Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles

By John Addison (1/28/08). In the future, utilities will pay you to plug-in your vehicle. Millions will plug-in their electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and fuel cell vehicles (FCV) at night when electricity is cheap, then plug-in during the day when energy is expensive and sell those extra electrons at a profit. Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology is a bi-directional electric grid interface that allows a plug-in to take energy from the grid or put it back on the grid. V2G helps solve the major problem that demand for electricity is high during the day when everything from industrial plants to air conditioning is running full blast and then excess electricity is wasted at night.

Several early models of passenger vehicles have enough energy stored in advanced batteries to power several homes for hours. Hybrid electric buses and heavy trucks could power many homes or a school or a hospital in an emergency. Recent announcements demonstrate that electric utilities and some auto makers want to make V2G a reality.

The Smart Grid Consortium, established in December 2007 by Xcel Energy, will select a community of approximately 100,000 residents to become a Smart Grid City using V2G. Potential benefits include lower utility bills for residents, smarter energy management, better grid reliability, improved energy efficiency, and support for EVs and PHEVs.

Current consortium members include Accenture, Current Group, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Ventyx. Smart Grid City will use a realtime high-speed two-way communication throughout the distribution grid. Smart meters and substations will be integral. Installation will be made of thousands of in-home control devices and the necessary systems to fully automate home energy use.

The current electrical grid is poorly designed for distributed generation of power. Individuals and businesses lose months and connect fees when they add solar and other forms of renewable energy to the grid. Smart Grid City will easily support up to 1,000 easily dispatched distributed generation technologies including PHEVs, distributed batteries, solar and wind.

In addition to Smart Grid City, another major EV/V2G initiative is unfolding.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Project Better Place have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a mass-market for electric vehicles in Israel which is an excellent target market: it has a sales tax exceeding 60% for gasoline vehicles, gasoline costs over $6 per gallon, most driving fits the range of electric vehicles, and the government strongly supports energy independence.

Project Better Place plans to deploy a massive network of battery charging spots. Driving range will no longer be an obstacle, because customers will be able to plug their cars into charging units in any of the 500,000 charging spots in Israel. An on-board computer system will indicate to the driver the remaining power supply and the nearest charging spot. Nissan, through its joint venture with NEC, has created a battery pack that meets the requirements of the electric vehicle and will produce it in mass volume. The entire framework will go through a series of tests starting this year.

The Israeli model is different than the rapid battery swap model that Better Place has promoted as better than “dangerous” fast charging. For the future, Renault is working on development of exchangeable batteries for continuous mobility.

As part of the solution framework, the Israeli government will provide tax incentives to customers, Renault will supply the electric vehicles, and Project Better Place will construct and operate an Electric Recharge Grid across the entire country. Electric vehicles will be available for customers in 2011.

Just as wireless service providers offer smartphones at discounted prices, Project Better Place will offer discounted electric vehicles with usage pricing plans. Pre-paid 600 kilometer cards are one approach that is suggested. A free car on a four-year plan in France is another idea mentioned by Shai Agassi, CEO of Project Better Place. Annual use of an EV should be less than the average cost of $8,000 per year for using a gasoline in many countries including the USA.

Shai Agassi predicts that Israel will have over 100,000 electric vehicles in use by 2010. This will be five percent of the nation’s vehicle population. The number represents a significant step towards energy independence.

Project Better Place has already received over $200 million of venture capital investment. Shai Agassi presented their new business model at Davos. Mr. Agassi was an executive at SAP that lead the software company to being the enterprise software leader ahead of Oracle, IBM, and all others. Agassi’s Davos Insights

Success with V2G would be a double win for electric utilities. Millions of EVs and PHEVs would expand the sale of electricity as an alternative to oil. Utilities could avoid building more dirty peaking power plants. Instead they could buy back electricity at peak hours from vehicle drivers. Clean Fleet Article It would be a financial win-win for all.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report with archives of over 60 articles and reports about electric vehicles, V2G, biofuels, fleet success and more.

5 replies
  1. Martin Bromley
    Martin Bromley says:

    As someone not too up on the economics of battery storage, I wonder what the real selling point of V2G would be.What sorts of situations would cause a regular car user to wish to drain their car’s power during the day by selling it to the grid. Perhaps one might fully charge one’s car overnight, and then, once one has driven to and from work, sell the bulk of what’s remaining back to the grid (leaving a little behind for an emergency in the evening)…?Presumably V2G is in some way better than large-scale battery storage (which I’m guessing would benefit from better control and economies of scale). Does it, in essence, come down to the fact that V2G takes advantage of battery storage that would exist anyway, as opposed to requiring batteries specifically for the purpose of storing night-time electricity?

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I guess I’m your typical V2G user (provider). I have two cars, one my wife drives to work daily, the other only gets used on Sunday’s when I need to get to places the train doesn’t go. I would be delighted if my car served some secondary and possibly profitable purpose throughout the week.No doubt there are others who who use their car on weekdays, but rest on Sundays. Add up all these bits and the number of garaged cars at any one time is remarkably consistent if averaged over many thousands.Carlos

  3. walt the memecaster
    walt the memecaster says:

    other outputs for extra juice…your computer for working in the park (“telecommuting” with a view), running mobile operations like bike camps for the more mobile population- I’ve seen threads for this and “homeless” remediations projects. Remember its PURE D.C. 99,999 ripple free. just what the computers demand.And yes, buy cheap (night) sell high (day) and sell local (remember there are HUGE line losses in the common interstate grids- more so in daytime high power draw hours. And there are other ways to “charge” My dreams are towards a mobile workout station, aka bike…which saves the added time and expense of a gym with that horrid music and all their smells (chemicals, not the organic sweat)…so I charge with bioavailable callories, and sell the exercise instead of rent it.Maybe I’m too hippie/spartan for this brave new labor reduced world?

  4. joe
    joe says:

    Why not ake it all the way and spend 1 year of Iraq on retrofitting every home in America with nano solar. Most days you make more than you use – put that back into the grid. Every bit you put back would get you credits for the days you need to draw FROM the grid. Then give us all a hydrogen cracker (solor powered) and run our cars and supplement our homes with the hydrogen. It's better solar transfer/storage than a battery. Then we are done! No more big energy!! No more Big OIL – think of the extra money stimulating the economy!Let the Interstate trucks and farm equipment stay on oil until the residential is done and slowly begin to move them as their fleets age out.

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