Zero-emission vehicles, as mandated in California, New York and Massachusetts have the potential to replace large central utilities as the major source of power generation in the U.S, a University of Delaware research scientist writes in a recent issue of Transportation Research.
Willett Kempton, senior policy scientist with UD's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, calculates that the U.S. passenger-vehicle fleet has 10 times more potential to generate electricity than all the nation's electricity-generating equipment combined. "If a substantial fraction of the vehicle fleet were electrified," he writes, "it would dwarf the generation capacity of electric utilities, at lower capital cost, comparable availability, and with siting closer to loads."
Battery-powered vehicles would provide power at times of peak demand and be recharged from the electric grid, when demand is low.
Hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles have the potential for producing continuous power. He says a fuel-cell electric vehicle, fueled from a natural gas tap at home and/or work, could provide consistent power whenever garaged and run on hydrogen or methanol.
Kempton found that battery electric vehicles, which are plugged in to refuel, would require only a 220-volt, alternating current, three-phase, 40 amp. connection and charge/discharge unit to transmit up to 8kw of peak power from a vehicle to the utility. This is within the range of present house wiring and could be used during peak demand or a system failure. He computes a savings to the utility of $2,370 and suggests the utility could pass part of that savings on to the vehicle owner in the form of battery replacement, lower electric rates or a lump sum payment.
Because battery electric vehicles are already being produced by GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and a number of smaller companies, the UD scientist urges a shift in research to focus on designing a battery for more charge/discharge cycles, developing fuel-cell vehicles, choosing acceptable payment options and identifying good candidates for initial large-scale programs.