A new study for the Department of Energy has identified massive idle "off-peak" electricity production and transmission capacity in the existing electric power system. So much so in fact that it could power 84 percent of the 220 million vehicles in the U.S. if they were plug-in electric vehicles. The study, undertaken by researchers at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is based on driving the 33 mile per day national average commute with drivers charging their vehicles up overnight.

Sufficient off-peak generation, transmission and distribution capacity already exists in the Midwest and East for all existing vehicles to run on batteries. But the Pacific Northwest may need to stick with biodiesel for the time being because their predominantly hydro-powered system has limited excess capacity.

Predictions resulting from the study into the impacts of very high market penetrations of PHEVs included falling electricity prices due to higher sales without increased investment, and lowered total greenhouse gas emissions. Estimates ranged from five to eight years for consumers to break even on the $6,000 to $10,000 premium PHEV currently command.

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