Nuclear powers test fleet of plug-in vehicles

13 September 2007

Electricite de France (EdF), the world's biggest nuclear power generator has joined with Toyota, the world's biggest car company, to advance plug-in hybrid vehicle technology.

EdF will run a fleet of four Toyota Prius hybid cars which have been adapted to draw electric power from mains supply. The public road trial, which will involve the every-day driving of EdF staff, will begin this autumn in France and could be expanded to other European countries in future.

Experience gained from the project should help the pair develop Toyota's existing prototype technology to expand the use of electricity in transportation.

Current hybrid vehicles are primarily fuelled by traditional petrol or diesel available at filling stations. The action of an internal combustion engine and regenerative braking charges a battery, which can then power a motor to move the car at low speeds typical of urban driving. At higher speeds or high rates of acceleration the engine takes over. Together the two power modes enable Toyota's Prius to travel around 15-17 km per litre of fuel, an efficiency gain of around 25% on internal combustion engines alone.

However, the ability to plug a parked hybrid vehicle into mains supply for battery charges would mean that most short trips could be undertaken solely on electric power with no emissions from the vehicle itself. Furthermore, using grid electricity would means a car could be partly powered by low-carbon technologies like hydro, nuclear power or wind.

EdF owns and operates 58 nuclear power reactors in France, providing 78% of the country's electricity.

EdF and Toyota said they have developed an innovative charging and invoicing system, with which each test vehicle is equipped. This system is compatible with a "new generation of public charging stations" which the companies said would reduce the cost to the consumer.

Masatami Takimoto of Toyota told journalists that the test cars could be recharged in 90 minutes.

EdF President and CEO Pierre Gadonneix said electricity was a "competitive and ecologically-viable source of energy for European motorists." Adding that charging plug-in vehicles at night would mean virtually all the the vehicle's power would have come from nuclear plants.

Further information

Electricite de France

WNA's Transport and the Hydrogen Economy information paper