Ford, Google, and Utilities Pursue Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles
July 11, 2007
Major corporations are beginning to throw their weight behind the development of plug-in hybrid vehicles, with the latest entries being Ford Motor Company, Google, and a number of electric utilities. Ford announced on July 9th that it will team up with Southern California Edison (SCE) to examine the future of plug-in hybrids in terms of how home and vehicle energy systems will work with the electrical grid. Under the multi-million-dollar, multi-year project, Ford will convert a demonstration fleet of Escape Hybrids into plug-in hybrids, and SCE will evaluate how the vehicles might interact with the home and the utility's electrical grid. Some of the vehicles will be evaluated "in typical customer settings," according to Ford. See the Ford press release.
In June, Google.org—the philanthropic arm of Google Inc.—announced that it would provide $11 million to support plug-in hybrids and other advanced vehicle technologies. The organization split up $1 million in grants among six entities to support a variety of efforts related to plug-in hybrids. The organization also plans to offer $10 million later this summer to support the commercialization of a range of advanced vehicle technologies, including plug-in hybrids. Google has also partnered with A123Systems and Hymotion to convert a small fleet of Toyota Prius hybrids into plug-in hybrids, and has worked with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to demonstrate how such vehicles can also provide power back to the electrical grid when needed. Google can even use its new 1.6-megawatt solar power system to help charge up its fleet of plug-in hybrids. See the press releases from Google and PG&E and Google's "RechargeIT" Web site.
A number of other organizations and utilities are also getting involved in plug-in hybrids. In March, California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) awarded $2.6 million to Quantum Technologies and Hymotion for the conversion of 20 Ford Escape Hybrids and 10 Toyota Prius hybrids into plug-in hybrids. The agency plans to deploy the vehicles at up to 15 sites as part of a five-year demonstration program. In May, Wisconsin Public Power Inc. (WPPI) debuted its own Prius-based plug-in hybrid, which the utility will use as part of its fleet. And in June, Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) followed the trend, buying two Prius-based plug-in hybrids, one of which will be driven by officials at nearby Green Mountain College. CVPS also plans to convert some of its hybrid utility trucks to plug-in hybrids. See the press releases from AQMD, WPPI, and CVPS.