trying to create lines of communication that would be available to the major automakers. “The automobile industry is not used to talking to the electric utility industry,” Reicher said. “They need to learn how to talk to each other because, ultimately, plug-in vehicles are going to be very much about a grid that can not only support but also enhance the value of these vehicles.”

One major question is whether the electric grid is capable of supporting millions of vehicles. A study of the issue found that there is adequate capacity in California for approximately 4 million plug-in electric vehicles, if the vehicles are charged largely at night. A separate study by Jon Wellinghoff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that it would be economical not only for the grid to power plug-in hybrids but also for the vehicles to return power to the grid. For example, when Google launched its plug-in hybrids, it did an experiment with Pacific Gas and Electric. The company sent a signal to one of the cars over the Internet telling it to stop charging and start sending electricity back into the grid. “Fortunately, because all the press was there, it worked.”

Admittedly, said Reicher, that is just an experiment, and lots of debate surrounds the idea. But if millions of vehicles were available that could provide energy to the grid, the cars could produce as much as $2,000 to $4,000 per vehicle, according to Wellinghoff’s analysis. “Thus the notion of a cash-back hybrid,” Reicher said. Such a system would be especially well suited for California, because the wind tends to blow later in the day and not during peak demand. “But imagine if you had millions of vehicles that could in fact be charged with this wind-generated electricity and then through a more intelligent grid sell that electricity back. It’s a very exciting deployment.”

If renewable electricity cheaper than coal could be combined with plug-in vehicles, this country could have much more confidence about its ability to deal with the climate crisis and energy security, Reicher said. The nation would burn less coal and oil and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s a world that Google is excited about. It’s a world that Google is very committed to help create working with others.”

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