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Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

A team of researchers led by Josh Usher, Chris Dunstan and Conal Horgan at the Institute for Sustainable Futures has converted three Toyota Prius cars (a Hybrid Electric Vehicle) into PHEVs (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles) .

The PHEVs can be charged directly from the domestic power grid and combine the best attributes of electric cars (they cost less to run than petrol vehicles and can use renewable energy), with the efficiency of hybrid vehicles which can travel up to 1,000 km without refueling.

The conversions involve fitting the car with extra batteries for greater storage, new software and a power socket so it can be charged directly from the power grid. Unlike currently available petrol/electric hybrids that derive all their electrical energy from petrol, the PHEV can be charged up from a normal household power point.

When charged up on renewable energy, the PHEV can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as it can run on electricity for over 30 km at low speeds, the average daily commute of many Australian motorists. For longer trips, it simply switches back to normal hybrid operation.

The PHEV can offer not only much lower fuel bills but also the flexibility of storing wind power and solar energy at times of excess generation supply. This stored energy can then be fed back to the grid at times of high demand.

Plug in hybrid cars have the potential to revolutionise not only how we drive but how we generate and use electricity in our homes and workplaces. In the not-too-distant future householders will charge up their cars from solar panels on their roof and then pump surplus power from their car back into the grid on days of high peak power demand.

Each of the three PHEVs developed by the Institute has evolved from the previous one in terms of overall systematic design and control improvments and has incorporated the latest battery technologies.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are the next logical step in the evolution of the automobile. PHEVs combine the best elements of traditional petrol-only internal combustion engine vehicles, electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. This has been demonstrated by both GM's and Toyota's announcements to have PHEVs in showrooms in 2010 with many of the other major car companies expected to begin production in the near future. Given these developments, PHEVs will quickly become a significant component of the Australian vehicle fleet.

Benefits of PHEVs

  • Vehicles are able to run on clean, renewable electricity as well as being able to power devices such as air-conditioners directly from their batteries, if fitted with an inverter.
  • Ultimately, the ability to set up vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems, where the vehicles' batteries help service peak load demands (a revolutionary step)
  • Reducing Australia's dependence on foreign oil.

However, there are still many unknowns with regards to PHEVs. These include the impacts on the auto industry and the electricity grid. Without a clear understanding of these impacts, it may prove difficult for government to create appropriate policy around this technology. ISF and the Faculty of Engineering at UTS have successfully completed a number of conversions of a standard Toyota Prius into plug in hybrid electric vehicles. In keeping with our strong focus on R&D, each project has evolved from the next in terms of overall systematic design and control improvements as well as incorporation of the latest battery technologies. Please see below for further details about these projects:

More information on PHEVs:
Download/view Chris Dunstan's presentation Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. given at the public lecture UTSpeaks: Getting about green? What will life be like in Sydney after the oil age? on April 3, 2008.

Details on each of the PHEV's

Szencorp PHEV - Australia's first PHEV

Country Energy PHEV

Department of Environment Climate Change (DECC) NSW PHEV - Australia's first V2G vehicle