December 11, 2006

Off grid, off gas

I wrote about my dream vehicle about a year ago, and I'd still really like to see a three-cylinder diesel hybrid. I don't plan, however, to hold my breath.

I do, however, have a new reason for wanting one. There's been a lot of talk about plug-in hybrids lately. At first I wasn't entirely thrilled about the idea, as electricity generation and transmission isn't exactly efficient or clean, and more or less shifts load from oil to coal or nuclear power.

Then, at the Town Board's hearing on the renewable energy ordinance, someone said that he'd shifted to be more in favor of windmills because of the prospects of plug-in hybrids. A windmill, even a small one, could generate power for a car while it sat at home, and spare the use of gasoline or other power for charging the batteries.

I like that idea, though I'd like to take it one more step. People have already figured out how to set up a Prius as a backup generator for a house. (Some assembly and electrical experience required.) Standardizing that feature, and making it so that the car can generate power for a house, opens up new possibilities.

Normally, an off-grid house could generate power for its own use and be charging the batteries in the car. If the house needed more power, the car could be used as a generator as well as a consumer. (Yes, it'd have to be outside.) Done right, the car could become part of the household electrical system, rather than just an emergency backup. The cost of gasoline would still, I suspect, encourage homeowners to conserve, but they could have a lot less fear about going off-grid.

This probably pushes my dream car out another five to ten years, but at least it's a possibility.

Posted by simon at December 11, 2006 6:14 PM in
Note on photos