Fast Charging 2011 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
Using plug-in electric cars as temporary energy storage and supply sources can stabilize the grid, a new study has found.
A fleet of electric vehicles represents a large distributed array of storage batteries to an electric utility, potentially attractive for smoothing grid variations.
Those cars, however, must be fitted with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capability that lets them not only take in power but also put it out
A new study published in the New Journal of Physics (as covered by Phys.org, via Transport Evolved) shows that electric cars connected to the grid could help electric utilities respond to transient peaks and troughs in grid demand both flexibly and quickly.
The goal is to make the grid more robust by providing a temporary energy source and sink that can accommodate frequency and voltage fluctuations instantaneously.
This is somewhat different, by the way, from the notion of using those electric cars as long-term storage for renewable energy that could be fed back into the grid at periods of peak demand.
While V2G offers attractive opportunities to utilities looking to strengthen their grids at lowest cost, it's important to put the matter in context.
The electric vehicles most likely to be used for these services will be those in fleet operation, especially those with predictable daily travel patterns that do not entirely deplete their battery, requiring a full recharge while parked.
Those could be electric delivery trucks parked overnight, or leased commuter vehicles that spend all day parked in a corporate parking lot.
But for many individual electric-car owners, it's likely to be a while before their local utilities to come to them and say, in effect, we want to sign a contract with you to take power in and out of your battery whenever you're parked and plugged in.
Nonetheless, the potential for V2G may be another example of the potential synergies between a nascent global electric-car industry and the needs of electric utilities worldwide.
Those utilities need not only cheap storage for peaky and unpredictable renewable energy--which could be provided by cheap electric-car batteries housed in climate-controlled bunkers along power lines--but also grid stabilization services.
And it's one more indicator that growth in plug-in electric cars will have ramifications far beyond the ways drivers get to and from work and their other destinations.