“Quixotic” and “far-fetched”

These are just two of the adjectives employed in a feature called “Austin Power: In Quest for Cleaner Energy, Texas City Touts Plug-In Car” (today’s WSJ, byline John J. Fialka). This is a long front-page feature and may require sign-in. Prominent in the story are Will Wynn and Roger Duncan. Plug-In Partners is touted. The City’s electric utility company devotes much Web space to promoting this scheme. It appears that PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) will be an oft-employed acronym in 2007. We’ll be seeing more of “V2G” under discussion, as well; “vehicle to grid” is envisioned as a means of drawing stored electricity from idle plugged-in vehicles. Eight thousand individuals and companies are said to have signed pledges to acquire a PHEV when they become commercially available. I always think that I read the local daily fairly closely, but I missed this one: the article reports that in 2006 the city council voted to spend $1 million “to mount a national campaign to drum up support” for plug-in cars. Mr. Duncan, who’s with the electric utility company these days, was sent on the road with a PowerPoint presentation. I’ve missed this one, too: Wynn told the WSJ reporter that the city council “has already set aside $1 million to fund rebates for the first 1,000 residents to buy plug-ins.” Rebate or no, I think we’ll be sticking with our current household vehicle, which uses an entire tank of gas about every three weeks.

3 Comments so far

  1. M1EK (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 8:39 am

    Austin Energy has a vested interest in promoting these things as they can sell lower-demand nighttime energy to more people. Problem is: they’re nowhere near ready; we need a revolutionary (not evolutionary) improvement in battery technology to give plug-in batteries (which must be fully drained/charged to make any sense) the same kind of long life that Toyota achieved with the Prius batteries (which are purposefully kept in a charge band between approx 30 and 70 percent).

  2. Kevin (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

    Plug-in hybrids as a concept are all well and good, but V2G? Has it occurred to anyone that vehicle-to-grid is precisely, literally equivalent to Austin Energy using gasoline-fired generators to make electricity?

    In a plug-in hybrid, after Austin Energy drains your battery, then rather than driving around after work on electricity, you’ll be powered by good old gasoline again. Hence, gas substitutes for the battery power that was funneled to the grid. V2G = gasoline-power electricity.

    And if it’s possible that it is economically feasible for batteries to store excess nighttime capacity for release during peak hours, then how come every utility in the nation is not already doing that with their own battery arrays, right now?

    Seems to me that V2G on the face of it is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of, yet reporters and bloggers and Duncan at Austin energy keep credulously enthusing about it, without even asking the obvious, not a skeptic in sight….

  3. M1EK (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

    V2G is better for the environment than coal, but that’s about the best you can say. It’s also likely to be a lot cheaper for AE than buying spot power on the most expensive days of the year, which explains a lot.

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