In a vehicle to grid experiment involving 100 electric car and truck owners in Europe and Enel, one of Europe’s largest utility companies, the owner of the electric Nissans earned an average of $1,530 a year from the program. — more than the cost of charging the vehicles for a year’s worth of use. The test also uncovered something equally surprising — vehicle to grid schemes may actually slow the rate at which lithium ion batteries degrade in normal use. Cash back and lower degradation? That’s music to any electric car owner’s ears.
Let’s not get out ahead of the story, however. The vast majority of electric cars are not equipped to participate in vehicle to grid or V2G usage. They are made to take electricity in to charge the battery, not send it back to the grid. Making a car compatible for V2G use may cost more, cancelling out some of the possible savings.
At the end of a one year trial period, researchers studied the data and concluded that if V2G is controlled by a “smart grid algorithm that is designed to minimize battery degradation, an [electric car] connected to this smart grid system can accommodate the demand of the power network with an increased share of clean renewable energy, but more profoundly that the smart grid is able to extend the life of the EV battery beyond the case in which there is no V2G.”
Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that the electricity consumption from EVs will rise from 6 terawatt-hours today to 1,800 terawatt-hours in 2040, or more than 40 percent of current U.S. electricity demand. Having all those cars connected during the majority of the day would permit grid operators to balance the electrical loads in the system, saving utility companies lots of money — money they would be willing to share with the owners of the cars making all this possible.
Making money from a car to offset some of the purchase price is an intriguing idea. Elon Musk has alluded to that possibility on more than one occasion, particularly once fully autonomous cars are in regular service. In theory, the owner could be driven to the office in the morning, then the car could spend the rest of the day ferrying toddlers to preschool, picking up pizzas, or just taking people where they need to go, all for a fee. The only flaw in the plan seems to be why anyone would want to have kids with sticky fingers and people eating pizza riding around inside a brand new luxury car that costs $120,000 or more. It’s possible Elon has not thought this idea through fully.
A year ago, JB Straubel, chief technology officer at Tesla and a fellow who knows a thing of two about batteries, told a gathering of people that he and Tesla have looked at V2G technology and decided it doesn’t work financially.
“If we want to actually send energy back from the car to the electricity grid, this gets much more complex. That’s something that I don’t see being a very economic or viable solution — perhaps ever, but certainly not in the near term. The additional wear and tear and degradation on your vehicle battery has a fairly high cost.
“Many of the people and small businesses looking at this today don’t take into account fully that degradation cost, and also the additional interconnection cost. Because if you interconnect your vehicle, you do have regulations that play a part. It has to interconnect in the same way that a solar system would on someone’s home or on a business, which have different standards so that they can protect line operators and people on the grid.”
This latest study claims Straubel is wrong, at least as far as degrading the batteries is concerned. But the interconnection issues remain. Is V2G an idea whose time will come? For now, it makes for interesting research but with only a small number of cars involved, it is a long way from going mainstream. Whether that ever happens is anyone’s guess.
Source: Think Progress Photo credit: The Drive