14.1. Accelerating Innovation

There are over a million hybrid Toyota Prius vehicles on the road, and in Berkeley, California, it often seems that they are all parked on the same street. With only one model and a handful of colors, you need a distinctive bumper sticker to find yours. "Obama '08" does nothing to help here. "Support Your Right to Arm Bears" with a rifle-toting polar bear is a little better, but still not that unusual in these parts. "2B or D4" is more distinctive.[]

The current generation of hybrids makes its own electricity using a small generator under the hood. They have no impact on the demand for electricity from utilities. The next wave of fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will be different. A movie trailer for a scenario from the Union of Concerned Scientists (www.ucsusa.com) might be "Imagine a society with ten million electric cars. Suddenly, they all pull into their garages between 5:30 and 7:00, and plug in to recharge. Imagine the 160 new power plants we need to keep the lights on while this happens. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Drill, baby, drill!" Something has to give. In this case, the "something" is immediacy for the consumers of power. A simple timer system, spreading out the scheduled power over 10 night hours (allocated by last digit of street or IP address) reduces the number of power plants needed by an order of magnitude.

Electric vehicles are only part of the changing power scene. New suppliers using solar, wind, storage, or many other ...

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