Nav: Home

Carnegie Mellon researchers urge development of low carbon electricity

April 25, 2008

PITTSBURGH--Carnegie Mellon University's Constantine Samaras and Kyle Meisterling report that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming, but the benefits are highly dependent on how the electricity system changes in the coming decades.

In a recent article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the authors urge federal legislators and the electricity industry to increase the deployment of low-carbon electricity technology to power plug-in hybrid vehicles.

"Plug-in hybrids represent an opportunity to reduce oil consumption, leverage next-generation biofuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The types of power plants installed in the next two decades will not only affect how much we can reduce emissions from electricity, but also from vehicles if we plan on plug-in hybrids playing a substantial role," said Samaras, a Ph.D. candidate in Carnegie Mellon's departments of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) and Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE).

"We are finding that even when the impacts from producing batteries are included, plug-in hybrids still produce slightly less greenhouse gases than hybrids that run only on gasoline. But plug-in hybrids could cut emissions in half if they are charged with electricity from low-carbon sources," said Meisterling, a Ph.D. candidate in EPP.

Already, automakers have discussed plans to develop plug-in hybrids and California recently ruled that the auto industry must sell nearly 60,000 plug-ins statewide by 2014. With the price of gas heading beyond $4 per gallon, interest in alternative vehicles continues to grow. Samaras and Meisterling also say plug-ins may allow greater use of the limited supply of biofuels because they use a lot less gasoline than regular cars.

The researchers found that life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from plug-in hybrids are about one-third less than a traditional gasoline-powered car. They also argue that with coal-fired electricity, emissions from plug-in hybrids are still lower than traditional cars, but are higher than ordinary hybrids. The call for increased low-carbon electricity supplies comes at a time when the U.S. electricity industry plans to build 154 new coal plants in the next 24 years to replace older plants being phased out.

"The type of power plants we build today will be around for a long time. We need to begin developing policies that allow us to make big dents in oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions," said Samaras, the recipient of a prestigious Teresa Heinz Fellowship for Environmental Research, which she is using to analyze public policies involving plug-in hybrids and low-carbon electricity.

Additional research support for this project came from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Climate Decision Making Center and the Electric Power Research Institute, and from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation through Carnegie Mellon's Electricity Industry Center.

-end-

About Carnegie Mellon: Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix of programs in engineering, computer science, robotics, business, public policy, fine arts and the humanities. More than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration, and innovation. A small student-to-faculty ratio provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and professors. While technology is pervasive on its 144-acre Pittsburgh campus, Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities for the world-renowned programs in its College of Fine Arts. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Silicon Valley, Calif., and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia and Europe. For more, see www.cmu.edu.

Carnegie Mellon University
Engineering a new cancer detection tool
E. coli may have potentially harmful effects but scientists in Australia have discovered this bacterium produces a toxin which binds to an unusual sugar that is part of carbohydrate structures present on cells not usually produced by healthy cells.
Engineering heart valves for the many
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the University of Zurich announced today a cross-institutional team effort to generate a functional heart valve replacement with the capacity for repair, regeneration, and growth.
Geosciences-inspired engineering
The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today's modern world.
Engineering success
Academically strong, low-income would-be engineers get the boost they need to complete their undergraduate degrees.
HKU Engineering Professor Ron Hui named a Fellow by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering
Professor Ron Hui, Chair Professor of Power Electronics and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, has been named a Fellow by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, one of the most prestigious national academies.
Engineering a better biofuel
The often-maligned E. coli bacteria has powerhouse potential: in the lab, it has the ability to crank out fuels, pharmaceuticals and other useful products at a rapid rate.
Pascali honored for contributions to engineering education
Raresh Pascali, instructional associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at the University of Houston, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Ross Kastor Educator Award.
Scaling up tissue engineering
A team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A.
Engineering material magic
University of Utah engineers have discovered a new kind of 2-D semiconducting material for electronics that opens the door for much speedier computers and smartphones that also consume a lot less power.
Engineering academic elected a Fellow of the IEEE
A University of Bristol academic has been elected a Fellow of the world's largest and most prestigious professional association for the advancement of technology.

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.

Now Playing: Radiolab

Truth Trolls
Today, a third story of folks relentlessly searching for the truth. But this time, the truth seekers are an unlikely bunch... internet trolls.


Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking School
For most of modern history, humans have placed smaller humans in institutions called schools. But what parts of this model still work? And what must change? This hour, TED speakers rethink education.TED speakers include teacher Tyler DeWitt, social entrepreneur Sal Khan, international education expert Andreas Schleicher, and educator Linda Cliatt-Wayman.