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Pacific National Lab's Surprising PHEV Study Released
Jan 17, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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On December 11, we published the press release from Pacific National Lab, "Energy Dept Says US Has Idle Capacity to Fuel PHEVs; Sees Wide Benefits"­calcars-news/­605.html. This preview of the report, with its conclusion that we could charge 84% of today's cars off-peak on today's power grid, got unexpectedly wide media attention. A Google search for
the exact phrase, "plug-in hybrids will save the grid" shows over 10,000 links. Many analysts, journalists and other observers were surprised to see a refutation of their assumption that we'd need to build more power plants to charge millions of cars -- and many also became excited about the future potential of "vehicle-to-grid" connections. (Some day, a definitive report whose assumptions everyone accepts will replace the multiple analyses that show electricity's well-to-wheel emissions on the national power grid are lower than gasoline, and we won't have to answer that one anymore either.)

Now you can download the full text of the technical paper on the power impacts of high penetrations of PHEVs at­energy/­eed/­etd/­pdfs/­phev_feasibility_analysis_combined.pdf (492KB).

The National Lab's latest announcement points to "an additional number within the technical paper as it relates to the inclusion of vans in the calculations of the technical potential of PHEVs. This inclusion indicates that, as a nationwide average, 73 percent of U.S. light duty vehicles could be powered by off-peak electricity, including vans, if they were PHEVs as compared to 84 percent for cars, pick-up trucks and SUVs."

This report contains far more information than was described in the press release, including modeling scenarios based on San Diego and Cincinnati utilities. Following are the summaries of the two sections of the 39-page report.

Michael Kintner-Meyer Kevin Schneider Robert Pratt Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by Battelle Memorial Institute under Contract DE-AC05-76RL01830

The U.S. electric power infrastructure is a strategic national asset that is underutilized most of the time. With the proper changes in the operational paradigm, it could generate and deliver the necessary energy to fuel the majority of the U.S. light duty vehicle fleet. In doing so, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the economics of the electricity industry, and reduce the U.S. dependency on foreign oil. Two companion papers investigate the technical potential and economic impacts of using the existing idle capacity of the electric infrastructure in conjunction with the emerging plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology to meet the majority of the daily energy needs of the U.S. LDV fleet.

This initial paper estimates the regional percentages of the energy requirements for the U.S. LDV stock that could be supported by the existing infrastructure, based on the 12 modified North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) regions, as of 2002, and taking into account congestion in regional transmission and distribution systems. For the United States as a whole, 84% of U.S. cars, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) could be supported by the existing infrastructure, although the local percentages vary by region. Using the light duty vehicle fleet (LDV) classification, that includes cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans, the technical potential is 73%. This has a gasoline displacement potential of 6.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, or 52% of the nation's oil imports. The paper also discusses the impact on overall emissions of criteria gases and greenhouse gases as a result of shifting emissions from millions of individual vehicles to a relatively few number of power plants. Overall, PHEVs reduce greenhouse gas emissions with regional variations dependent on the local generation mix. Total NOX emissions may or may not increase, dependent on the utilization of coal generation in the region. Total SOX emissions increase in all but 3 regions. Particulate emissions increase in 8 of the 12 regions. The emissions in urban areas are found to improve across all pollutants and regions as the emission sources shift from million of tailpipes to a small number of large power plants in less-populated areas. This paper concludes with a discussion about grid impacts as a result of the PHEV load as well as the likely impacts on the plant and technology mix of future generation capacity expansions.

The second paper (Part II: Economic Assessment) discusses the economics of the new PHEV load from the perspective of a load-serving entity. It discusses the potential downward pressure on rates as revenues increase in the absence of new investments for generation, transmission, and distribution

Michael J. Scott
Michael Kintner-Meyer
Douglas B. Elliott
William M. Warwick
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The current U.S. electric grid is underutilized and could generate and deliver the necessary energy to power the majority of the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet. In so doing, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the economics of the electricity industry, and reduce the U.S. dependency on foreign oil. Two companion papers investigate this concept. The overall analysis frames the analysis from a grid capability and economics point of view. The first paper (Part 1) discusses the technical potential of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) without adding new electricity infrastructure. This second paper (Part 2) provides an economic assessment of the impacts of PHEV adoption on vehicle owners and on electric utilities. To estimate vehicle owner impacts, the paper calculates the life cycle cost (LCC) of private vehicle transportation for vehicle owners with PHEVs and compares it with the LCC for conventional light-duty vehicles. To calculate the impacts on electric utilities, the paper provides estimates of the impacts of PHEVs on the revenue and cost streams of two sample utilities, one with its own generating resources, and one that is highly dependent on imported power ("wires only"). The paper finds favorable impacts on the LCC of vehicle owners and average costs of power for both types of utilities.

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