Ines and Toyota launch a solar station for Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles

The National Institute of Solar Energy (Ines) and Toyota today launched a solar station for Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHV) close to Chambéry (France). Resulting from the collaboration between the CEA-Ines and Toyota, and with the support of Ademe, this experimental platform prefigures a new type of future mobility. This launch marks the beginning of a large study on the energy convergence between solar energy, building and transport. Ten Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrids will be tested by using photovoltaic park demonstrators located at Ines and CEA-Grenoble (solar charging stations, individual houses equipped with photovoltaic modules) in order to maximize the solar energy contribution and to minimize the needs in fossil fuel. This project highlights the strong involvement of the CEA in the fields of zero emission transport, solar energy and low energy building.

Statistic studies show that in France half of the population drives less than 16 km (1) per day for commuting between home and work. Besides, a photovoltaic panel of 1 m2 can provide in France on a yearly basis the necessary energy to run a PHV for 1 000 km in pure electric mode. It is therefore possible to design buildings with solar panels installed on the roof top and partly covering the household electrical power needs as well as the householders' needs in mobility. In that sense, one can speak of convergence between solar photovoltaic energy — building — transport.

This project implemented by the CEA-Ines and Toyota will enable to explore these convergences leading to a global energy system optimization. The aim is to identify the possibilities in terms of locations to collect energies, energy storage and optimizing the use of electrical grid.

The first step will consist in the validation of the aforementioned figures by measuring over a year the production of solar panels and the consumption of PHV according to different trip patterns. Then, the study will include a forecast for future electricity purchase tariffs from electrical grid while giving priority to the consumption of locally-produced photovoltaic electricity as well as to the resale of photovoltaic electricity production surplus. Finally, a global analysis of this operation will enable to quantify the technological and economic benefits achieved and then to simulate the potentials in case of a large-scale rollout.

The solar station is made up of a 150 m² photovoltaic panel and twelve charging stands installed at Ines site where the Toyota Prius plug-In hybrids allocated to researchers can be charged. "This demonstration operation will enable to highlight the relevance of charging electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles via photovoltaic systems", explained Olivier Wiss, project manager of "Solar Mobility" at Ines. The solar station at Ines has a potential charging capacity equivalent to 135 000 kilometers per year (150 Wh/km). In order to maximize the charging from solar energy while integrating the user's requirements, simultaneous needs, battery state of charge and state of health, solar energy availability, electrical grid constraints, electricity pricing variations, the whole will be controlled by an intelligent Energy Management System. The objective of this system is to achieve an optimum planning of charging during the day.

Without this system, only 20 to 30% of the produced photovoltaic energy would be converted to driving kilometers. « The Plug-in Hybrid technology is a key driver on our road towards sustainable mobility », said Koei Saga, Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC). « Based on Toyota's full hybrid powertrain, PHV is the most practical way of increasing the use of electricity for personal transport today. In this context, it is essential to consider the use of all sources of energy for electricity and pay a special attention to low-carbon sustainable sources such as solar energy. That's why we are delighted to take part in this pioneer project with Ines in France. »

For Toyota, this experimentation is part of a global project involving 600 Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles deployed in Europe, Japan, the US and other countries, which aims to prepare the launch of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid on the global and European market by 2012. Toyota's PHV is "the best of both worlds": for short distances, it can be driven as an electric vehicle, resulting in a silent, zero CO2 emissions drive. For longer distances, the PHV works as a conventional hybrid vehicle, providing all the benefits of Toyota's full hybrid technology, including low emissions and fuel consumption, and excellent driving performance. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid is equipped with a lithium-ion battery and emits only 59g CO2 per km in the New European Driving Cycle (2).For ADEME, this project is part of its "research demonstrators" programme, whose purpose is to test future technologies allowing the reduction of greenhouse gases. The automotive industry faces major challenges, requiring alternatives to conventional internal combustion engines. This programme is one of the eleven projects selected in a call for interest in the Demonstrators Fund on low-emission vehicles launched by ADEME in 2008.

This experiment in real-world conditions is essential to validate not only the feasibility of the involved technologies but also their adoption by daily users, and to prepare the automobile to smart electrical grids of tomorrow and buildings of the future.


(1)INSEE 2006 figure

(2) CO2 emissions of Prius Plug-in Hybrid are measured according to the new official international regulation for plug-in hybrid electric powertrains, as adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.