to put plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the road. The NYT ran an article yesterday on Toyota's and GM's plans to introduce one by 2010. Among the benefits of electric cars: They have the potential to achieve large reductions in energy consumption and pollutants. Furthermore, if integrated into a “smart grid” they can help to level utilities’ electricity demand profiles by charging at night and other periods of lower electric demand.
There are some concerns, however, most centering on battery technology. The first is how to make a small enough batter that holds a big enough charge. The second is how to ensure battery safety -- the WSJ ran an article [WSJ subscribers only] on this very topic last week.
Fundamentally, ensuring battery safety is a system issue that involves the vehicle, the battery, battery packaging, power electronics, and battery controls. NEMA is looking at ways to address potential failure mechanisms and create clear standards for battery system components and architectures to ensure their safety.
01-15-2008 7:20 AM