Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Electric Cars Could Help the Grid

For all the talk about the impact electric cars will have on utilities, there’s also the potential for them to be assets.
It’s called vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, meaning electric cars providing power back to the grid.
“It really becomes a different type of demand response mechanism,” explained Brian Sloboda, senior program manager at NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network.
“Traditionally with demand response we turn off things inside the home—HVAC or water heaters. With this you’re using the energy storage capabilities of the car to help put electricity onto the grid, just as you would with a PV panel or small wind turbine.”
Sloboda said V2G won’t happen overnight, and that there’s a lot to be done.
“It will take a great deal of work by utilities and auto manufacturers, and a great deal of understanding by the consumer for something like this to become a reality. Right now, the infrastructure just doesn’t exist,” Sloboda said.
But a recent report by CRN and its strategic partners at E Source finds the potential is there. The average car is parked 90 percent of the time, and if enough electric cars are concentrated in particular areas, “you could have a nice generation asset,” Sloboda said.
“What some people have theorized is a system where the utility would have a deal with the car owner, just as they have a deal now to turn off your air conditioner,” he explained. The car battery would be run down to a certain level, with the owner receiving some type of compensation. Additionally, car owners would have to form relationships with not only their home utility, but also the utility serving where they work.
Sloboda said it will be at least two or three years—“if not more”—before V2G becomes a reality.
“A large part of it is going to do with how many electric vehicles are out there. Sales have been very slow,” Sloboda said. There are also concerns about voiding the warranty on a $10,000 battery, “without a doubt the most expensive component on that car.”
Also, there will have to be an unprecedented level of cooperation between utilities and automakers to work together. As Sloboda noted, “It’s something they’ve never had to do before.”