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Wind + hybrid vehicles = a match made in renewables heaven?

As alternatives to conventional vehicles, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) running off electricity stored in batteries could decrease oil consumption and reduce carbon emissions. And by using electricity derived from clean energy sources, even greater environmental benefits are obtainable. We take a look at the potential benefits arising from the widespread adoption of PHEVs in light of Alberta, Canada’s growing interest in wind power.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
In a PHEV, grid electricity stored in a battery pack is the main power source. And in charge depleting/charge sustaining mode (CD/CS) design, the vehicle uses electricity (CD mode) until the battery reaches a certain charging level. At this point, the combustion engine starts up (CS mode).

Controlled charging of PHEVs
The widespread adoption of PHEVs would require a lot of electricity, creating operational issues for Alberta’s electrical grid if this increased demand is uncontrolled (e.g., during evenings when most PHEVs would be parked and plugged in). However, if the power required to recharge PHEVs is controlled and shifted to off-peak periods, a large number of PHEVs could be supplied without as much need to expand generation and transmission infrastructure.

With a “smart charging system” in place, when a PHEV is plugged in, the system operator has control over its charging and the PHEV’s battery can even be discharged to provide power back to the grid. In such a case, PHEV owners could realize some benefits in return for supplying power to the grid.

Although a smart charging system requires an initial investment in communication infrastructure and incentive plans to encourage owners to participate, it would bring with it several advantages. One is the possibility of employing PHEVs to balance out variations in power output from wind farms. And by pairing PHEVs’ needs with wind generation can also produce significant environmental benefits.


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