EV batteries, particularly if they're aggregated at a fleet or community level, can offer flexible storage capacity and potentially instantaneous power supply. This makes EVs well-suited to synchronize with intermittent energy resources like wind and solar.
In 2010, the University of Delaware completed the first commercial V2G demonstration in the country in collaboration with independent system operator PJM Interconnection. In July, General Motors deployed its first real-world demonstration of a solar-powered smart grid charging system at its manufacturing facility in White Marsh, Md.
Using GM's OnStar demand response program, the technology-based company TimberRock Energy Solutions is able to monitor the output at the solar-charging stations and start, slow or stop the amount of charge flowing to a fleet of Chevrolet Volts in order to benefit the grid. Depending on their state of charge, the vehicles can be used to sell energy back to the grid during periods of peak demand.
There's an app for that
While the system can deliver stored solar power back to the grid, it falls short of full bidirectional communication between the vehicles and the grid.
"I don't think it's necessary," said Paul Pebbles, global manager of electric vehicle and smart grid services for OnStar, speaking at Verge. Just by moderating charge times, EVs can simulate the effect of pushing energy back out to the grid.
Reducing EV demand at select times helps utilities balance their load. It can also directly benefit consumers. By slowing or stopping the charge during peak hours, they can take advantage of cheaper electricity rates. Ford Motor Co., for instance, gives its EV customers the ability to partake in time-of-use charging through the MyFord Mobile phone app, which tracks when local utilities switch to off-peak rates via cloud computing.
A number of apps can also tell vehicle owners where and when there is renewable energy available for them to charge on.
Automakers are now working on ways for car owners and fleet operators to profit from going the next step and allowing a utility to manipulate their battery charge. Customers would likely have to see a financial return in order to participate in V2G applications, but it's unclear what that structure would look like, Pebbles said.
He hinted that a collaboration of automakers will unveil a way for consumers to participate in the grid services market next year. Part of the delay is that utilities are still hesitant to let auto manufacturers play in the power services space, he said.
"The problem is that the utilities are not fully on board," Pebbles said. "They don't like to relinquish control. They're not used to allowing other people to control assets on the grid, and as automakers, we want to make sure they don't damage our cars."
PG&E's Kwan admitted that there are challenges in these early days. "No one has a smart-charging program that exists, really."
"Blazing new frontiers is hard and figuring out the role and responsibilities [of stakeholders]," Kwan added. "This is a complicated thing. The automotive industry is a huge industry, and it's colliding headlong with utility industry, which is a huge industry."
But that's not to say utilities will refuse to embrace the V2G market. According to Nina Kisch, fleet administration manager for PG&E, her utility sees a bright future for electricity as a transportation fuel and for EVs as a distributed energy resource.
"We really support everything that will make the grid safer and more reliable, and there are ways distributed generation does that," Kisch said. "We just want to make sure everything is done right."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500