A University of Florida partnership hopes to discover how clean, cheap and reliable electric-powered cars really are.
To do so, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher, Pierce Jones, is working with North Carolina-based companies Progress Energy, Advanced Energy and Duke Energy to test a Toyota Prius modified to use electricity delivered through a regular household electrical outlet.
'This isn’t a new idea, but it is one that now has to be closely examined because it’s likely to be a reality in just a few years,' said Jones, who is participating in the research as part of the University of Florida’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities.
The University of Florida car is one of 12 that will be deployed throughout Florida and North Carolina.
The researchers will chart basic use patterns, such as how much petrol and electricity are consumed.
More importantly though, the project will also seek to show that electric cars will not overburden local electrical grids.
For years, the largely unspoken concern about electric cars is that they could become a victim of their own success.
Too many electric cars plugged in at the same time, some worry, could cause power failures.
The hybrid is equipped with smart-charging hardware that moderates the time and pacing of the charging.
Additionally, the car will be tested with a technology dubbed Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) functionality.
V2G allows the car’s charging system to synchronise with the local electrical grid.
Not only does this stop the car from drawing on an overtaxed grid, it could contribute small amounts of electricity (for which the operator would be reimbursed) back in - therefore helping the electrical grid to become more reliable.
The project will also document drivers’ patterns, to help determine how charging stations and billing should be implemented.