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Ten plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (EVs) have been added to a University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) study that has been examining user experiences and system interactions since September 2010 in the local smart grid environment.

The increase will allow researchers from CU-Boulder's Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) - a joint venture with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory - to gather data from a broader base of participants. The loan of Prius cars from Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. will expand the originally supplied fleet to a total of 28.

"RASEI's expertise in analyzing trends in consumer use of energy gives us an opportunity for research at this critical nexus of the electric utility and transportation industries as they transition to the future," says Michael Knotek, director of RASEI.

Study participants track their household electricity use through smart grid technology, while researchers monitor the performance of Toyota's first-generation lithium-ion drive battery at high altitudes, in cold weather and in mountainous terrain.

The cars are circulated in nine-week intervals among randomly selected households. Participants receive a "smart plug" from Xcel Energy that allows online monitoring of their car's electricity use and their home's energy consumption.

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