One of the major questions facing plug-in hybrid vehicles is how they will affect power grids, especially in areas with old infrastructure. The Michigan Public Service Commission has begun a study to determine the impact of the high influx of plug-ins that seems inevitable in the next 10-15 years.
The key, according to the commission, will be making sure the power grid can sustain a large number of plug-ins sucking up power during the same peak hours. Imagine a hot evening during the summer when every home in Michigan is running the air conditioning, lights, TV and six hours worth of juice for a car’s lithium-ion battery.
The commission has invited automakers, utilities and advocacy groups to participate in the study, trying to create as large a network as possible to gauge what a mass penetration of plug-ins will mean to the state. At the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, David Thomas spoke with an engineer for the Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid, who verified that the utility company Southern Electric Edison and Ford were teaming up for a similar impact study.
That utility believes that the current power grid could handle 85% of vehicles on the road plugging in. However, if all of these vehicles are charging their batteries from coal-fired power plants, the environmental benefit is drastically reduced. This is why the Michigan commission makes it clear that increasing Michigan’s share of clean energy is vital to the future of the plug-in hybrid.
They hope to have the study completed and available to the public by June 2009.
MPSC Initiates Pilot Program to Integrate PHEVs into the Electric Grid (Green Car Congress)