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CVPS donates plug-in car to UVM for research on hybrid vehicles in northern climates
Release Date: 02-21-2008
On February 21, UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel was handed the keys to a new car. But he won't be taking it for a joy ride.
Instead, he received the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle a modified Toyota Prius donated by Central Vermont Public Service on behalf of UVM's Transportation Center. UVM researchers will use the vehicle to explore how a new generation of hybrid cars, which recharge from a standard outlet, perform in the cold, hilly conditions of Vermont.
Bob Young, president of CVPS, presented the vehicle to President Fogel and Transportation Center director Lisa Aultman-Hall as part of CVPS's plug 'n go™ program, the nation's first utility program that allows customers to use plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to reduce driving costs and air pollution by substituting off-peak electricity for gasoline.
UVM will conduct extensive testing on the vehicle in cooperation with the CVPS program.
"We're delighted to have an ongoing partnership with Central Vermont Public Service and deeply grateful for this generous donation," said Fogel, "Our shared goal of developing a new generation of cleaner and smarter transportation choices that are practical for the people of Vermont takes an important step forward today."
"UVM's expertise will provide valuable insights into these vehicles and the air emission reductions they offer," Young said. "We are on the cutting edge of this technology, and UVM is in a unique position to complement the work we are doing."
"Making Vermont a global leader in clean energy technology, alternative fuel use and energy research will strengthen our economy and help us combat global climate change," said Governor Jim Douglas, who drove with Fogel and Young in the new car to attend the ceremonial key hand-off in front of UVM's Farrell Hall. "I congratulate CVPS and the university for their groundbreaking partnership and focus on this important research."
Vermont-specific Research"We know in general that plug-in hybrids have about 30% lower carbon emissions than other hybrids," said Richard Watts, a UVM researcher who will study the car's performance, "but we don't know specifically how they will do over different length trips and on different parts of our electrical grid. Will the performance be the same in Burlington as in Highgate Falls?"
To study this question and others, the researchers will ask a group of commuters, some local and some coming from long distances, to use the car for their regular drive. From all of these trips, they'll collect data about carbon emissions, electricity use, local variations in the electrical supply, and performance over differing distances and driving styles.
The new car will also be used as part of an on-going research effort about the capacity of Vermont's electricity grid to handle 50,000, 100,000 or 200,000 plug-in hybrids.
"If everyone plugged in at 8 in the morning and 6 at night that would be a disaster," Watts said, because that is the peak period of demand. The additional draw on the grid would force power providers to buy more expensive, dirtier power from outside the state or cause the grid to fail.
"But there are valleys in use overnight," Watts said, and his research, in collaboration with Stephen Letendre at Green Mountain College, is exploring ways that drivers could be encouraged to recharge their plug-in cars at these off-peak times. As part of the research, the test drivers of the new car will recharge it during the night.
The UVM car is the second provided by CVPS to educational partners, the first donated to Green Mountain College last fall.
Hybrid Plus Extension CordLike a conventional hybrid car, a plug-in hybrid runs on a battery pack when it can and then switches to a gas engine. But the plug-in hybrid can also recharge its batteries by connecting to a standard electrical outlet.
Since Vermont's electricity supply is relatively clean compared to many other states it has a high proportion coming from hydro and nuclear power cars that run on electricity could make a significant impact on the state's overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Nationwide, transportation produces about 28 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions, according the EPA. In Vermont, transportation produces 44% of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, Watts reports.
"Switching 50,000 existing vehicles from gasoline to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles would reduce carbon emissions by 31 percent," Watts and Letendre wrote in a new report on these vehicles that was formally released at the car donation event today.
In addition to donating the new vehicle, Central Vermont Public Service is helping to fund Watts' research along with Green Mountain Power and the Burlington Electric Department.