Plug-in electric vehicles are next generation clean cars that use electric batteries charged from an external source. With smart strategies and and a favorable policy framework, these vehicles present an exciting opportunity to reduce air pollution, save drivers more than $1,200 per year on gasoline and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Some plug-in vehicles already on the market, and almost every major auto manufacturer is working to develop its own plug-in model for the coming years. Car makers are developing a range of technologies, from all-electric vehicles to plug-in hybrids that combine a battery with a gasoline engine, to models with batteries that can be swapped out, charged and replaced.
The pollution reduction benefits of plug-in electric vehicles varies according to when and how the electricity they use is generated.
The environmental benefits of plug-ins are smaller if they are charged with electricity from coal plants, and larger if the electricity is generated with no or low-carbon fuel sources like solar and wind energy.
In areas with substantial wind and nuclear power, strategies that encourage plug-in charging at night can make a real difference in the pollution profile of an electric vehicle. Overall, electric demand is lowest at night, and “must run” wind and nuclear power plants generate excess low-cost, low-carbon power that could be put to good use charging vehicle batteries.
Wondering when you can buy a plug-in vehicle, how long it takes to charge, or what the difference is between a PHEV and an EV? Find the answers on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
ELPC is working to promote policies that will create a smart and strategic integration of plug-in vehicles, focusing on areas where low-cost, low-carbon electricity is available to make plug-ins part of the solution to global warming.
Studies have found that large metropolitan areas are the best market for plug-in vehicles. Chicago is the third largest metropolitan area in the nation, and Illinois is among the top ten states for new registrations of gasoline hybrid-electric vehicles.
With low-carbon energy available from wind and nuclear power, especially at night, the charging scenario in Northern Illinois is optimal. ELPC is working to promote off-peak charging, solar public charging stations and other programs that will maximize the benefits of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
An off-peak vehicle charging rate would offer consumers a monetary incentive to charge up while electricity demand is low and marginal coal and natural gas plants are in the “off” position. On-site solar power could be used to power public vehicle charging stations, ensuring that the electricity that powers up plug-in vehicles comes from the sun, not a fossil fuel.
In the near future, with a large number of plug-ins on the road and a smart electrical grid, plug-in vehicle batteries could have a two-way charging relationship with the power grid. Vehicle batteries could store excess clean energy when it’s available. When electric demand peaks, utilities could pay to draw power from plugged-in vehicle batteries. Enabling this source of clean energy storage could make it more efficient to integrate intermittent renewable resources into the electric grid and eliminate the need for new coal plants while offering financial benefits to both consumers and utilities.
Project Get Ready – a non-profit initiative working to help cities prepare for the growth of plug-in vehicles