Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrids to Participate in SmartGridCity Project

Toyota has announced that it will contribute ten plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHV) to participate in Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity research project this coming March.

In an October 20 press release, Toyota said “The vehicles will be the focus of an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the University of Colorado at Boulder Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a new joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.”

Last year, Xcel Energy announced its plan to create the first fully integrated smart grid system in Boulder, Colorado. Xcel’s smart grid initiative will offer a wide range of “smart” technologies designed to deliver environmental, operational and financial benefits to consumers.

Boulder was chosen as the test market for the new system based on a number of factors. In addition to geographical considerations, Boulder is home to the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado. The NIST is already heavily involved in a number of other small-scale, federally funded smart grid projects. Toyota is a founding member of the leadership council for the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI).

Boulder also provides access to all necessary grid components upon which Xcel’s current project depends. For Toyota, the selection of Boulder as the test market offers the added benefits of monitoring and accessing how well their first-generation lithium-ion auto battery performs in high altitudes and cold temperatures.

Toyota Motor Sales group vice president of advanced product strategy and product planning, Chris Hostetter said, “Future customers will have high expectations for these emerging technologies. Demonstration programs like this will ensure that the vehicles we bring to market will not just meet customer expectations, but exceed them.”

Participants hope to glean valuable data on vehicle performance and user’s behavioral patterns, including driving and battery charging patters as well as how to best structure the interaction between consumers and electric utility providers.

Xcel Energy’s regional vice president, Jay Herrmann says, “We know that PHVs coupled with smart charging techniques can reduce carbon emissions. Partnerships like this can bring us closer to delivering new solutions that can conserve energy, save natural resources and reduce dependence on foreign oil.”

Along with Xcel Energy, other partners in the SmartGridCity project include Accenture, Current Group, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Ventyx, GridPoint, OSI Soft and a number of other private and public entities.

Early next year, Toyota plans to unveil a demonstration fleet of Prius PHV’s in the U.S. The fleet will consist of 150 vehicles including the ten assigned to the SmartGridCity project.

The new Prius plug-in hybrids have an estimated electric-only range of only 12 miles. At that point the Prius PHV switches over to gasoline power and operates like the current non-plug-in hybrid version.

Boulder homeowners are invited to complete an online survey through the organization’s Website in order to be considered for participation in the project.

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