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Google gets into green transport policy

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Noted bot-vs-bot information nexus Google has joined Prince Charles in swerving away from core business to offer environment strategies.

The internet ad-men have had a scratch of their heads, and reckon they've got the answers to green transportation and energy use. To be specific, the Google flavour of green involves plug-in hybrid cars, rooftop solar panels and smarter power grids.

A plug-in hybrid, as opposed to a normal hybrid car like the successful Toyota Prius, has a bigger battery pack able to store more electrical power - and this larger battery can be plugged into a power socket to charge up. The plug-in hybrid operates "primarily on electricity for the first 20-40 miles ... and since more than 70 per cent of Americans drive less than 33 miles per day, many will not use any gasoline in their daily commutes," according to Google. Longer trips would still be possible, drawing on the car's combustion engine.

"Integration of hybrid cars with the electric power grid could reduce gasoline consumption by 85 billion gallons per year," the company adds.

"That’s equal to a 27 per cent reduction in total U.S. greenhouse gases, 52 per cent displacement potential of U.S. oil imports, and $270 billion avoided in gasoline expenses."

Of course, it might throw a bit of a load on the electricity grid, which could easily translate to increased carbon emissions from power plants. Google reckon that there won't be a need for any new plants, though.

"Even without adding any new power plants, the existing U.S. electrical grid has sufficient capacity to fully fuel three quarters of the nation’s 217 million passenger vehicles, assuming the average car drives 33 miles per day," say the ad-men.

This would be because plug-in hybrids would be charged up mainly at night, when demand for electricity is low and existing powerplants have spare capacity.

Google also reckons that "Vehicle to Grid," (V2G) tech would be a good idea. The firm said that plug-in hybrids parked with juice in their batteries at times of high demand could sell power back into the grid, and utility companies wouldn't need to fire up dirty standby generation plants. They think that plug-in hybrid owners might make $2-3,000 a year like this, though they'd presumably have to drive home from work burning petrol because their batteries were flat.

In fact, on the face of it V2G would appear to transfer workday peak burden from utility-company standby generators out of town to car engines in the cities, at least in the case of daily commuters. The standby power would have to be pretty dirty for that to make sense. Maybe the Googlers are on about cars which do an average of ten miles or less each day, and would be able to spare some juice as well as do the day's work. In that case, though, why not just leave your spare battery capacity at home rather than lugging it back and forth every day?

It's all very puzzling.

Google are also very proud of their rooftop solar panels, which deliver "30 per cent of Google's peak electricity demand in our solar powered buildings at our Mountain View, CA headquarters."

Much more from Google here

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