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Google's RechargeIT.org: Media Roundup & Photos
Jun 21, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
CalCars-News
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Here are slimmed-down versions of long stories from The New York Times, USA Today, Hybridcars.com, Business 2.0 and TechNewsWorld. As for hometown newspapers: the San Francisco Chronicle ran two photos and a paragraph; the San Jose Mercury News a few paragraphs.

See our photos at http://www.calcars.org/­photos-google.html and a few at the Hybridcars.com URL

And by the way, the five-minute RechargeIT video at http://www.youtube.com/­watch?v=oDjSbWTJbdo already has almost 14,000 views.


THE NEW YORK TIMES June 19, 2007 Google and Utility to Test Hybrids That Sell Back Power By Felicity Barringer and Matthew L. Wald http://www.nytimes.com/­2007/­06/­19/­technology/­19electric.html

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 18 - Google and Pacific Gas & Electric have unveiled their vision of a future in which cars and trucks are partly powered by the country's electric grids, and vice versa.
<snip>
Google's philanthropic foundation, Google.org, headed by Larry Brilliant, led the conversion and announced that it would be investing or giving away about $10 million to accelerate the development of battery technology, plug-in hybrids, and vehicles capable of returning stored energy to the grid.

Speaking on a sun-splashed dais in Google's parking lot to an audience well shaded by one of its new solar arrays, Mr. Brilliant described the vehicle designed to give energy back to the grid as "a bit of a science project."

But some observers, like the Stanford professor Stephen Schneider, who was one of the authors of the recent United Nations report on climate change, said that just getting this embryonic technology demonstrated by a company with Google's heft was a victory in itself. "These guys have clout with hundreds of millions of young and middle-aged people," he said, adding that what was necessary to jump-start a new type of car was a combination of reliability, affordability and "cool."

The six vehicles are used by Google employees near the company's Mountain View headquarters, and sit under a carport with a roof of solar cells. The cells are connected to the power grid, so they make energy whether the cars are charging or not. Dan Reicher, Google.org's director for climate change and energy initiatives, said the carports were meant to demonstrate a switch from fossil fuels to solar power.
<snip>
The Prius that has been converted to allow two-way flows of electricity is a more speculative project. PG&E, the utility serving Northern California, will send wireless signals to the car while it is parked and plugged in to determine its state of charge. It can then recharge the batteries or draw out power.

The transactions will be tiny, a few kilowatt-hours at a time, worth a few cents each, but if there were thousands of such vehicles, a utility could store power produced in slack hours until it was needed at peak times, said Brad Whitcomb, PG&E's vice president for customer products and services.

Some researchers say that utilities pay billions a year to power plants to stand by, ready to produce extra power or to provide small quantities of energy to maintain the frequency of the system at precisely 60 cycles a second. Plug-in hybrids could fill those roles, annually earning thousands of dollars each, some experts say.

But if a car gave all of its energy back to the grid, it would be left to run on gasoline, giving up the environmental benefit.

A plug-in hybrid can lower emissions of carbon dioxide and smog-causing gases. It can go three to four miles on a kilowatt-hour, experts say. If that electricity came from natural gas, that may mean under a quarter-pound of carbon dioxide is emitted each mile. In contrast, a car that gets 20 miles a gallon on unleaded gas emits about a pound of carbon dioxide each mile.


USA TODAY June 18, 2007
Google plugs in to hybrid car development with $10M
Google says its Toyota Prius, modified to be a
plug-in hybrid, gets more than 70 miles per gallon.
By James R. Healey
http://www.usatoday.com/­tech/­news/­techinnovations/­2007-06-18-google-hybrid-cars_N.htm

Internet search giant Google hopes to speed the development of plug-in hybrid cars by giving away millions of dollars to people and companies that have what appear to be practical ways to get plug-ins to market faster.

But the money, announced Monday afternoon at Google headquarters in Mountain Valley, Calif., totals just $1 million so far with another $10 million pledged, which might not be enough to move the needle.

Auto development is crushingly expensive, especially when it involves the kind of advanced battery and powertrain technology used in plug-in hybrids.

Though automakers are tight-lipped about what they spend, bringing a plug-in hybrid to market could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Google is not going to get into the business of building and selling hybrid electrics. Our focus is on accelerating their developing through research, testing and investment," says Google.org's Dan Reicher, who was assistant energy secretary under former President Bill Clinton. Google.org is the philanthropic arm of Google.com.

General Motors is the only major automaker that has announced specific plans to market plug-in vehicles, as soon as 2010.

"We applaud them for the investment in plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies," says Brian Corbett, GM's hybrid powertrain spokesman. "Every little bit helps."
<snip>
Even though other car companies haven't announced plug-in plans, "There is a lot going on behind the scenes," Reicher asserts. "I would wager that three or four years from now we'll be looking at commercialization of these vehicles."

He acknowledges, however, that "there's no doubt there are challenges getting to large-scale commercialization of plug-in hybrids. This is quite a do-able step, but we're not there yet. I can't sit here today and tell you it's going to happen."

