Although there is a lot of debate about what type of green technology will be the best for our environment and our economy into the future, plug-in hybrids appear to be growing in popularity. One of the concerns with this type of alternative energy vehicle is what will happen to our power grid when all of these vehicles plug in. Can the current infrastructure handle the greater load? Well, the newest AIADA newsletter tells us that we should be OK up to about 180 million plug-in hybrids. That's a heck of a lot of hybrids. That figure was part of a report by the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
With unstable and high gas prices, electricity becomes even more attractive, so understanding what we might have to do to handle an influx of plug-ins is important. Electricity is cheaper than gasoline, for sure, but it is not a zero emission solution. The extra load on powerplants simply means that emissions are transferred from the vehicle to the plant. So there is still some work to do on that front as well. But the good news is that making that change can have a positive impact on CO2 levels as well. The study included a finding that if 84 percent of our 220 million vehicles were running on electricity, our carbon dioxide emissions could drop by 5 percent. And CO2 is what many environmentalists are looking at when they discuss the problem of greenhouse gases and global warming.

In a separate but related news item, The Wall Street Journal reported that these plug-ins will probably cost an extra $6,000 to $10,000 more than our current crop of non-hybrid vehicles, even when mass produced. Batteries are a big part of that premium, so advances in that technology may make the differences smaller in coming years, but as most people already realize, hybrids aren't likely to pay for themselves for at least several years of ownership. Critics often say that hybrids will never pay for themselves on reduced fuel use alone, which is usually true. What most people fail to factor into that equation, however, is that consumers often value the "greenness" of their cars above dollars and cents. The feel-good factor is a big part of the ownership experience. Just like most people don't recycle their cans, bottles and papers for the money, as much as for the notion that they are doing something positive for the planet and cleaning up after themselves.

[Sources: EDTA via The Auto Channel]


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