Jeff Stein, of the University of Michigan, believes that electric cars can do more than just reduce our dependence on oil; he believes they can help power our homes as well. His idea, loosely named “vehicle to grid” - or V2G for short – is that as long as enough electric cars are parked at one time, those cars can be used to store electricity from the grid and can be tapped when the utility needs that extra kick of power.
Such a system, if successfully implemented, would be wonderful for many reasons. Firstly, electric utilities always need to make sure that they have extra megawatts of reserve power, in case demand suddenly spikes. Usually, they provide that power via old fashioned plants. If they could rely on that extra power to come from V2G, those plants wouldn’t be needed. There would also be economic incentives for V2G participants – companies performing V2G simulations have showed that a typical customer could earn $300 a month (presumably this takes into account expenditure on extra electricity to recharge a battery that has been used for the grid).
On the other hand, questions about the idea abound. What if I get back to my car, and my battery is half dead when I need it? In theory, software could be written to prevent that from happening, but it seems likely that both the utility and the drivers would be skeptical about getting stranded. Also, batteries are usually designed with the assumption that they will be filled to the top, and then drained. Isn’t it possible that the constant partial filling and partial draining will hurt the battery itself?
The NSF, at least, seems to think that the possible benefits outweigh the risks. They have given Stein $2 million to study and develop this technology. Meanwhile, a California company called AC Propulsion has already run some experiments that demonstrate the theory on a small scale. Perhaps by the time EV’s become mainstream we will know if this works or not.
Image via peakenergy.blogspot
written by Hendrik42, November 14, 2008
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