Google's timing is fortuitous. Congress is discussing ways to boost fuel economy. And gasoline still averages more than $3 a gallon in the U.S., high enough that Americans have been cheering efforts to cut fuel consumption.

The future, according to Google:

  • Plug-in hybrids mass produced by major automakers.
  • Fuel tanks filled not with gasoline but with bio-fuels, such as ethanol, for the internal-combustion engines to use when necessary.
  • Solar carports, where plug-ins could recharge from power generated by the sun.
  • Vehicle-to-grid links. The growing number of plug-in hybrid owners could sell the power stored in their cars' batteries to utility companies using special hookups to the utilities' power grid. Google believes utilities would be happy to buy that juice instead of paying very high prices for additional electricity during peak demand, such as 100-degree days when customers are running their home air conditioning full blast.
    <snip>


HYBRIDCARS.COM June 18, 2007 The Model G: Google's Plug-in Hybrid Program http://www.hybridcars.com/­plug-in-hybrids/­google-plugin-hybrid-modelg.html

When Henry Ford's neighbors watched the young inventor roll his first gas-powered contraption out of a backyard shed, they had no way of knowing how the rickety four-wheeled carriage would begin a revolution in human transportation.

More than 100 years later, the billionaire founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, backed out of a parking space in a Toyota Prius converted to run almost exclusively on energy from solar panels. This demonstration of the capabilities of plug-in hybrids, and the two-way flow of electricity between car and electric grid, could have a profound impact on transportation in the 21st century.

"Symbolically, this event is very important" said Stephen Schneider, one of the authors of the recent United Nations report on climate change. Dr. Schneider, a professor of environmental studies at nearby Stanford University, was at Google's headquarters to observe. "We have to get people to stop thinking big is cool, and start thinking efficiency is cool" he said.
<snip>
One highlight of the event occurred when Mr. Brin tapped a key on a laptop computer to launch the so-called "vehicle-to-grid" capabilities of the "ReChargeIt" project. With the keystroke, a nearby energy meter, paused and then spun backwards, showing the flow of energy out of the plug-in car's batteries and back into the electric grid. The crowd cheered when the meter, projected on a large flat-screen monitor, reversed directions.

Google teamed with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to pull off this demonstration of the two-way flow of electricity between car and electric grid. "Clean energy technology can dramatically shift how we make and use energy for our cars and homes by charging cars through an electric grid powered by solar or other renewable energy sources, and selling power back to the electric grid when it's needed most" said Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google which is spearheading the ReChargeIt project.

"The new energy economy is being created right before our very eyes," said Brad Whitcomb, vice president of customer products & services, Pacific Gas & Electric. "We're also exploring how this new energy economy can transform our transportation infrastructure."

For several years, academic researchers and government labs have pointed to vehicle-to-grid (V2G) exchange as a way to provide greater stability to America's aging electric grid. In a V2G world, cars will become mobile energy storage devices-and garages, parking lots, and roads will become a distributed transportation energy web, much the same as the Internet has become a distributed system for information.

Google.org also partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to create a free car-sharing program for Google employees. With Enterprise's backing, the program will eventually expand to include 100 plug-in hybrids. Greg Stubblefield, president of California and Hawaii Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said "If Google can do for automobile engines what they did for search engines, then we're off to a great start." The addition of 100 plug-in hybrids to Google's fleet will provide invaluable data related to the performance and long-term viability of plug-in hybrid technology.

Dr.Larry Brilliant,executive director of Google.org, said, "Clean energy technology can dramatically shift how we make and use energy for our cars."
<snip>


BUSINESS 2.0 June 18, 2007
Google Powers Push for Plug-In Hybrid Cars
Green Wombat blog
http://blogs.business2.com/­greenwombat/­2007/­06/­google_powers_p.html

Talk about a clean commute: As part of an $11 million green cars initiative, Google is creating a plug-in hybrid car-sharing fleet. Employees will be able to book a super fuel-efficient plug-in Prius online through a partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, charge the car under a solar-powered canopy at the Googleplex and, eventually, feed electricity from the car's battery back to the grid. Google and California utility PG&E (PCG) demo'd the technology yesterday in Mountain View during the launch of the RechargeIt.org initiative from Google.org, the search giant's philanthropic arm.

Under sunny skies, Google.org chief Larry Brilliant drove a white plug-in Prius emblazoned with the Google colors into a parking bay whose roof is covered with solar panels, part of the company's 1.6 megawatt solar installation - the nation's largest. He got out of the car and grabbed one of the retractable power cords hanging from the roof and plugged in the Prius to applause from the Googlers and guests.
<snip>
Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who rode to the event on a bicycle, showed how plug-in hybrids can feed electricity to the grid at peak demand times to reduce the need to tap greenhouse-gas emitting power plants. "I happen to have a Prius but not a plug-in. Now I'll have to try to get one myself," Brin said. "It would be very nice not to have the inconvenience of going to gas stations." He plugged a power cord into a Prius and then pressed a button on a laptop that sent a wireless signal to the car, which began sending electricity back to the grid.

