As electric vehicles have slowly began to transition to the mainstream, some have worried about their impact on the electric grid. As more real world use data becomes available, it’s looking more and more like those concerns were over blown. This leads to the next question, since EV’s are not quite the power grid burden we expected, can we somehow create a system that allows electric cars to benefit the larger power structure? This has become the next big endeavor for EV proponents, and up to this point, we are seeing a great deal of promise from emerging technologies.
The most promising of these is certainly vehicle to grid technology. Otherwise known as V2G, vehicle to grid presents a mechanism to meet key requirements of the electric power system by designating the EV’s to act as a form of demand response. When communicating with the power grid as an ancillary service, EV’s can provide frequency regulation by selling electricity through either delivering this power into the grid or throttling their charging rate. This can be looked at as a version of battery to grid power, but applied to vehicles.
In essence, when the grid requires more power to withstand a surge, that power will be tapped from EV’s, rather than traditional power plants. Considering that a car is parked, on average, 95% of the time, the flow of electricity to power lines could bring considerable value per car to utilities over the course of a year.
The key to realizing economic value from V2G is creating a symbiotic relationship with the larger power structure. Once the future smart grids are sophisticated enough to do this on a large scale basis, electric vehicles could help make the system even more reliable. Beyond ancillary services, the future of V2G also includes using the vehicles as a dispersed energy storage for intermittent, but renewable resources, such as wind and solar.
For this to happen though, EV batteries must improve, along with our centralized grid structure. V2G presents complications for the individual batteries, including degradation due to constant cycling, costs related to implementing bidirectional power flow capability (energy storage that can both feed and take power from the grid), metering issues, and complication related to energy guarantees The service life and reliability of batteries could be reduced under such strain, so drivers need an incentive to provide supplementary power to the grid.
Because of the cost premiums related to electric vehicle ownership and power systems interaction, lower EV operational expenses will be a major market driver for innovation and growth. Fortunately, with the gains we are making in energy storage tech, this will likely become less of an issue when V2G reaches the point where it becomes a viable, widescale option.
Electric vehicles are expected to make up close to 7% of all global automobile sales by 2020 (an estimated 6.6 million units sold in that year alone), so the future of EV is bright. Vehicle-to-grid is not only an important supplement to this growth, it is essential.
Along with the ability for technology to provide very fast regulation, it also contributes to environmental protection, system reliability, and oil independence. EV, combined with V2G technology, can provide a more seamless transition to the emerging sustainable energy economy, and by doing so, greatly increasing energy security benefits for the entire population.