Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles and the Vermont Grid : a Scoping Analysis
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Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles and the Vermont Grid : a Scoping Analysis

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    The concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the earth’s atmosphere is creating changes in the world’s climate. Reducing GHG emissions has become a national and international priority. Combusting carbon in the transportation sector contributes more than 28 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions (EPA, 2006). Within the transportation sector, light duty vehicles comprise about 60 percent of the GHG emissions footprint. GHG emissions from the transportation sector are the fastest growing source of GHG emissions in the United States (EPA, 2006). In Vermont, the transportation sector is the largest in-state contributor of GHG emissions. One strategy to reduce transportation’s GHG emissions (primarily carbon dioxide, CO2) is to switch to lower carbon fuels. Because of Vermont’s low carbon electricity supply, switching some portion of the state’s light duty vehicle fleet to electricity could reduce GHG emissions. * This research report specifically examines the CO2 and NOx emissions of switching a significant number of Vermont vehicles from gasoline to electricity. In addition to the environmental and social impacts, the reliance on petroleum to fuel Vermont vehicles impacts the state’s economy and the pocket-books of consumers. Drivers in Vermont spent more than $1.1 billion to fuel vehicles in 2007, an increase of about $500 million dollars from 2002. Changing the fuel in Vermont vehicles can address both emissions and economic issues. Advances in electric drive systems and energy storage devices have made plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) a reality. Building on the success of hybrid electric vehicles, PHEVs allow the consumer to charge the vehicle’s battery pack directly from the electric grid rather than from the vehicle’s gas engine. This research report looks at the ability of the Vermont electric grid to handle large numbers of PHEVs, and at the emissions impact and end-user economic costs. This report is based on an analysis by researchers at the University of Vermont and Green Mountain College with support from the Vermont Department of Public Service, Central Vermont Public Service, Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric Department. The assumptions used in the following findings are detailed in the report. The type of reference vehicles, the price of gasoline and the price of electricity all impact the findings. A second phase of this study with more detailed information on Vermont vehicles and actual vehicle performance has been proposed.
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