By Dan Shapley
The Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council released a study yesterday about the potential for plug-in hybrid cars to handle the nation's traffic without drawing down energy supplies or causing more pollution.
Here are some of its conclusions:
- Plug-in hybrid vehicles might go 40 miles on the juice from their battery alone, which drivers would charge by plugging it in to a standard outlet at home at a cost of about $1 per gallon.
- Plug-in technology might boost the fuel efficiency of a typical 46-mpg hybrid by 40% -- leapfrogging over the current fleet of cars on the road, which get an average of about 24 mpg. But the technology could add $10,000 to the sticker price.
- If 60% of drivers used plug-in hybrids, it would draw 7-8% of the electricity grid's load, and that would increase pollution from power plants if additional pollution controls aren't installed on them. But even with increased pollution from power plants, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease relative to the output of pollution from the fleet of cars now on the road.
- Major automakers like General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., are developing plug-in cars, but it could be five or 10 years before the first hits the market -- and that would require a breakthrough in battery technology.