EVs Don’t Have To Wait for V2G to Help Balance the Grid

By · June 27, 2011


Even before electric vehicles began their comeback, researchers started to develop technology that enables car owners to make money by selling power stored in batteries back to the grid. Under vehicle-to-grid (V2G), EVs charge their vehicles off-peak (primarily overnight) and then sell power back to grid operators during peak hours and pocket the substantial difference in power costs.

V2G is approaching the commercialization stage thanks in part to the work of Professor Willet Kempton of the University of Delaware. He is now the CTO at startup Nuvve, which recently found its first customer in Denmark, where 30 vehicles will be used to support the grid.

V2G is envisioned as a consumer application, but automakers have resisted the idea because of concerns over potential reductions in battery life from sending power to and from the vehicles on a daily basis. The technology also requires adding an onboard inverter so the vehicle can send power upstream since most vehicles were designed only to take power from the grid. Nuvve claims that there are five vehicles already on or coming to market that won’t require additional hardware, but neither the Nissan LEAF nor Chevrolet Volt are in this category.

V2G requires aggregating the power potential from hundreds to thousands of vehicles into a sizable power market that would be useful to utilities and grid operators. That is Nuvve’s secret sauce – a server that can track the availability of the vehicles and send signals and data back and forth with the grid.

V2G Concept

Pike Research expects that V2G as a consumer offering won’t hit the mainstream for another four to five years. Today we’re in a pilot phase, especially in Europe and Asia, where several projects are using EVs as the antidote to the natural variations in wind and solar power. EV owners who like to view their choice of transportation as green will be happy to note that increases in EV sales can make it easier for utilities to expand their reliance on reliable power.

Even without the additional hardware, vehicles can make money from the grid simply by speeding or slowing the rates at which the batteries are charged. While not full V2G, EVs can play a role today in ancillary services such as frequency or voltage regulation with the right systems in place. Many of the EV charging station and electric vehicle service companies see the potential for making money for themselves and vehicle owners by participating in ancillary services in the near term. This role of energy aggregator is already being pursued by startups that are looking to innovate ahead of the glacial pace at which most utilities shift to something new. V2G technology will be explored fully in an upcoming Pike Research report.

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