Power Couple: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and a Smart Grid

Power Couple
Reported by
Christine Van Lenten

Posted March 03, 2009


As concerns about climate change and U.S. dependence on imported oil mount, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are commanding increasing attention as a promising alternative to vehicles powered by fossil fuels. PHEVs draw power from a gasoline engine and a large-capacity battery that can plug into the grid.

At a January 21, 2009, meeting at the Academy, attendees heard about the benefits of these vehicles and about the engineering, infrastructure, and policy challenges that must be overcome to realize their potential. Mark Duvall of Electric Power Research Institute, Arthur Kressner of Con Edison and Richard Drake of NYSERDA explained that mass-market success for PHEVs will require, among other factors, better and cheaper batteries; a smart, interactive grid; and favorable public policies.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.



New York State Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Initiative: Richard Drake

Web Sites

This comprehensive site offers a lengthy page on hybrids, a detailed article on China's BYD venture, and much else.

A123 Systems
In January 2009 this leading battery manufacturer announced its application for $1.84 billion in loans under a U.S. Department of Energy program, to build the first U.S plant for mass manufacture of lithium-ion batteries. Want to convert your hybrid to a plug-in? See A123's Hymotion converter kit.

Better Place
This company is pioneering the commercialization of infrastructure for electric vehicles, focusing on "charging spots, battery switching stations, and software that automates the experience."

California Cars Initiative
This nonprofit startup of entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists, and consumers is promoting 100+mpg PHEVs. It focuses on public policy and technology development, and on building buyer demand.

Electric Power Research Institute
See EPRI's Electric Transportation program, its two-volume Environmental Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, and its work on the grid, including a downloadable report, The Green Grid.

MIT Technology Review
The Review's free e-newsletter reports breaking news across many fields. See comprehensive Energy pages for an interactive primer on electric cars, stories on Toyota's plans for an optional Prius plug-in battery pack, GM's plans to build batteries for its electric cars ("battery manufacturing will be central to its business going forward"), a smart grid, and much more. And see its May–June 2008 cover story on "The Gas-Free Car of the Future."

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority fosters innovative technologies. See extensive information on power systems programs, a summary of work on PHEVs, and research into the impacts of PHEVs on the grid.

Plug-in Hybrids
A plain-English site by crusaders aiming to build understanding of and demand for PHEVs.

U.S. Department of Energy
DOE has invested in development and demonstration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Argonne National Lab has the lead for simulation, validation, and laboratory evaluation of PHEVs; see its pages on hybrid electric vehicles, batteries, and other transportation subjects. The National Renewable Energy Lab is developing PHEV and advanced power electronics. See, too, DOE's work on the smart grid and its reports on the adequacy of electricity supplies, the smart grid, and energy storage.


Bryce R. 2009. Energy Tribune speaks with Bill Reinert, designer of the Toyota Prius. Energy Tribune (February 2).
A deeply thoughtful, informed, pessimistic view of prospects for advances in batteries, PHEVs, and the grid.

Moore B. 2008. Short supply: American-made electric car batteries. EV World.com (December 7).

Romm J. 2008. The car of the future is here. Salon.com (January 22).
Note Romm's incisive explanation of the challenge of developing adequate battery technology. And see his blog.

Vlasic B. 2009. Detroit goes for electric cars, but will drivers? The New York Times (January 10).
This story is accompanied by many links, a slideshow, and video.


Mark S. Duvall, PhD

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
e-mail | web site

Mark Duvall heads EPRI's electric transportation R&D, including electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicle programs and related advanced infrastructure. He also oversees EPRI's partnerships and collaborations with electric utilities; automotive companies; local, state, and federal agencies; national laboratories; and academic research institutions. His work focuses on (1) plug-in hybrid electric vehicle research, development, and demonstrations in collaboration with major automotive manufacturers; (2) advanced battery system development and testing; (3) electric charging infrastructure; and (4) analysis of emissions associated with electric transportation technologies.

Duvall was principal development engineer at the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Center of the University of California, Davis. He has worked on advanced transportation since 1990 and has led the development of several prototype advanced vehicles. He holds BS and MS degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Davis, and a PhD in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.

Arthur Kressner

Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc.
e-mail | web site

As Con Ed's director of R&D, Power Supply, Arthur Kressner directs the development of technology for transmission, distribution, control center operations, substations, customer operations, and energy efficiency business units. The focus is development and demonstration of new power delivery equipment, software models, sensors, feasibility, and engineering studies.

Kressner served as Con Ed's chief chemical engineer and as plant manager of Arthur Kill and Ravenswood Power Generating Stations. He has played leadership roles in issues related to energy policy, energy efficiency, and customer end-use, and in national environmental and public health programs. He has participated in industry advisory groups, community boards, and regulatory panels.

Kressner recently coauthored a book on the application of lean management principles to the energy industry, and he has written extensively on energy efficiency, information technology, management, and computer modeling. An engineer, he holds a BA from Brooklyn Polytechnic and an MA from New York University.

Richard L. Drake, PE

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
e-mail | web site

As NYSERDA's program manager for Transportation & Power Systems R&D, Richard Drake directs a collaborative R&D program that comprises over 200 active projects and an annual budget of $15 million. Transportation focuses include alternate fuel, PHEV, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles; marine, transit, and high-speed rail technologies; and advanced transportation infrastructure systems. Power Systems focuses on advanced DG/CHP technologies, including fuel cells, microturbines, kinetic hydro, and energy storage.

Drake served as program manager of Energy Systems for Mechanical Technology Inc., where he managed technical and financial aspects of energy systems product development. Prior to that, he served as manager of energy engineering, Corporate Engineering, for Mohasco Corporation, where he led corporate energy policy development and managed energy-related capital expenditures.

Drake holds five patents. He earned a BSME from Clarkson College in Potsdam, NY, and an MBA from Union College, Schenectady, NY.

Christine Van Lenten

Christine Van Lenten has written about public policy issues and technical and scientific subjects for federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private sector firms.