Study suggests electric cars could
pay their owners back
Poultney, VT - Imagine collecting a paycheck from your utility
company each month simply for plugging your electric vehicle into
the power grid and making it available to supply or download power.
"There's a whole new way to look at energy supply and distribution,
and our love affair with cars," said Dr. Steven Letendre, professor
of management and environmental studies at Green Mountain College.
"In the not-so-distant future, electric cars should be viewed
both as environmentally-friendly suppliers of services to the power
grid and as sources of income for owners."
An article written by Dr. Letendre and Dr. Willett Kempton of the
University of Delaware, appearing in the February 15 issue of Public
Utilities Fortnightly suggests that this vehicle-to-grid scenario
(dubbed "V2G") is not only feasible, but close to reality
in some parts of the U.S.
The V2G idea is both elegantly simple and vastly complex. Electric
drive vehicles currently being produced have within them power electronics
which generate clean, 60 Hz AC power at power levels ranging from
10kW for the Honda Insight to 100kW for GM's EV1. (A typical home
requires 1kW of power, hence one of these vehicles could power the
equivalent of several homes.)
By the end of this year, the first wave of vehicles able to supply
auxiliary power to homes and contractors will hit the market, but
with modest modifications, these vehicles also have the potential
to "sell" their electricity back to the power grid, increasing
reliability and efficiency of the power system and netting a profit
for the car owner.
A V2G-ready car could plug into the grid at any time, making itself
available to feed electricity as requested by the grid operator.
Furthermore, power could be fed back into the car's batteries when
the grid has too much energy flowing through the power lines. Grid
operators call this service "regulation down," which helps
to maintain a stable grid network. A special meter and controls
would communicate with the grid operator to ensure that the vehicle
feeds no more than an amount specified by the car's owner. This
would ensure enough power remained for driving home from work, for
example. A unique serial number within the vehicle's controls would
supply a tracking code for the grid operator to maintain account
In the most profitable scenario, the owner charges the vehicle while
rates are low and provides services to the grid operators as requested.
The study estimates that a properly managed V2G car could net the
owner close to $3,000 per year.
The article is based on a study commissioned by the California
Air Resources Board and the Los Angeles Department of Water and
Power, that was conducted by researchers from Green Mountain College,
University of Delaware, University of California Berkeley and AC
Propulsion, Inc. The study calculates that the number of government-mandated
zero emission vehicles in California alone, could potentially provide
the equivalent of two large nuclear power plants.
Looking even further into the future, the Electric Power Research
Institute, of Palo Alto, CA, predicts that power from electric-drive
vehicles could reduce the global requirement for central station
generation capacity by up to 20% by the year 2050.
"We hope our findings on the feasibility of V2G will take
hold with decision makers, policymakers, and auto manufacturers
as they plan standards for electric transportation," says Letendre.
"Already, the state of California has adopted a new electric
vehicle charging standard, citing V2G compatibility as a reason
for its choice. Ideally, V2G-ready vehicles will be an option available
to consumers in the near future."
Several states, including New York, Massachusetts, and Maine, have
joined California in creating policies to encourage the development
and spread of electric-drive and low pollution vehicles. These policy
initiatives combined with advances in power electronics, and the
opening of electricity markets across the country are creating opportunities
for electric-drive vehicles to reduce air pollution, and at the
same time increase the reliability and efficiency of the electric
For more information and interviews with the research team, contact
Stephen Diehl, 802-287-8310.