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Plugging in on Pecan Street

Watch out for the Chevy Volt traffic jams.

by on Dec.17, 2012

Participants in program operate a number of battery cars, notably Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids.

“This is one of the few places where you can see a Chevrolet Volt traffic jam,” laughs Scott Hinson, the lab director for Pecan Street Inc., an alternative energy project in Austin, Texas.

More precisely, Pecan Street is part of the one square mile Mueller neighborhood in Austin, Texas that has become the heart of an ambitious project aimed at not only testing out alternative technologies – such as plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, as well as “smart grid” electric distribution – but also to run an incredibly detailed analysis of how effective such technologies really are at reducing energy consumption.

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The project has drawn the support of not only General Motors but a wide range of utilities and high-tech firms, such as computer maker Dell and chipmaking giant Intel. The U.S. Department of Energy has so far kicked in $10.4 million, private partners another $14 million.  But the critical piece of the puzzle has been getting local residents to sign up.

“The project is focused squarely on consumers, enlisting real people to gather data from these homes to help structure next generation energy systems,” Brewster McCracken, the project’s executive director, explained in a statement.


GM, ABB Plan 2012 Test Using Volt Batteries as Smart Grid Backup

“Near-new” batteries could prevent blackouts, level alternative energy sources.

by on Jul.20, 2011

Used Chevy Volt batteries could eventually help prop up the nation's creaky electrical grid.

If all goes according to plan, General Motors will be producing tens of thousands of plug-in hybrids annually in the coming years.  So, what to do with the batteries when it comes time to sent vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt to the scrapyard?

Even after a decade of use, the lithium-ion battery pack in the typical Volt should have 70% of its capacity left, according to Pablo Valencia, GM’s senior manager for battery lifecycle management.  And that means that even as the old Volt is melted down for scrap, those batteries could find new life propping up the nation’s electrical grid.

Starting next year, GM will partner with energy systems giant ABB to begin testing the use of Volt batteries as an energy storage solution that could serve a variety of purposes from preventing blackouts to helping level out the ups-and-downs of alternative energy sources like wind and solar.

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“With 33 batteries, I’d be able to give you an uninterruptible power supply to approximately 50 houses for up to four hours during a blackout,” explained Valencia, during a teleconference briefing from the Plug-In Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.