Toyota’s new plug-in Prius

Hybrid vehicles are a big deal, reducing oil consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But plug-in hybrids are even better, especially since electricity is cheaper and the CO2 is localized to a power plant where, theoretically, it could be captured and sequestered. Plug-in hybrid vehicles are like your standard hybrid, but you can plug your car into a 240 V wall socket to charge up the batteries so that you run the car for the first few miles exclusively on electric power. This would keep the car running on battery power for those 20 minute jaunts to the grocery store or liquor store. And now the first commercially-developed plug-in hybrid is being developed by Toyota.

Toyota’s new Prius Plug-In HV has been approved for road testing in Japan. The car only gets 8 miles on a single charge due to the batteries, but given that the present Prius would only get about 2 miles, this is still a significant improvement. I won’t speak for anyone else, but my nearest grocery store is less than 4 miles away, so I could go to and from my grocery store without this new Prius ever turning on the internal combustion engine to recharge the batteries.

The Prius has also been successfully retrofitted with plug-in lithium-ion batteries by at least one company, EDrive Systems, if you don’t want to wait for the official Prius Plug-In HV release.

Categories: Energy, Environment/Nature

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17 replies »

  1. Sounds like a good excuse for power companies to go on nuclear power plant building binge to meet the increased demand for electricity.

  2. Cutting CO2 emissions while still growing our global economy and reducing poverty (global economic growth is the only way to pull this off) will require more than just efficiency improvements. It’ll require a massive commitment to renewable energy research (cellulosic ethanol, solar, tidal, wind, geothermal, bacterial), plug-in hybrid vehicles of all types, carbon sequestration, massive reductions in global energy consumption, AND more nuclear power plants, specifically breeder reactors. We’ll literally have to do all of this and more to pull it off.

    So don’t come down on nuclear power – there’s no other technology that’s ready for prime time and that emits almost no CO2 at the same time. Nothing else can produce the power that nuclear can, and nothing else will be able to for quite some time.

  3. I’m waiting for an electric VW Beetle, which would make it the Plug-In Bug.

    I think we can do better than nuclear energy. Don’t forget free energy. (Don’t laugh.) With peak oil rushing at us as fast as climate change, we’ve forgotten about all the work done in that field. Perhaps out of necessity, we’re reaching for solutions that are close to hand.

    Free energy comprises:

    Radiant Energy/Cold Electricity
    Permanent Magnets
    Mechanical Heaters
    Super-Efficient Electrolysis
    Cold Fusion
    Solar Assisted Heat Pumps

    For more, go here:

  4. Even if I buy that any of those things are possible (and I’m pretty sure I don’t for most of them), none of them will be able to produce gigaWatts of power in the next 10-20 years. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear can, but only nuclear can do it with little to no CO2 emissions.

  5. Many moons ago I worked for a company that built nuclear power plants. At the same time, I had relative who was a nuclear engineer. He said he wouldn’t live within 50 miles of one and if trust in nuclear construction were motor oil, my dipstick would be bone dry.

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  7. You also must include the refining and waste cycle in the CO2 emissions claims. Mining and enriching U238 to commercial reactor grade (about 5-7%) takes huge amounts of fossil fuel consumption. I don’t trust anybody in control of reactor safety decisions that also must bow to the bottom line. To trust this industry it needs an independent watch dog, not the current NRC lap dog. Where is Uncle Hymie when you need him?

  8. Re No. 8: Thanks for that insight, ExNavy Nuke guy. Funny how it always takes energy to make energy. Just like it takes money to make money.

    And they’re both dirty!

  9. 7. 3bells, the U.S. bodies pushing nuclear power have learned from their mistakes. France and Japan are the two models for nuclear power we need to follow, and they have a couple of industry standardized designs that everyone knows how to build and that are cheaper because they’re standardized.

    In addition, there are ways to make nuclear power plants to reliable that it literally takes a failure of the laws of physics to get one to melt down. Reactors like this didn’t exist (they didn’t have the technology and understanding of reactor dynamics at the time) back in the 1960s and 70s.

    8. ExNavy Nuke Rx Operator, thanks for bringing this up. This is why I try to say that nuclear is relatively carbon emission-free, not totally free. But most of the time, the cost of production isn’t included in the CO2 emissions. So the CO2 costs of mining, drilling, and, in the case of renewable fuels, fertilizing and growing aren’t usually included. This is starting to change, thankfully, since we really need a total picture of CO2 emissions, but how we define “total” is somewhat arbitrary. The problem is where to stop tracking back the emissions – do we include the manufacture of the bulldozer and the CO2 emissions of the dynamite plant? I don’t know, but everyone can and should come to an agreement on a reasonable stopping point.

  10. First two paragraphs from news item:

    “KASHIWAZAKI, Japan (AP Jul 17) – A long list of problems, including radiation leaks, burst pipes and fires, came to light Tuesday at the world’s largest nuclear power plant, a day after it was hit by a powerful earthquake.

    “The malfunctions and a delay in reporting them fuelled concerns about the safety of Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors, which have suffered a string of accidents and cover-ups.”

  11. Even so, Japan’s reactors are still safer than the latest reactors in the U.S. And keep in mind that the reactor mentioned in the first paragraph had just survived an earthquake.

    One thing that people don’t really get is that we get exposed to radiation all the time. Here in the states the DoE is charged with regulating radiation that is lower than the background radiation emitted by the ground. You get exposed to more radiation on airplanes, especially on transcontinental polar routes, than you do from nuclear power plants even if you happen to live right next to one.

    I don’t deny that we need to be smart about our next foray in to nuclear power, but foolproof designs have been developed and have been ready for the word “go” for years now.

    As far as the waste is concerned, we’ve known what to do with it for a long time now, but NIMBY litigation based on irrational fears of radiation have prevented us from doing it. Take the waste, mix it up into glass ingots, embed the ingots in concrete and then stainless steel, and drop the suckers several miles down a big borehole. And waste is another reason to decommission the existing plants – new designs produce a LOT less waste and there are some thoughts that some of the existing spent fuel rods could be recommissioned as either breeder fuel blankets or reprocessed into breeder reactor fuel.

  12. Brian, I’ll defer to your expertise on this, but once upon a time I seem to recall research showing that low-level radiation from coal resulted in a higher overall radiation footprint than the nuke cycle. That’s been awhile and it may have changed, but at the least it’s important to understand that nukes aren’t the only source of radiation in the world….

  13. It depends on what is meant by “footprint”, but yes, coal plants release significant quantities of radioactive elements into the environment. The radionucleotides tend to concentrate in the leftover ash that is generally buried in landfills or used for concrete filler. And a single plant can produce tons of the stuff. This site does a quick calculation that estimates about 88 lbs of radioactive material produced every day just due to the trace elements present in the coal, while nuclear power plants emit almost nothing.

  14. Yes, it survived an earthquake AND they still had to lie about the damge done. As I said above, if trust were motor oil, my dipstick would be dry.