Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle Charged by the Wind?

This post is an excerpt from the March 2012 issue of the ASES Wind Division Newsbrief edited by Megan Amsler, Small Wind Division member.

In 2008, Dr. John Patten decided to explore whether a Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7 wind turbine would generate enough electricity to supply a plug-in hybrid vehicle’s needs.

Dr. Patten is a professor at Western Michigan University, who had installed a Skystream 3.7 at Western Michigan University’s Engineering College in the summer of 2007.  At that location, on its 45 foot tall tower, the turbine generates between 1200 kWh and 1500 kWh annually.

Dr. Patten had his Toyota Prius modified to implement a Hymotion A123 Ion Battery Pack, which has a capacity of 5 kWh, has a driving range of 20-25 miles on electricity, and maximum charge time of 5.5 hours.

Dr. Patten with his plug-in hybrid
Dr. Patten with his plug-in hybrid

During the year-long study from December 2008 through December 2009, monthly turbine output was monitored and overlaid with the electricity needs of the plug-in hybrid vehicle to determine if the output from the turbine was enough to provide for the car’s appetite.  Battery temperature and the length of trips were also monitored.  The aggregate output of the Skystream 3.7 during the study was 1442 kWh. The electricity needs of the plug-in hybrid Prius during that timeframe was 1352 kWh.

Interestingly, at times when the ambient temperature was higher, there was less wind generated electricity. However, the warmer temperatures enabled the car to travel much greater distances in electric mode, while the colder temperatures reduced the battery efficiency, but tended to result in greater wind generation.  Research has continued through the winter of 2012, where testing on the performance impacts of pre-heating the battery has taken place.  Table1 below shows the results of cold weather performance coupled with different pre-heating temperatures of the battery.

Wind-TableProfessor Patten is an ASES member and participant in the Small Wind Division. To join an ASES Division, you first need to be an ASES Professional-level member. Click here to join and then add up to nine (9) divisions of your choice.

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