Electric Car Batteries May Cost Too Much For Energy Grid Storage

 

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The idea of using electric cars to store energy for the power grid is a good one, I think. Unfortunately, it may be too expensive at this time to make any sense, according to one recent cost analyst. The same high cost problems that have hindered electric cars in the past mean it may not make sense for the future even beyond 2020, unless the costs come down.

Then again, advancements in battery technology seem to be happening on a daily basis, so maybe it doesn’t make sense today, but tomorrow could be a different story.

The analysis was done by Black and Veatech, an engineering, construction, and energy consultation company. Energy storage is vital for future technologies like wind and solar power, so energy can be stored during times of high output and low demand. They compared current storage methods: compressed air , flywheels, pumped hydro, and sodium sulfur batteries.

Sodium sulfur batteries are currently used for grid energy storage due to their inexpensive nature and high energy density. These are not the same kinds of batteries used in cars though, because they tend to run at temperatures between 300 and 350 degrees Celsius (572 to 662 degrees F).

Unfortunately, this analysis does not compare the potential storage capacity of say, 1000 small electric car batteries in 1000 separate cars in terms of cost compared to energy. I mean, since the batteries will be there anyway, might as well use them if needed, right? They are already paid for, and should demand increase during times of low output could be used to supply power. But compared to compressed air energy storage, sodium sulfur batteries don’t appear all that efficient.

Compressed air energy storage (CAES) is where excess energy is used to power air compressors, which fill a high pressure tank for temporary storage. When the energy is needed, the air is released to power air turbines, putting the power back into the grid. This… sounds like a better idea than batteries.

Pumped hydro uses the same idea, though less efficiently. It pumps water from a low reservoir to a high one, and then gravity takes effect, pulling the water down hill and turning turbines. Flywheels also may offer better energy storage, as they are essentially just giant wheels spinning in a vacuum until excess energy is needed.

This isn’t the first time batteries have been declared “too expensive” though. This is why people are working on making them better. But we should be open to all options, and any technology that doesn’t use toxic  minerals we need dig up, transport, and process is all right by me.

Source: Earth2Tech | Image: Black and Veatech





About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • dustin slade

    Nikola Tesla solved these problems 100 years ago. Wireless transmission of power. In 1901, he was building Wardenclyffe Tower. ‘It was intended for commercial trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting, and to demonstrate the transmission of power without interconnecting wires. The project was initially backed by the wealthy J. P. Morgan. After learning that the power consumption could not be metered and Morgan, who could not foresee any financial gain from providing free electricity to everyone, balked.’ The ability to control and make money are the downfalls of the grid.

  • dustin slade

    Nikola Tesla solved these problems 100 years ago. Wireless transmission of power. In 1901, he was building Wardenclyffe Tower. ‘It was intended for commercial trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting, and to demonstrate the transmission of power without interconnecting wires. The project was initially backed by the wealthy J. P. Morgan. After learning that the power consumption could not be metered and Morgan, who could not foresee any financial gain from providing free electricity to everyone, balked.’ The ability to control and make money are the downfalls of the grid.

  • To clarify, current compressed air systems require natural gas turbines. They are actually more of an enhanced natural gas generation facility than an energy storage facility.

    An additional long term electric storage system is the VRB flow battery, which was installed on a Japanese wind farm several years ago. The 4 MW system cycled over 260,000 times in 3 years. A 200 kW system has been in place in Utah for over 5 years. The VRB system lasts for decades, has not emissions or toxic disposal issues, and can store hours of electricity – like pumped hydro – but can be installed anywhere. More information is available at http://www.Utility-Savings.com.

  • To clarify, current compressed air systems require natural gas turbines. They are actually more of an enhanced natural gas generation facility than an energy storage facility.

    An additional long term electric storage system is the VRB flow battery, which was installed on a Japanese wind farm several years ago. The 4 MW system cycled over 260,000 times in 3 years. A 200 kW system has been in place in Utah for over 5 years. The VRB system lasts for decades, has not emissions or toxic disposal issues, and can store hours of electricity – like pumped hydro – but can be installed anywhere. More information is available at http://www.Utility-Savings.com.

  • Chris O

    Quote: “Unfortunately, this analysis does not compare the potential storage capacity of say, 1000 small electric car batteries in 1000 separate cars in terms of cost compared to energy. I mean, since the batteries will be there anyway, might as well use them if needed, right?” Wrong! The number of discharge cycles batteries can do before wearing out is limited. This means tapping into car batteries for grid purposes isn’t free use of something that is already paid for but you are actually wearing the batteries out. So a mark-up for battery wear is in order when tapping into car based energy storage capacity.

  • Chris O

    Quote: “Unfortunately, this analysis does not compare the potential storage capacity of say, 1000 small electric car batteries in 1000 separate cars in terms of cost compared to energy. I mean, since the batteries will be there anyway, might as well use them if needed, right?” Wrong! The number of discharge cycles batteries can do before wearing out is limited. This means tapping into car batteries for grid purposes isn’t free use of something that is already paid for but you are actually wearing the batteries out. So a mark-up for battery wear is in order when tapping into car based energy storage capacity.

  • MichaelBryant

    when I invent compressed air combine cycle engines compressed air storage will become more practical.

  • MichaelBryant

    when I invent compressed air combine cycle engines compressed air storage will become more practical.

  • John

    The reason that electric cars are relevant to using wind and solar to generate electricity is NOT as an energy storage mechanism, but as a source of more flexible demand for electricity. You would not want to use the electricity in your car battery to send power back to the grid, but you might want to have your battery charged using the cheapest available electricity (and electricity would be cheapest when the wind is blowing strongest or the sun is brightest).

  • John

    The reason that electric cars are relevant to using wind and solar to generate electricity is NOT as an energy storage mechanism, but as a source of more flexible demand for electricity. You would not want to use the electricity in your car battery to send power back to the grid, but you might want to have your battery charged using the cheapest available electricity (and electricity would be cheapest when the wind is blowing strongest or the sun is brightest).