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UTS Hails Electric Car That Pumps Energy Back into Grid

Apr 23, 2009 - AAP General News Wire

Australian engineers have developed a plug- in hybrid electric car that not only generates power but can pump it back into the grid, potentially reducing running costs.

In coming years, car giants Toyota and General Motors will mass produce plug-in hybrid cars, but researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have gone one step better, developing what they call the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) prototype.

Taking a standard 2006 Toyota Prius, engineers at UTS converted it to plug-in, and then installed additional batteries in the back so it can store electricity, which can then be transferred back into the power grid.

UTS is the first in Australia to develop the V2G technology, and one of the first in the world.

"The vehicle-to-grid technology this car presents could do for the automotive industry and the electricity industry what the personal computer did for computing, and what the mobile phone did for telecommunications," UTS research project director Chris Dunstan said.

"The extra batteries can store energy at off-peak times and feed power back into the grid at times of peak demand.

"On a large scale, this could level out peaks and troughs in power supply across regions."

Mr Dunstan said the running cost of a plug-in hybrid was about a quarter that of a petrol car, or the equivalent of 40 cents a litre using a renewable energy source.

And if energy companies were to compensate motorists for pumping electricity back into the grid, they could potentially save even more money.

Based on a 30km commute, the UTS prototype, dubbed Switch, would cost as little as 50 cents a day to charge with off-peak power.

The prototype would save up to 2.8 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

Mr Dunstan could not predict how long it would take before a V2G car came on the market, saying no manufacturer yet had plans to develop such a vehicle.

The success of the V2G car would rely on the support of energy companies, whose willingness to buy back the unused electricity would be critical.

"If there is not the demand from the electricity industry to provide this power back in at a reasonable price and a rate that makes sense for consumers, then there is no point in pursuing the technology," Mr Dunstan said.

"We want to get the electricity industry excited about this technology. We want to demonstrate that it is entirely practical."

NSW Environment Minister Carmel Tebbutt admitted V2G was a long way from becoming widespread, but said Switch would become part of her department's car fleet for a trial period.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change helped fund the vehicle.

She admitted a financial incentive, such as a feed-in tariff, would be necessary to create demand from motorists for the new technology.

The NSW government will introduce such a tariff for households generating solar power by the middle of this year.

"You could envisage a world in the future where many people have these cars and there is an opportunity to say 'tomorrow we need everyone to feed their cars back into the grid', and that will help us address a power need on that particular day," she said.

"There would obviously need to be a financial incentive for people to do that, but we're a long way away from that at the moment."

AAP ab/hn/tnf 23-04 1709

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