California Releases Vehicle-Grid Roadmap

By · December 31, 2013

California Grid

Building better batteries isn’t the only way that the cost of a plug-in-electric vehicle can be lowered. Finding more uses for the batteries that are already in the vehicles is another way to lower costs. California just released a plan that explores one way to do that. The “Vehicle-Grid Integration Roadmap” is a blueprint for allowing electric vehicles to store energy for the grid and sell it back when that electricity is needed.

Of course, the main driver behind the Roadmap is to allow California’s electricity network to handle the plug-in electric portion of the 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles that will be on the road in California by 2025 if the state’s target is realized. Its purpose is to “lead to EV charging behavior that is beneficial or at least not adverse to grid reliability,” says the Roadmap.

That doesn’t mean that consumers can’t benefit as well, however. “In the big picture, the Roadmap should mean consumers are able to operate EVs at lower cost because the cost will be divided between the use for transportation and the use for grid support,” said Tom Gage, CEO of EV Grid.

The Roadmap also gives a nod to consumer benefits: “Eventually, two-way interfaces between the EVs and the bulk power network could benefit both EV users and the grid at-large,” it says.

Gage is a pioneer in the vehicle-to-grid field. EV Grid operates a fleet of BMW Mini E all-electric vehicles that are currently selling electricity back to the grid. Other micro projects are also underway around the country.

The California plan envisions such activity on a large scale, however. It was drafted by the California Independent System Operators Corp. (ISO) with collaboration the Governor’s office, the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Air Resources Board.

The ISO, funded by California’s two utilities, maintains a competitive market for electricity that determines what the utilities pay in order to keep the grid balanced. It then balances the supply of that electricity. Using the energy stored in an electric vehicle battery would give the ISO a ready surplus supply of electricity when needed.

The Roadmap has three tracks: determining what the volume and potential of vehicle to grid interaction is; develop enabling policies; and developing enabling technology. Enabling technology includes having bidirectional EVSEs and electric vehicles, says Gage.

EV Grid Interaction on a Small Scale

Gage’s EV Grid was created in 2012 to supply technologies, systems, and business models to further the cause of EV and grid interaction. It supplied 30 Mini E vehicles with 18 kW bi-directional chargers to the University of Delaware’s Grid on Wheels program. Those Mini E’s have been aggregated as a 100 kWh power source and are selling power to a local utility. The University of Delaware’s project is also helping to determine the best business model for vehicle to grid integration.

This is all good news for plug-in electric vehicle owners, though it doesn’t mean that you will be able to start earning money from your PEV just yet. California’s Roadmap doesn’t envision providing information to investors interested in vehicle to grid interaction until 2021. But, said Gage, “it will take millions of EVs on the road for there to be any need for the plan, so that is probably not a big issue.”

Still, it does point to a great way for PEV owners to make a return on their investment in the future.

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