Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Google Does Philanthropy Right

Google's latest philanthropic efforts are impressive to my eyes.

Google is attempting taking actual direct, steps to attempt to jump start plug-in hybrid cars, and is applying some of the creative genius that they company is famous for, not just throwing money at existing charities.

First, Google installed Solar Panels on the roofs of all of it's campus buildings. The panels will generate roughly 1/3rd of Google's total power needs. This is a normal sort of step and although commendable, it's pretty pedestrian for a company trying to either look or be green.'s (the philanthropic arm of Google) latest program is aimed at promoting plug-in Hybrid cars. Plug-in hybrids differ from normal hybrid's in that they can charge the batteries directly from a wall socket power source instead of charging only from the gas half of the hybrid engine. While a normal hybrid can get very good mileage, it still requires gasoline for every mile that it is driven.

A plug-in hybrid can satisfy all normal driving without burning any gasoline. The gas part of the engine is only needed for extended trips.

Normal Hybrids are more aimed at allowing car companies to meet federal miles per gallon regulations than they are at solving the global energy problems. Don't get me wrong, hybrids are practical and make a very positive contribution to the broader energy problems.

Plug-in Hybrids are a much more direct attack on the energy problem. They not only increase the average miles per gallon, but they can eliminate the gallons completely from the equation for normal driving patterns.

And Google's additional twist is that the plug in hybrid cars can act as batteries for the electrical power network, allowing excess electrical energy to be stored and reused rather than discarded. The power network currently does not have an effective mechanism to store power for peak needs so it has to over generate.

Millons of Plug In Hybrid cars could store energy in their batteries during off peak times, and feed some of that energy back into the power grid at peak times.

I don't have any clue if enough energy could be stored in cars to really effect power distribution. But, I give Google kudos for attacking the energy problem with a combination of pragmatism and innovation.

Corporate philanthropy for our leading Corporate innovators should be about more than throwing money at existing charity organizations. They should employ some of their most valuable assets (their creativity) not just their money.

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