Electric Cars Hit The East Coast Grid

on September 27, 2011 at 6:00 AM

Northeast and mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM Interconnect on Monday welcomed a new project to promote technology that can use battery power from electric vehicles to smooth peaks and troughs in grid demand.

Vehicle to grid technology, or V2G, has been developed over more than a decade by University of Delaware professor Willett Kempton, and has been shown through several prototype electric cars to be an effective way of providing a significant untapped source of energy to the national grid.

University officials on Monday signed an agreement with utility operator NRG Energy to commercialize the technology.

We are on the cusp of an electric vehicle revolution…Consumers get paid for the power they don’t need.

Transmission networks such as PJM will have an increasing need for stable power input as they become increasingly reliant on fluctuating renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

PJM has been involved in discussions with UD and is enthusiastic about the technology which has the potential to smooth power supply, said spokesman Ray Dotter.

“Energy storage in vehicles can be an effective way of providing this service,” Dotter said. “If there are agreements to do that, they could be pretty significant.”

V2G will be promoted initially for use in fleets, and has the potential to be a significant source of power that is currently untapped, officials said.

‘Staggering’ Statistics

“The energy storage inherent in automobiles is staggering,” said David Weir, director of UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships. “If all the automobiles in the US were electrified, it would be enough to power the entire US for half a day.”

The technology allows electric vehicle owners — when their cars are parked — to communicate with the grid, and regulate the flow of power into or out of their batteries, depending on whether they are depleted, or whether they have excess power that can be used by the grid to meet spikes in demand.

The technology enables EV owners to sell electric storage services from their parked cars to help stabilize the grid. Since the average car is parked for 23 hours a day, the plan has enormous potential as electric vehicles become more widely adopted, Kempton said.

The company, called eV2g, will pay participating EV owners for making their vehicles available, and will collect payment from the grid operator for the power generated from each parked vehicle.

Links To The Past And Future

The new company was officially launched outside Newark’s former Chrysler plant, a facility that once made Sherman tanks for the Second World War, and is now part of the university’s science and technology campus.

Denise Wilson, President of NRG’s Alternative Energy Services, predicted the partnership will help develop significant new sources of power supply and transportation at a time when the US is seeking to reduce both its greenhouse gas emissions and its dependence on foreign oil.

“We are on the cusp of an electric vehicle revolution,” she said. “Consumers get paid for the power they don’t need. What is it going to take to make this the mainstream?”

Wilson declined to specify the size of NRG’s investment in the project. The company is also seeking to build the Bluewater wind farm off the Delaware coast at Rehoboth Beach, in what could be the first of its kind in the US.