"I think the potential for plug-in hybrid cars and all-electric cars is really great," Google co-founder Larry Page told Green Wombat as he stood by his blue Huffy bicycle. "I love the demo with the plug-in to grid. If you have tens of thousands or millions of these cars, the amount of energy they can produce is much more than the normal generation capacity."

As part of the RechargeIt program, Google will invest $10 million in alternative transportation technologies and is giving $1 million to various groups to advance plug-in hybrids. Small change, perhaps, by Google standards, but as electric car companies like Silicon Valley's Tesla Motors have shown, you don't need Detroit and Tokyo's billion-dollar budgets to make significant strides in automotive technology. Tesla, for instance, will put its Roadster super car on the highway for about $100 million.

But efforts like Google's plug-in hybrid car-sharing program may have the most potential to light a fire under the automakers, which have so far dragged their feet on developing such cars. When up to 100 converted Priuses begin cruising the highways and byways of the Bay Area, many consumers are going to have the same reaction Green Wombat had after a ride in the Tesla Roadster: I want one. Now imagine if other Silicon Valley companies - say, Yahoo) - follow Google's lead and create similar car-sharing programs. Microsoft, for instance, itself has a huge solar array at its Mountain View campus.

"We hope programs like this will encourage manufacturers to make similar commercially viable plug in cars available. We know there's a pent-up demand for such a product," said Enterprise executive Greg Stubblefield. And we're anxious to see manufacturers progress in that direction. As we would certainly be a buyer for these vehicles."


TECHNEWSWORLD June 19, 2007 Google Aims to Jump-Start Plug-In Hybrid Cars http://www.technewsworld.com/­story/­57926.html

Google.org, the search giant's philanthropic arm, has focused on promoting new ways to distribute energy with its RechargeIT initiative. The plan promotes the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles -- hybrid gas/electric cars that can be plugged into a wall socket to either charge the battery or sell excess electricity back to the power grid.

Promoted by its philanthropic arm, Google.org, the new initiative aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil and gasoline use, and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the development and adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are capable of selling stored electricity back to electric companies.

To get started, Google modified some of its vehicle fleet to plug into its own solar electricity power supply, as well as into any 120-volt power outlet.
<snip>
Google has a fleet of Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrid vehicles and modified some of them with plug-in capabilities. The new Toyota Prius Plug-in now gets 73.6 miles per gallon of gasoline, while the original Prius gets 40.9.

Each of its cars, the company said, are outfitted with data recording devices that track technical and environmental performance, use patterns and charging history.

Back to the Grid

While plug-in cars aren't a new concept, the idea of letting cars act as distributed storage batteries for electric companies is a radically new idea -- to most consumers, at least.

Here's how it works: Power plants produce electricity on demand. They don't have good ways of storing electricity. Millions of batteries in hybrid cars could be utilized as a way to store energy for the power plants. Most cars are idle for 20 or so hours a day, and when energy is spread out over millions of cars, experts project, power plants could draw and store energy from parked cars, saving on greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the need for building new power plants. The concept is called vehicle-to-grid.

"Basically, I've been -- for several years -- getting plug-in hybrids out into the mainstream, so people stop thinking of them as a science project and realize how feasible they are now, and that's really happening. We've succeeded in that," Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars, told TechNewsWorld. CalCars is a nonprofit organization that promotes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The Future Is (Almost) Here

"For a long time, I didn't talk about vehicle-to-grid because it seemed too futuristic, and the case for hybrid cars could be made without it, but it turns out that companies and governments are starting to get serious about it. It's now OK to talk about it -- it's now realistic. I used to think it was icing on the cake, but it's this whole other desert," Kramer explained.

Vehicle-to-grid is important because it may make
it possible to more fully electrify
transportation, which could displace gasoline,
which tends to produce more greenhouse gases than
other forms of generating power. In addition, an
increased use of electricity could reduce demand on foreign oil.

<snip>

Google As Catalyst

Google's foray into the field may be the catalyst needed to kick PHEV technology and vehicle-to-grid efforts into high gear. The company is investing approximately US$10 million in technology and companies that will further PHEV and vehicle-to-grid development efforts.

"It's quite inspiring because Google is creatively and smartly combining a lot of different things in this program. It's demonstration, data collection and also a way of getting more players involved -- more companies, investors, new businesses. They're maximizing all those things," Kramer said. "Google is showing what a company can do to motivate for not a lot of money."

Many other stories including some top blogs: http://www.engadget.com/­2007/­06/­19/­google-hybrid-car-shares-its-juice-for-a-price http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/­2007/­06/­19/­google-foundation-to-invest-in-give-and-take-hybrid calls a V2G car a "Give-and-Take Hybrid" http://gizmodo.com/­gadgets/­announcements/­googleorg-getting-into-the-plugin-hybrid-market-270375.php criticized and defended http://www.treehugger.com/­files/­2007/­06/­google_zap.php

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