Hydrogen Vehicle - Comparison With Other Types of Alternative Fuel Vehicle - Plug-in Hybrids

Plug-in Hybrids

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, are hybrid vehicles that can be plugged into the electric grid and contain an electric motor and also an ICE or other engine. The Chevrolet Volt, the first commercially-manufactured PHEV, became commercially available in some U.S. states in 2010 and in more locations in 2011. The PHEV concept augments standard hybrid electric vehicles with the ability to recharge their batteries from an external source while parked, enabling increased use of the vehicle's electric motors while reducing their reliance on internal combustion engines. The infrastructure required to charge PHEVs is already in place, and transmission of power from grid to car is about 93% efficient. This, however, is not the only energy loss in transferring power from grid to wheels. AC/DC conversion must take place from the grids AC supply to the PHEV's DC. This is roughly 98% efficient. The battery then must be charged. As of 2007, the Lithium iron phosphate battery was between 80-90% efficient in charging/discharging. The battery needs to be cooled; the GM Volt's battery has 4 coolers and two radiators. As of 2009, "the total well-to-wheels efficiency with which a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle might utilize renewable electricity is roughly 20% (although that number could rise to 25% or a little higher with the kind of multiple technology breakthroughs required to enable a hydrogen economy). The well-to-wheels efficiency of charging an onboard battery and then discharging it to run an electric motor in a PHEV or EV, however, is 80% (and could be higher in the future)—four times more efficient than current hydrogen fuel cell vehicle pathways." A 2006 article in Scientific American argued that PHEVs, rather than hydrogen vehicles, would become standard in the automobile industry. A December 2009 study at UC Davis found that, over their lifetimes, PHEVs will emit less carbon than current vehicles, while hydrogen cars will emit more carbon than gasoline vehicles.

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